Emily had noticed Cory, too. "That guy is gorgeous!" she told a friend. "He's off limits! He's mine!"
When Cory, now 26, wasn't on camera, he was trying to talk to Emily, now 31, but kept ending up on the opposite side of the room. Six hours after they first eyed each other, Cory was talking to Emily's friends, and she made a beeline. He said he wanted to learn about his new city. She offered to take him on a tour.
Neither Cory, who was trying to establish a new career in a new part of the country, nor Emily, who had only recently gotten out of a relationship gone bad, wanted anything serious from the other.
"He was five years younger than me, and an actor from the South who grew up on a ranch," Emily said. "I thought, 'I just need to have some fun in my life.' "
They talked on Facebook for a few weeks. Emily traveled to France for work. Cory left her a voice mail suggesting they get together when she returned.
When she got back, Cory suggested dinner on Friday night. Emily had a date, but needed one for a Saturday-night dinner party.
"What odd decorations," he said when they walked in. The southern Baptist didn't recognize the Passover table.
"This is a dinner party, but it's also a Passover seder," Emily, who is Jewish, told him. "I hope that's OK."
"Cool! I've never been to one," Cory said. Emily watched as Cory asked questions and happily participated. "He had this openness to him," she said.
The two were soon talking and laughing and thoroughly enjoying each other's company. "How long have you two been together?" a woman sitting across from them asked. She was stunned to learn it was their first date. "I thought you'd been together for years," she told them.
That date, and the one that followed - listening to live jazz at the art museum - left Cory and Emily wondering what they had gotten themselves into.
"It just felt so natural and so real," he said. "We decided that this works right now, in this moment. Let's keep it until it doesn't work. It just continued to grow."
How does forever sound
Thirty days before Emily's 30th birthday in November 2011, Cory wrapped her gift and hung it on their bedroom wall in West Los Angeles, attached to a chain of interlocking paper rings.
"Tear one off every day, and on your birthday, you'll reach your present," he told her.
"You're mean!" said Emily, who is not known for her patience.
Finally, the weekend of Emily's birthday arrived. On Sunday, the actual day, he planned a party with all of their friends. Saturday was for the two of them.
Cory - who acts in television productions and commercials under the stage name Cory Blair - made popovers and coffee for breakfast in bed. "We listened to music, read the newspaper, and played Scrabble - the same sorts of things we did when I was falling in love with Emily," he remembered.
Emily tore off the last paper ring, then gave Cory the puppy-dog eyes. "Can I please open my gift?" she asked.
Emily unwrapped an original painting that showed Cory down on one knee proposing to her. As the significance of the art sunk in, she looked up to see Cory kneeling, holding out a ring.
"Be my wife," Cory suggested.
He didn't technically ask a question. Emily didn't technically answer. She started to cry, and he put the ring on her finger, and they hugged.
Cory hadn't kept the secret alone: He had previously sought the blessing of Emily's mother, Leslie, who told her stepfather Allan, and her father, David, who told his partner Deborah. Everyone celebrated the engagement at Thanksgiving.
It was so them
Cory's grandmother E.J. had made a strawberry cake for the wedding of his parents, Jim and Soni. He called to get the recipe - which turned out to be a simple combination of white cake mix and a box of strawberry Jello.
Friends of Emily's family baked the Jello cake for the rehearsal dinner and a more elaborate one for their wedding, both as gifts.
The couple held their ceremony and reception for 131 at Davio's because they thought the former bank helped recreate the glamour and elegance of the '20s and '30s. Also to that end: They designed all the wedding stationery and typed every envelope with the Olympia manual typewriter that Cory's parents gave Emily for her birthday. The invitations were printed on copies of an old map.
The couple spent months scouring flea markets for vintage picture frames for the table centerpieces. They filled them with old family pictures, including some of their grandparents' weddings.
The bride and groom included elements of both of their faiths in the wedding.
Emily's brother, Jason, became ordained online so he could perform the ceremony.
Cory's brother, Brentlee, was best man.
This was unexpected
Someone from Davio's met the just-married couple at the end of the aisle and whisked them outside to a private balcony, furnished with a single cocktail table and champagne. "You guys take some time alone and enjoy your first moments being married," their host told them. He then stood guard outside the door.
"There I was at the top of a 30-story building, overlooking the entire city of Philadelphia at night, with my new wife," Cory remembered.
During the ceremony, Emily's brother told the couple to turn around and look at their guests. "For this to work, it will take not just the two of you, but the community around you," he said. "Look at everybody supporting you." Emily will never forget turning to see everyone looking at her and Cory. "I'm never happier than when everyone I love is all together in one room," she said. "That was an unimaginable moment."
Cory was filled with wonder and love as Emily read the vows she wrote. "She spoke about how I could rewire a lamp, but can't remember the words to a song. How I wake up with messy hair, but it couldn't be more perfect," he said. "Emily pointed out all my quirks in such a loving way, and committed her life to me, despite those quirks."
"No," Emily gently corrected him as he recalled that moment. "That's what I love."
A bargain: Emily's stepfather paid for her wedding dress as a 30th birthday present, and her mother bought Cory's tux.
The splurge: When the couple decided to marry in Philadelphia, they hired Randi Martin of Always Fabulous Events. This was not in the budget, but "it was integral to planning a wedding from afar," Cory said. "It went off without a hitch because of Randi."
A mini-moon in the California wine country, to be followed by a trip to Italy in the spring.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Bride's brother, Jason Mayer, who was ordained for
One Love Photography, Pasadena, Calif.
Avalon Jazz Band,
New York City
Carl Alan Floral Design, Philadelphia
Designer Jenny Packham, purchased at the Wedding Shoppe in Wayne
Ike Behar Tuxedo, purchased in Los Angeles
Designed by the couple
Randi Martin, Always Fabulous Events, Abington