On Christmas Eve 2006, Ryan, on break from his postdoctoral work at the University of Louisville, was able to attend.
"I remember when I first saw him, I felt like I needed to know him," Dana said. "He was really smart, with this scientific background."
Dana has one of those, too. She holds a degree in ornamental horticulture from Delaware Valley College.
Ryan could tell Dana was creative, and conscientious about the environment and the people around her.
They became fast friends, and spent much of the holidays, including New Year's Eve, in the same group of friends.
Ryan returned to Kentucky, but they kept in touch. In February, Dana visited him.
Later in 2007, Ryan moved back to North Wales and launched his medical writing career. Dana was then a recruiter for the information technology industry. Now and then, Ryan would drive to Dana's Manayunk rowhouse, and they would get dinner and talk.
Slowly, the gaps between visits evaporated. By 2009, they were hiking, fishing, and hunting for antiques. Or, they would travel to Cape May, where Ryan bought the bungalow they've been refurbishing and furnishing ever since. They were always together.
Their friends wanted to know what, exactly, was going on between them.
Nothing, they said, even to themselves.
But then Ryan, who is now 35, realized it was getting pretty hard to leave Dana's place. "Even though I'm not a city person, I still wanted to be in Manayunk, because of Dana."
Dana, now 30, didn't like it when he left, either. "I just wanted to spend more time with him," she said.
They had a talk. Turned out their friends were right.
In 2010, Ryan moved to Dana's place. In 2011, they bought a home together in North Wales, where they still live, and from where Dana runs her hobby-turned-business, Circa Dee. Dana and Ryan find vintage furniture and other pieces, and Dana refinishes, repaints, or repurposes them.
How does forever sound?
In April 2012, the couple and their rescued beagle, Wilson, took a hiking and antiquing road trip down the East Coast, with stops in Savannah, Ga., Charlotte, N.C., and Roanoke, Va. The week ended at the Cape May house.
Dana spent much of one day painting furniture. When Ryan suggested they walk to the beach, she was wearing hot-pink pants covered in paint splatters, but watching the sunset was more important than changing.
Just as Ryan hoped, the beach was mostly empty. The sunset was so beautiful that Dana joked, "It's perfect! Are you going to propose to me?"
Ryan shrugged it off, but then began talking about the future. He soon dropped to one knee, held out a ring box, and asked Dana to marry him.
She thought he was joking back at her. "Are you serious?" she asked.
Yes, he said. And then so did she.
It was so them
The couple were wed before 160 guests about a mile down the beach from the proposal site - at the Cape May Ferry Terminal.
Dana arrived in a 1930 coupe. Wilson, escorted down the aisle by the ring bearer, was master of ceremonies.
Ryan's friend, also named Ryan, played the guitar while Dana's sister-in-law, Jessica, sang "Wonderful World."
Ryan made mini chalkboard easels for the table numbers. Dana arranged centerpieces of fresh flowers and plants in vintage silver pitchers, blue canning jars, and her collection of blue mixing bowls.
The couple made a trailhead sign with mile markers pointing to all the places their guests had traveled from.
In lieu of wedding favors, the couple made a donation to multiple sclerosis research. In September 2012, Ryan was diagnosed with MS. He is doing well. Ryan uses drills and other tools to turn old mason jars into soap dispensers. It helps him maintain his fine motor skills, he said, and the couple also gives part of the proceeds to MS research.
The couple's wedding day started cold and rainy. "The kind of day when you're down the Shore, you don't want to be outside," Dana said. The 5:30 p.m. ceremony was to be next to the bay. The couple had a backup plan, but then just before go-time, the clouds parted. "There were rays of light shining on us," Dana said. It was beautiful, she said, and felt like magic.
As the ceremony started, the couple's officiant asked them to join hands. "All our friends and family were there," Ryan said. "Dana looked so beautiful, and birds were singing. I was just overwhelmed. It was the perfect experience."
A bargain: All the DIY.
The splurge: Dana planned for a budget-conscious dress, then fell in love with couture. She spent about one-third more than intended.
A weeklong road trip of antiquing in Brimfield, Mass., and fishing and biking in Nantucket.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Mayor Pam Kaithern, West Cape May, N.J.
Cape May Ferry Terminal
Carol Herforth and staff from the Island Grill, Cape May
Ceremony: folk band Painted Blue, Ambler; Reception: Dueling Pianos, www.duelingpianos.com
Love Shack Photo, Erdenheim
Designed by Claire Pettibone, purchased at Nicole Bridal in Jenkintown
Centerpieces by the bride, who owns Circa Dee, www.circadee.com; bride's bouquet by friend-of-the-bride Renee Tucci
DIY by the bride, friends, and family
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