After the conference, the four - all of whom had significant others - began grabbing the occasional coffee together.
In spring 2007, James finished his degree and was promoted to major. He was assigned to serve a year in Iraq.
Angela, Carly, and Dan sent their friend care packages filled with snacks, books, and iTunes gift cards. Angela baked peanut butter cookies and coffee cakes, and wrote letters to her onetime verbal sparring partner. After a few months, James had regular Internet access, allowing him to e-mail with Angela about deep, philosophical topics that somehow felt easier to discuss with someone on the other side of the Earth.
James came home on leave for Thanksgiving. He joined Carly and Dan - who were by then dating - and Angela and Angela's then-boyfriend for dinner and drinks. Detecting something different between Angela and James, Carly announced a trip to the ladies' room.
"What's going on between you and James?" Carly wanted to know.
"What are you talking about?" Angela responded. "We're just friends. We e-mail each other. He's interesting."
Carly laughed. "You used to say he was that argumentative, pompous Army guy, and now he's interesting?"
James, now 36, broke up with his girlfriend over Thanksgiving and returned to Iraq. He e-mailed Dan and Carly asking if they thought he had a chance with Angela. "Be patient," Carly advised.
In April 2008, Angela, now 35, went to her then-boyfriend's house after work. He popped in a war movie. Ten minutes later, Angela had to leave. "I think we're done," she told him. Her boyfriend couldn't believe it. It was a shock to her, too. But the movie made her face her concerns about James' safety. It made her realize she'd rather be home e-mailing with him than spending time with her suddenly-ex boyfriend.
James called after reading the e-mail he got that night. His tour was ending in a few weeks. He needed to see her.
They've been a couple ever since James got home.
How does forever sound?
In the decade since Angela's mother, Marilyn, died, her father, William, has come to Angela's from Illinois for Thanksgiving. In 2009, the two families celebrated the holiday together at Angela's place in State College. James, then stationed in upstate New York, came with his parents, Bob and Michelle.
James had something important to ask Angela's father, but could not get a moment alone with him. Thanksgiving came and went. The following morning, everyone went out to breakfast before William headed back to the Midwest. Desperate, James said he needed to pick something up in town, and asked Angela to ride home with her father.
James stealthily followed them back to Angela's apartment complex, then waited for William to exit alone. Before William could drive his minivan past him, James popped out of his car and waved. William stopped. James jumped in and got the blessing he sought.
With his leave quickly evaporating, James suggested he and Angela have a quick beer with old friends, then a fancy dinner out. But their friends had already ordered food, so Angela suggested they stay.
Afterward, James suggested the two of them go somewhere for a nice glass of wine. Angela suggested trivia at a dive-y sports bar instead. "I need to talk to you about something," he told her.
But then a girlfriend called Angela, sobbing over a breakup. "Hang on," Angela told James. She told her friend she should join them. "It's just cheap beer and trivia! We don't need to be alone."
Angela saw the look of disappointment on James' face, but he quickly recovered. "I better do this fast," he said. "I have good news, and bad news. The bad news is, you have to spend the rest of your life with me if you say yes." He pulled the ring out of his pocket. "The good news is, I think you'll like this."
Says Angela: "I lost my mind."
It was so them
Four months later, in March 2010, James was deployed to Afghanistan for a year. Halfway through, Angela left her administrative and teaching job at Penn State to become assistant director of the full-time MBA program at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
James used much of his limited phone access time to call vendors and otherwise make wedding plans.
His deployment ended in March 2011. For the next three years, James is stationed at Fort Mead, about 30 minutes away from the couple's home.
Their reception for 125 was held at the Ace Conference Center in Lafayette Hill.
Dan and Carly, who married last year, were among the revelers.
This didn't happen at the rehearsal
When the priest asked the standard marriage questions during the ceremony, both James and Angela forgot what to say in response. "I do!" they said in unison.
"Just say 'yes' " the priest whispered. They lost their battle with the giggles.
James had slid Angela's wedding ring half-way onto her finger when he realized the little divot that cradles her engagement ring was facing the wrong way. "I knew I could fix it later," he said. "But this was unbelievably important. I had to get this symbolic gesture right." He removed the ring, and put it on the right way.
After some debate, the couple settled on something upbeat to end the night. But when the DJ announced the last dance, Angela heard the slow, soft music of her favorite song, Ben Folds' "The Luckiest." It was a surprise arranged by her new husband.
"Since the moment he came home from Iraq the first time, I had no doubt that this was it," Angela said. Here was more proof, she said. "He had made this whole day about me."
A bargain: The kindness of talented friends. Tracy, who arranges flowers as a hobby, suggested they buy the wedding flowers at a wholesale market. What would have cost between $3,000 and $4,000 cost less than $400. Friend Kathryn, new to the photography business, took photos in exchange for permission to use them on her website. Kristen, who owns a bridal shop, gave the bride her veil.
The splurge: The couple paid for a trolley to take them on a celebratory trip around the block, and transport the wedding party from the church to the Ace Center. "We had been so thrifty, but we dropped $1,200 on a 15-mile trolley ride," Angela said.
The getaway: A week in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Love: BEHIND THE SCENES
The Rev. William Harrison, Presentation BVM Roman Catholic Church, Cheltenham
Presentation BVM and the Ace Conference Center, Lafayette Hill
The Ace Conference Center
Darrell Sampson, music coordinator and soloist; Michael Beery, soloist; Flint Hawes, organist; Rachel Phillips and Josh Deutsch, trumpet, all friends of the bride
Kathryn McGill Cavellero of Kathryn McGill Photography, Fayetteville, Ark.
Purchased from Potomac Floral Wholesaler; designed by Tracy Kellum Simpson, friend of the bride
Allure Bridal Couture, purchased from Kristen Ortiz of Simply Elegant Gowns, State College, Pa.
Michele Supinski, Ace Conference Center
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.