Love: Kristen Linker and Chris Casalenuovo

June 16, 2012

Posted: August 23, 2012

Hello there

Chris didn't know Kristen until she walked into his Graduate Hospital home on New Year's Eve 2008. Kristen had been invited to Chris' party by her friend and coworker Ivy, the then-fiancée of Chris' law school buddy Matt.

"We played Guitar Hero a little bit together," Chris said. "Definitely, she made an impression on me that night. She is very cute, and I noticed she was a good singer, too."

But Chris let Kristen leave without exchanging contact info.

"I had a little too much to drink that night, and was kind of thinking that I had blown any future opportunity with a bad first impression," he said. Especially since Kristen drank so little.

In fact, Kristen had no idea he had overindulged. And she liked his voice, his smile, and his dressy-yet-casual T-shirt-and-suit-jacket combination.

A few weeks later, Ivy invited Kristen to a wine-tasting party, designed to help her and Matt choose what to serve at their wedding - and apparently, to encourage sparks between their friends.

"We were the only two single people there," Kristen remembered.

She and Chris again played Guitar Hero, and Chris made a quick run to his house to pick up more instruments.

When the party ended, "she offered to help me carry the instruments back to my house," Chris remembered. "I was still under the impression that I probably did not have a shot. I thought she was just being a nice person."

They dropped off the instruments, and then stood chatting at Chris' place. Kristen felt a bit awkward, and wondered if Chris really wanted her to leave. Then, he offered her a glass of water, and asked her to sit down.

They began a conversation that stretched into the early morning hours. "She wouldn't still be here if she didn't like me," Chris thought to himself. He kissed her. He told her he'd like to hang out again.

If he truly wanted to hang out again, they'd need a way to get in touch, Kristen said as she was leaving. They exchanged numbers.

Kristen called two days later, and asked if he was free Thursday. "Why, what's going on?" Chris said.

"Nothing," Kristen said, a little embarrassed. "Do you want to get dinner or something?"

Kristen, who is now 30, knows a lot of restaurants. She's assistant director of retail, marketing, and events for the Center City District, and organizes both the annual Restaurant Week and the Sips happy hour that takes place each summer Wednesday.

But she and Chris, who is 31 and an attorney at AmerisourceBergen, had trouble deciding where to go. "I have a lot of stomach issues," Kristen explained. "There are a lot of things I can't eat."

Chris had a fine solution: "Why don't you just come here and I'll make dinner?"

Two days later, he messaged her with a list of planned ingredients, to see if there was anything he should avoid.

"It was really considerate," Kristin said.

And the slow-cooker ribs with apples, coleslaw, and sweet potato fries were delicious.

They've been together ever since.

How does forever sound?

Kristen loves Paris - she studied there in college, and has been back several times. But Chris knew if he planned a trip there, she would instantly suspect a proposal.

So just before Christmas 2010, Chris took a day off work. He bought a dozen colorful bouquets of flowers, and arranged them in a circle around an Eiffel Tower clock on the dining room table. From DiBruno Bros., Chris bought a baguette and French cheese. And he got a bottle of champagne.

Chris dimmed the lights and turned on Frank Sinatra's "The Way You Look Tonight," the couple's song. Kristen walked in and saw Chris in a suit, standing next to the table of flowers. "Since I can't bring you to Paris, I'll bring Paris to you," he said.

He knelt, professed his love, and asked her to marry him.

It was so them

The couple wed at St. Patrick's Church, in a traditional Catholic ceremony performed by Father Ronald Rossi. He had married the bride's parents, Mary Jane and Joseph, in 1977.

At the reception for 165, guests sat at tables with street names instead of numbers. Chris grew up in Montgomeryville on Pioneer Spur. Kristen grew up in Washington Township, Gloucester County, on Pegasus Way. So Chris' mom, Linda, and his siblings sat with Kristen's family at Pegasus Pioneer. Chris' dad, James, and his wife, Myra, sat at Pierce, where they live.

Kristen and many of her family members are Penn State grads, and the Nittany Lion mascot came to the cocktail hour.

This didn't happen at rehearsal

Chris' cousin, Dan, who has shoulder-length brown hair and a beard, got so hot on the dance floor that he completely unbuttoned his shirt. It made for a memorable sight. "People were calling him 'Dancing Jesus,' " Chris said.

Awestruck

The couple practiced most of the ceremony at rehearsal, but saying their vows in front of everyone and actually putting the rings on each other felt completely different, Kristen said. "Knowing at that point in time that we were officially married was pretty cool."

Halfway through their first dance, "we busted our moves" that had been practiced for weeks, Chris said. "People were cheering."

Discretionary spending

A bargain: Kristen fell in love with a dress that was a couple of years old. Including the veil, it was 25 percent under her budget.

The splurge: The videographer. The couple planned to skip videography, then decided to do it, but go low-budget. Then they saw Branded Productions' work. The cost was on the high end of the videographers they considered, but the quality was, too, they said.

The getaway

To Paris and the top of the Eiffel Tower, then to Rome and Sicily, for a total of two weeks.

BEHIND THE SCENES

Officiant

Father Ronald Rossi, Daylesford Abbey, Paoli

Venues

Ceremony: St. Patrick's Church, Philadelphia

Reception: Rose Garden Ballroom, Hyatt at the Bellevue

Food

Hyatt at the Bellevue

Music

No Macarena, Philadelphia

Photography

Spark Photography,

Philadelphia

Videography

Branded Productions,

Lansdale

Dress

Kay Bridal Design,

Maple Shade

 Flowers

Pure Design, Philadelphia

Invitations

Paper, Rock, Scissors, Conshohocken

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