Guinness in hand, the man walked to the Vanguard table and sat one chair away from Vicki. This was Neil, who was born outside London and lived in California, then New Jersey, as his Maltese father, Robert, and Irish mother, Trudie, followed their careers. Neil graduated with a political science degree from Villanova University and was a recent Vanguard hire.
Neil had been in Vicki's orientation class.
Not long into the group conversation, Neil began talking about ice hockey. Vicki could not believe her luck. "We started talking about our favorite players, and the teams we like."
She loves the Flyers. He digs the Rangers. Neither was dissuaded.
"Anyone want to go out after?" Neil asked. Vicki already had plans with her girlfriends. The next week, they shot e-mail notes back and forth during breaks in training. That Saturday, the two went out with a group of friends. Neil, Vicki, and her friend Alicia had all parked in the same garage. At the end of the night, in front of Alicia, Neil kissed Vicki. Alicia, who was wise to Vicki's attraction, began to cheer. Both Neil and Vicki, surprised by what had just happened, quickly headed to their cars. They disagree on who ran first.
About a week later, on Valentine's Day, Neil took Vicki to Houlihan's for their first real date.
How does forever sound?
In spring 2009, the couple took a trip to Disney World. After spending a day at the parks, Vicki, who is now 30, and Neil, 29, had dinner at a bar so they could watch the NFL draft. The sun would soon set, and Vicki said they should hurry or they would miss the fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom.
But Neil said he wanted to go outside by the boats on the big lake. Vicki was puzzled, but she agreed.
A boat was waiting just for them. There was champagne. They cruised to the perfect spot to watch the fireworks from the water.
"We didn't really celebrate Valentine's that year, and I thought he was being romantic to make up for that," Vicki said.
Neil had special plans for the fireworks' big finale, but as soon as they started, he couldn't wait any longer and got down on one knee. He told Vicki no one had ever made him so happy, and he loved her, and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Vicki was stunned. "Really?" she asked. "Really?"
Neil laughed. "Yes. Absolutely!"
Vicki was not too stunned to say yes.
After the fireworks and champagne, they called Neil's parents and Vicki's, Janice and Carey, to share the good news.
It was so them
The couple were married in a Presbyterian service at the Lake House Inn in Perkasie.
After a year and a half at Vanguard and another financial-services company, Vicki decided to earn a master's degree in early-childhood education at West Chester State University. The ceremony included a reading from The Lovely Love Story by Edward Monkton - a tale about two dinosaurs in love. The couple's nine bridesmaids and eight groomsmen entered the reception by bursting through a banner covered with the handprints of the first graders Vicki had student-taught the previous fall.
The couple used the same unity candle that the bride's best friend, Jill, had used in her wedding. That was not the only something they borrowed: They hired a band that had played at one friend's wedding, and the same photographer other friends had used. They rented a photo booth from the same company as a third couple.
The music was very important to Vicki and Neil. She likes country. He likes alternative rock, and years ago sang in a rock band.
Vicki graduated a few days after the wedding and is now a substitute teacher. Neil is a Vanguard retirement-services project manager. They live in Center City.
This didn't happen at rehearsal
The harpist got stuck in accident-related traffic, so the wedding started a half-hour later than planned.
The couple had photos taken before the ceremony. The photographer led Vicki outside, to where Neil was waiting by the lake. Vicki tapped him on the shoulder.
"I couldn't get over how absolutely beautiful she looked," Neil said. "I was really awestruck by her. But that ended pretty quickly when she said, 'You smell like onions!' "
The groom and his boys had had hoagies for lunch. The couple laughed, kissed despite the onions, and felt any bit of jitters dissipate. Vicki was so glad to have those few moments all to themselves.
A bargain: After pricing programs at $350, the bride decided to make them herself. Savings: $335.
The splurge: The couple set their budget without a videographer, but a month before the wedding, Vicki panicked. What if their future kids want to see the wedding someday?
Three weeks in Hawaii, including two at Aulani, the new Disney resort on Oahu.
Behind the Scenes
Rev. Cynthia A. Jarvis, the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia
The Lake House Inn, Perkasie
Jeffrey A. Miller Catering, Philadelphia
Something Blue Photography, Blue Bell
Honest Motion, Kings Park, N.Y.
Band and DJ, the Benjamins, Bergen County, N.J.; harpist, Elizabeth Steiner, Philadelphia
Designed by Essence of Australia, purchased at Baranette's Bridal, Willow Grove
Melinda Moritz, Flourtown
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 email@example.com. Unfortunately, we can't personally respond to all submissions. If your story is chosen, you will be contacted in the weeks before your wedding.