Then Ashley noticed his screen name: Bkurtzy.
"Is your last name Kurtz?" she typed. Yup, said Brandon. Kurtzy was his baseball nickname.
The woman in Lafayette Hill and the man in Newport Beach talked online for more than an hour. "I remember thinking we would probably never talk again, but it was fun to be flirty, so whatever," said Ashley.
Brandon thought so, too. When the discussion went beyond flirtation, things really got interesting. They discussed their families, his production work at Fox SportsNet West and her auditor job at Ernst & Young, even their past relationships. They discovered shared values, and similar outlooks. "At the end, we [joked] that we were going to be pen pals," Brandon said.
They spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in a constant text stream.
Sunday night, Brandon left a voice mail: "Sweet dreams. Have a good night."
Hearing his voice made things seem more real, Ashley said. "That Monday, I couldn't even work. I called my mom, and said, 'This is so crazy!' "
By late April, Ashley agreed to a June trip to California. That, her friends thought, was really crazy. But Ashley's mother, Barbara, trusted her daughter's judgment. She also was comforted by a phone call from Brandon's mother, Joyce, assuring her that her son was a great guy.
"We said 'I love you,' before we ever met," Ashley said.
Her plane arrived at LAX, and butterflies took off in her stomach. Brandon, waiting at the bottom of the arriving passenger escalator, wasn't faring much better.
The escalator brought Ashley to Brandon, he handed her flowers, and they kissed.
By the end of the week, they were talking marriage.
How does forever sound?
Brandon came to Pennsylvania for July 4, and the two saw each other monthly for six months. It wasn't nearly enough.
Both loved their families, friends, and jobs. But Brandon's work requires nights, weekends, and travel, while Ashley works 9 to 5. If she moved to California, she'd often be without him and without family and friends, either, he reasoned.
He broke the news to his parents, Joyce and Michael, and on Feb. 1, 2011, moved to Lafayette Hill, where the couple still lives.
Brandon, now 28, rebooted his career as a sports production freelancer whose clients include Fox, CBS, ESPN, and Comcast.
Ashley, now 29, is an accountant for Brandywine Realty Trust.
A year after Brandon moved east, he and Ashley traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with his family. A few days in, they took a glass-bottom boat ride to Lover's Beach.
"You're the greatest thing that ever happened to me," Brandon said. "I want to grow old with you."
He knelt in the sand, and Ashley said yes.
It was so them
The couple wed in a traditional Jewish ceremony. In lieu of favors, they made a donation to the Alzheimer's Association in honor of Ashley's father, Donald, who died six years ago.
Ashley's friends tied a locket-size photo of her father to the flowers. "He'll be walking you down the aisle," one told her.
Champagne was poured for the couple and their 150 guests, and all the usual speeches were made. The bride's mother even broke into song. But somehow, no one ever gave the toast signal.
Brandon noticed that the gorgeous champagne flutes the matron of honor gave them were still full. He led Ashley to the dance floor.
Brandon looked at his wife, but spoke to everyone. "It's so hard to find your soul mate," he said. "Sometimes, it's worth looking three thousand miles away."
Before the pre-ceremony pictures, Ashley began to shake. "Walking toward him, in my dress, just made it so real," she said.
Brandon was shaking, too. "I had all these pictures in my mind what she would look like, what it would be like, but it was a million times better than I had imagined," he said. "I couldn't speak. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out."
A bargain: The food. The per-person package from the Sheraton was a bit less expensive than the other venues they had considered, but the real deal was the inclusion of twice as many cocktail-hour hors d'oeuvre as the others.
The splurge: An upgraded photo and video package. "These are the memories we're going to have," Ashley said.
A week in Jamaica.
Behind the Scenes
Rabbi Saul Grife of Beth Tikvah B'nai Jeshurun, Erdenheim
Sheraton Society Hill Hotel, Philadelphia
Eddie Bruce Music, Philadelphia
Photography and videography
Clair Pruett Photography & Video, Springfield
Precious Petals, Huntingdon Valley
Bijou Bridal, Ardmore
Etched in Sloane, Wyckoff, N.J.
Do You Have the Date?
Tell us in a short e-mail – at least six weeks before your ceremony – why we should feature your love story. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org . Unfortunately, we can't personally respond to all submissions. If your story is chosen, you will be contacted.
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Maybe you survived a layoff or health crises together. Perhaps you never wanted children, but now have them. Or you always wanted children, and found the journey difficult.
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If you're interested in being featured in a "Love" retrospective, e-mail your triumphs, challenges, and adventures to email@example.com , with your contact information.