After more than an hour, John's friend Charles appeared. "This is Karen," John told him. "She's an Eagles fan." John and Karen's connection was immediately obvious to Charles. So was John's failure to secure a future date with her.
Karen and John settled their football debate by betting on a coming Eagles-Redskins matchup, Charles said. He wrote John's phone number on a napkin and handed it to Karen.
The Redskins won. John did not gloat. Karen paid for drinks.
They saw each other nearly every Sunday at the bar where they met. John, who is now 30, and Karen, now 33, also went on a few dates. But to John's dismay, their relationship did not progress.
Karen, now a correspondent with NewsOne - the ABC department that provides political coverage for affiliates, including 6ABC in Philadelphia - had just become deputy political director. "I liked hanging out with him, but I didn't know if I liked him that way," Karen said. She was so busy covering the 2008 presidential campaign that finding out was not a priority.
In December, Karen's good friend Emily had a blunt conversation with her. "You're crazy," she said. "He's great." He is, Karen had to agree.
John, now an investment policy analyst for the International Finance Corp. of the World Bank, headed to Illinois to spend Christmas with his family, and Karen came home to Pennsylvania.
"I didn't see him for two weeks, between Christmas and the New Hampshire primaries," Karen said. "I really missed him."
Karen asked to see John the night after she got back to Washington. He made dinner at her place. Suddenly, Karen's work was no longer an obstacle. "If I had to watch a debate, he would watch it with me," she said. "Within a couple of days, we were in a relationship."
"It felt like this is what we should have been doing all along," said John.
Three months later, he moved to Kenya to spend six months working on a U.N. food-security project. In their different time zones, they started and ended each day writing long e-mails to each other.
How does forever sound?
Nine months after returning to the States, John moved to Princeton for graduate school - a distance that felt like nothing after Africa. In fall 2009, "it was totally obvious to me that this was the right person," John said.
The couple decided to split the holidays between their families. Christmas morning outside Chicago, before Karen put her contacts in or either of them had any coffee, John told Karen that since they would see both of their families that day, it was the perfect time for good news. He pulled out an emerald ring and asked Karen to marry him.
After Karen's stomach stopped fluttering, the couple celebrated with John's family at breakfast, then headed to the airport. News that bad weather in Philly had delayed their flight an hour sent them to an airport bar to toast their engagement with Bloody Marys.
Karen interviewed John on how he got her parents' blessing and sister's ring advice without anyone spoiling the surprise.
They never heard the announcement that their flight was boarding.
"We missed Christmas dinner," Karen said.
Her family got the good news about 10:30 p.m.
It was so them
Both Karen's parents, William and Bernadette, and John's parents, Paul and Debra, have been married more than 35 years. In honor of those successful marriages and as a blessing for their own, Karen and John asked each couple to choose a reading. Their selections were read by John's sisters and by Karen's two brothers, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law.
John's brother Matt was his best man, and Charles - who had given Karen John's phone number on the napkin, which she has kept - was his groomsman.
Karen's sister Katie was her matron of honor. Emily - whose blunt words began to make Karen realize her interest in John - was her bridesmaid.
Their ceremony, officiated by the retired pastor of the church John grew up in, was held on the beach in Stone Harbor. Karen's family has vacationed in the town for decades, and it was the first place she and John traveled to together. A reception for 190 was held at the Yacht Club of Stone Harbor.
Karen got ready at her aunt's beach house, and when it was time for pre-ceremony pictures, John was waiting for her on the deck. It was the first time the couple had seen each other on their wedding day. "He turned around and gave me a really long hug, and I got super-emotional," Karen said. "It was so nice to have that private moment just between us."
After the ceremony, John and Karen walked down to the water for a few more moments alone. "I picked her up, and gave her a big hug and kiss," John said. "It was just us, on the beach, in our wedding clothes, having just gotten married."
A bargain: The couple augmented professionally done centerpieces with Mason jars filled with sand and pillar candles. They estimate their DIY saved more than half a florist's costs.
The splurge: The groom's $30 socks. The dotted-and-striped beauties matched the navy blue and kelly green in his tie. His normal socks are about $5 a pair.
The getaway: Two weeks in Spain.
Love: BEHIND THE SCENES
Rev. John Seraphine, retired Lutheran minister who was John's family's pastor in the Chicago suburbs
Ceremony: On the beach in Stone Harbor, N.J.
Reception: Yacht Club of Stone Harbor
Yacht Club of Stone Harbor
Rachel Pearlman Photography, Philadelphia
Grace Note String Ensemble, Cape May Court House; Slippery Band, Philadelphia
Nicole Bridal & Formal Shoppe, Jenkintown
Groom's Attire: Jos. A. Bank, Washington
William Arthur, Wedding Paper Divas, www.weddingpaperdivas.com
Blooms, Cape May Court House
Kristin Barse, Bel Momento Weddings, Ocean City, N.J.
Love: DO YOU HAVE THE DATE?
Tell us in a short e-mail – at least six weeks before your ceremony – why we should feature your love story. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Unfortunately, we can't personally respond to all submissions. If your story is chosen, you will be contacted in the weeks before your wedding.