Love: Cortney Cohen-DeMaio & Kenneth Sze

Cortney Cohen-DeMaio and Kenneth Sze. Atlas Wedding Photography
Cortney Cohen-DeMaio and Kenneth Sze. Atlas Wedding Photography

Nov. 2, 2013, in Philadelphia; Nov. 10, 2013, in Flushing, Queens

Posted: February 13, 2014

Hello there

In line to enter a friend's Center City business networking event in winter 2007, Ken noticed the attractive woman standing in front of him.

When the party started, he spied Cortney again, gorging on pizza in the corner, and wondered, who is this woman eating with gusto when most people deny themselves to look cool?

"That's when I fell in love," Ken says in retrospect. Back then, he just knew he had to talk to her.

"Oh, gosh," Cortney thought to herself when she saw Ken approach. She was starving, and was going to have to stop eating to talk. But dang, this guy was so tall and handsome.

They talked about her nursing classes at Jefferson and his finance and legal studies at Drexel. They discussed their families and their now-realized career aspirations - Cortney, 27, owns the Geisha House women's boutique in Old City, and Ken, 29, owns Yokohama, a Japanese restaurant in Maple Shade.

The party ended without Ken getting Cortney's number. She was a friend of a friend of his roommate's now-fiancé, Elizabeth, so he started there.

Ken's interest traveled down the chain of friends and made Cortney very happy.

A few days later, he rushed from his part-time restaurant job to his West Philadelphia apartment, changed, and picked Cortney up at her place in Center City.

The waiter at Devon in Rittenhouse Square carded Ken, who remembered his ID was in his coat pocket. For nearly half an hour, Ken waded through mountains of black coats. He and Cortney laughed at that. Ken stopped laughing when he realized he'd left his credit card at home.

Ken ran to the bathroom and called roommate Justin. "I'm on a date, and I can't pay for the bill. I need some money!" he pleaded.

Right before dessert, Ken made another excuse to leave the table, and Justin handed him a wad of cash.

Cortney had a hunch something was up, but "he was really smooth about things," she said. "He was such a gentleman . . . and the whole thing was just so easy, like we knew each other."

It was Ken's birthday, and he'd made plans for drinks with friends later that night. He figured if the date went poorly, he'd still have fun with his buds. And if it went well, Cortney could meet them.

They all raised glasses together. "She's beautiful and smart. She likes to eat - which is a big deal for me. And she's a lot of fun."

How does forever sound?

On a family vacation in Bermuda in summer 2011, Cortney tried to make dinner plans with her parents, but Ken kept nudging her. "I want to see the rest of the hotel. Can we go? I'm bored."

Exasperated, Cortney gave in.

He led her to an ocean terrace. She collapsed in a lounge chair, and contentedly closed her eyes. Then Ken resumed nudging. "Can you ask the pool guys if they can bring us a cocktail?"

Cortney didn't know what was up with Ken, but it sure was annoying. She got up to make him stop.

"The guy comes back, and he has on his tray two glasses and a blue box," Cortney said. "I was totally confused. Then I turned around, and Ken was on one knee."

It was so them

The couple, who now live in Old City, had an American-style ceremony and reception at the Kimmel Center and a Chinese tea ceremony in Queens, where much of Ken's family lives.

At the Kimmel Center, Ken and Cortney honored loved ones who have died.

Cortney, who grew up in Port Republic, N.J., was adopted from South Korea by her mother and her first father, John. John died in a boating accident just before she met Ken. (He and Cortney's mother, Alison, divorced long ago, and Alison later married Nick, whom Cortney also considers her father.) Cortney carried a locket with John's picture on her bouquet.

Ken, originally from Cinnaminson, had two lockets on his boutonnière, one with a photo of his late grandmother, Chuck Kam-Choi, whom he called Mama. She had breast cancer. Another for his friend Tommy, who had an aneurysm. "He would have been one of my groomsmen," Ken said.

To incorporate Ken's Chinese culture into that reception for 150, the couple strung intricate paper cutouts with Chinese blessings from a fern garland. Ferns, white orchids, and roses were everywhere.

In Flushing, 550 guests attended the tea ceremony. "We served tea to our parents, our grandparents, and then to my uncles and other very important people in the family," Ken said. "They give us a gift to say they accept our marriage."

"It is traditional to give the bride and groom gold necklaces and jewelry," Cortney explained. "After several guests, we looked like a prince and princess."

For about four hours, the couple served tea. "We had 11 courses of food," Ken said. "While I'm bowing, people are munching."

A nail-biter

Ken's brother, Kevin, was best man. He's teaching in Japan, and his last flight was to get him to Philadelphia the day of the wedding. He was delayed, and ran in, sweating, just minutes before picture taking. The groom and groomsmen swarmed Kevin to quickly put on his suit and cuff links.

Awestruck

Ken and Cortney thought the "first look" set up by their photographer would be lame. But it was just the opposite.

"You turn around and look at each other for the first time, and you know that you're going to get married soon," Ken said. "No one is judging you, and you can let loose, and show how you feel. I gave her a kiss, told her I loved her, and how excited I was for the wedding."

"I will never forget it," Cortney said. "We both cried."

Discretionary spending

A bargain: For the Chinese wedding, the couple hired Imperial Wedding Studio to provide a stretch limo for 14; handle the makeup for the bride, bridesmaids and mothers; take engagement and wedding photos and make a wedding video; and supply a photo booth, three photo albums, and huge posters of the bride and groom. The package was less than $4,000.

The splurge: Cortney wanted to work with florist Jamie Rothstein, and nothing but her favorite flowers would do.

The getaway

Five days in Playa Mujeres, Mexico.


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 weddings@phillynews.com . Unfortunately, we can't personally respond to all submissions. If your story is chosen, you will be contacted.

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