Laura, who is now 28, earned her business degree at James Madison University and works in pharmaceutical sales for Lilly. Steve, who is now 29 and sells small-business retirement plans for Paychex, had then recently graduated from West Chester University. Before college, he was an Air Force staff sergeant and served in Afghanistan.
They found reasons to sit next to each other. Steve's wit kept Laura laughing, and that was even better than his big, blue eyes, she said. Two days after their handshake, she let him switch Keeping Up With the Kardashians to the Phillies game, but Steve ignored the Fightins to hear Laura talk about mentoring a girl she met while volunteering at a home for abused children.
Later that day, the two drank 302s - cheap, slushy drinks laced with a considerable amount of rum - at a waterfront restaurant, then went dancing with their friends. In a dark corner of the Ocean Drive - a.k.a. The OD - Laura kissed Steve.
"We've all had some first kisses before, but that was a different first kiss for me," said Steve.
"Electricity!" said Laura.
"It was definitely electric, and I could tell she liked me, so for me, it was a relief," Steve said. "I could tell it was the beginning of something."
How does forever sound?
Nearly every weekend for two years, Steve traveled from his West Chester apartment to Laura's place in Marlton. They trained for the Broad Street Run and other races and perfected their Key lime pie martini recipe.
In fall 2011, the couple got an apartment a few blocks from Rittenhouse Square, where they still live with their dog Molly, a white and fluffy mix.
The day before Thanksgiving 2011, Steve told Laura he'd booked her an appointment at a nail salon, and would meet her there after work. As they walked away from the salon, Steve said he needed a coffee - providing a reason for walking through Rittenhouse Square to Starbucks.
He actually wanted to stop within the park - somewhere lovely that would figure prominently in a story they'd tell their children.
Laura talked about the restaurants they passed, remembering delicious burgers she'd eaten and suggesting future places to try.
"I literally couldn't find a time to butt in, so I stopped walking," Steve said. He placed his hands on her shoulders and said sweet things, ending with, "Will you marry me?"
Laura hugged him hard, but said nothing.
"Is that a yes?" Steve asked.
"Yes, of course!" she said, then returned to a hug that pushed the ring box uncomfortably into Steve's chest.
"You know you get a ring with this, right?" he said.
"Oh yeah!" said Laura, releasing her grip. "Let me see it!"
It was so them
After seeing the "modern, swank" decor of Northern Liberties' Tendenza, the couple bent other parts of their budget to afford it, Laura said.
She knew the great food would please her Italian family and the rest of their 165 guests, and the couple was delighted to wed in the city they love, added Steve.
With Journeys of the Heart's Al Vernacchio, they crafted a ceremony including scriptures and other elements of a Catholic service, the story of their Jersey Shore meeting, and a Snooki reference.
It was the perfect blend for a couple who are spiritual and love to laugh, they said.
Their signature drink: A Key lime martini.
Escorted by her parents, Laura entered the ceremony from the side, then turned to walk down the aisle. "Everyone was standing, and I couldn't see her when she first walked in," Steve said. "But I could hear the gasp from the crowd, and then these murmurs, 'She's beautiful.' " When Laura finally rounded the corner, it brought tears to Steve's eyes. "I looked at her and I thought, 'That's my wife.' "
Laura and Steve said their hellos during the cocktail hour and spent their entire reception dancing. But she is glad she took a friend's advice to look out at the faces of their friends and family. "It was such a great feeling, all the love in the room, all those people there to celebrate love with the two of us," she said.
A bargain: DJ Matt Ostroff suggested adding a live drummer to the music mix. It increased the cost by about 25 percent, but provided a live-music feel at a fraction of a band's cost, Steve said.
The splurge: $100 so guests could make a red-carpet entrance.
Seven days in Cancun, during which Steve's iPhone stayed in the hotel safe.
Behind the Scenes
Al Vernacchio of Journeys of the Heart, www.journeysoftheheart.org
DJ Matt Ostroff, EBE Entertainment, Philadelphia
Brittany Lee Photography, Riverton, N.J.
Darrell Aubert of Aubert Films, Philadelphia
Paloma Blanca, purchased at Bridal Garden, Cherry Hill
Little Pearl Designs, Haddonfield
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