Brendan spotted Eliana standing near a beautiful young woman. "Please, God, please let that be the daughter she wants to introduce me to," he said to himself.
The next thing Maria knew, her mother was leading her toward a group of young guys. Maria liked the looks of the especially tall, dark-haired one.
"Maria, meet Brendan," Eliana said before walking away.
Forty-five minutes later, someone had to tell them it was time to eat.
Despite their initial attraction, his work schedule and her trip to Greece and MBA studies at Drexel University kept them apart for two months. Then they saw the Renoir exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Brendan had an impressive appreciation for the art, yet didn't take himself too seriously, Maria said. They ran all around the art museum like kids.
"I'm going to marry you," Brendan told Maria. She laughed, and advised caution. Her father, Constantine Papadakis, had said those words to her mother on their first date. They were married 38 years when Constantine, who was president of Drexel University, died in 2009.
"I'm not joking," Brendan, who is now 29, said.
"OK, sounds good," Maria, now 28, told him. "But I think I'll need another date or two to tell you definitively."
How does forever sound?
Maria, an Emmy award-winning media personality who hosts the arts and entertainment show Raw and contributes to Philly.com, was planning a work trip to Florida in spring 2011.
She asked Brendan, an associate with his family's private investment firm, to go with her.
"Why don't we extend the trip and do a week in Disney?" Brendan suggested. He knew Maria would say yes - Disney is among her favorite places. And it was one of her father's, too.
They walked together around the park, to Cinderella's Castle. There, Brendan got down on one knee, and quoted Winnie the Pooh:
"If you live to be 100, I want to live to be 100 minus one day so I never have to live without you."
Brendan had more to say, but didn't have to.
"Yes! Yes! Yes!" said Maria, and what seemed like a thousand people clapped.
It was so them
Brendan and Maria were married in a traditional ceremony at St. George's Greek Orthodox Cathedral. They are the eighth couple that Eliana introduced to each other that have married.
Maria walked down the aisle solo, both to symbolize that these were her last steps as a single person and to leave a space for her father. She wore the same white Vera Wang shoes as when she danced with him at the International Debutante Ball in 2002.
Their reception was the first held at the Academy of Music. Constantine had served on the board of the opera company, and Opera Company of Philadelphia singers serenaded the 500 guests in his honor.
"It felt like my dad was there," Maria said. "It still hurt a lot, but it helped soften the blow."
Guests received traditional Greek koufetta - sugar-covered almonds that signify marriage, fertility, and long life - and a crystal piano-shaped music box that plays "Für Elise."
The church doors opened, and Maria saw a sea of people, and then Brendan, at the altar. "I almost wanted to run down the aisle. All I could see was him. It was sheer joy."
Brendan watched Maria walk toward him, and then gave her his hand to help her walk the few steps up to the altar. "We were just looking at each other, from that moment," Brendan remembered. "In the Greek Orthodox ceremony, there is a lot of holding hands, and we were able to show each other support through squeezing each other's hands."
A bargain: Garces Catering made a seven-tiered confection covered with sheets of music crafted from chocolate. But except for the tiny part the couple cut and served each other, the cake was a fake. Guests were served sheet cake, which was fresher and more delicious because it didn't have to be assembled early, Maria said. And it shaved 50 percent off the cost.
The splurge: Taking out the orchestra seats and planking the floor to create a ballroom at the Academy. With the additional cost, the venue was about 10 or 15 percent more expensive than holding the wedding in one of the city's top hotels, Maria said.
None yet. The Philadelphia couple plans to take a special trip next year.
BEHIND THE SCENES
His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey, who presides over 55 parishes in New Jersey, Greater Philadelphia, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia
St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral; the Academy of Music, both in Philadelphia
Jose Garces Catering, Philadelphia
Eddie Bruce Band, Philadelphia
Marie Labbancz Photography, Trenton
Brian Kappra, Evantine Design, Philadelphia
Monique Lhuillier from Mark Ingram Atelier, New York
Pen & Paper, Bryn Mawr
Karen Homer of HKH Innovations, Malvern