Love: Kathryn Conda & Pete Muscarnera

Kathryn Conda and Pete Muscarnera. Alimario Photo
Kathryn Conda and Pete Muscarnera. Alimario Photo

November 8, 2013, in Riverton, N.J.

Posted: February 27, 2014

Hello there

After finishing her public relations degree from the University of Maryland a semester early, Kathryn moved home to Cinnaminson to job-hunt.

The head start on the competition was nice. But all her college friends were in Maryland, all her high school friends were scattered at their universities, and her sister was moving to New York. "I was lonely," Kathryn said.

Applying her job-networking skills to her social life, Kathryn wound up at a new friend's party in January 2008. The next thing she knew, a familiar-looking man was standing next to her.

"Hi," he said. "I'm Pete."

Kathryn also looked familiar - and very pretty - to Pete. Soon, they were untangling the threads that might have connected their lives previously: Pete, who is now 28, also grew up in Cinnaminson, about two miles away from Kathryn, who is now 27. While he attended Cinnaminson High, and she Holy Cross, both went to St. Charles Borromeo, where Kathryn had gone to the parish grade school, and attended the church carnival every year.

They talked about their families, her job search, and his job. Pete had graduated a year earlier from the College of New Jersey near Trenton with a health and exercise science degree and teaching credentials, and was a physical education teacher at a local school.

Both enjoyed the conversation.

Kathryn thought she'd made a new friend. Pete had other ideas.

Within days, he invited her to a Super Bowl party. She turned him down. He called her daily on his way home from teaching. She only returned half his calls.

"I'll call him back soon," she always told herself.

Kathryn wasn't trying to be mean, she was just busy with the job search, and so focused on her career that at first, she didn't realize Pete was pursuing her.

Pete got the message that Kathryn wasn't looking for a boyfriend. But for someone so genuine and intriguing, he would be patient. "I was looking for those excuses to see her without it specifically being a date," he said. "I was trying to be casual."

She did return some of his calls. And they did go out in a group sometimes. The more Kathryn learned about Pete, the more she liked him, despite herself.

"She was resistant, but I was persistent," he says.

One day that February, Pete suggested they go out, just the two of them, for pizza, and Kathryn agreed. "I hear there's something happening that day, by the way," he said. Kathryn looked at the calendar: Valentine's Day.

Pete brought flowers, held doors, and was otherwise sweet and kind in an old-fashioned way. "I've never met a guy like this," Kathryn thought to herself.

While dating generally seemed like too much work, dating Pete did not. "He was so easy to be with," she said.

How about 'forever'?

Pete lived in Trenton when they met, but by summer 2012, he had moved back with his parents so he could be closer to Kathryn, who also lived at home.

The couple had talked marriage and designed an engagement ring together. But as Kathryn's August birthday approached, she told herself not to expect a proposal. "Pete is infinitely patient," she said. "I thought he'd wait until Christmas."

Pete now teaches physical education in the Delanco School District. Kathryn is a senior associate with Anne Klein Communications Group, based in Mount Laurel. But back then, she had a different job, a very stressful one.

Since Pete has summers off, "it wasn't uncommon for him to pick me up in the parking garage at night, to go to dinner or go down the Shore, just to cheer me up. And then he'd drop me off at work the next day," she said.

So she was happy, but not shocked, to see his car there the evening before her birthday. Then the car door opened and their song, James Morrison's "You Make It Real," spilled out.

"I want to give you one early birthday present before we hit the road," Pete said, handing her a nicely wrapped shirt box.

As soon as it was in her hands, Kathryn knew it was far too light to be a sweater. She tore it open and found the blue satin ring box inside.

Pete got down on one knee. Kathryn said yes.

They drove to her family's home in Cinnaminson, where his parents, Margie and Chet, joined the couple and her parents, Paul and Meme, for champagne.

It was so them

The couple wed in a traditional Catholic ceremony with a Mass at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Riverton. (Both families had switched from St. Charles to Sacred Heart when Kathryn and Pete were teenagers.)

Kathryn's Uncle Jim, a church deacon who is studying for the priesthood at Seton Hall University, led them through their vows.

The couple adores their nephews, and Brandon, 31/2, was ring bearer. Brandon carried a soccer-ball ring pillow, made in honor of the groom's sports obsession by the bride's Aunt Debbie. Pete's wedding band is engraved with soccer-ball hexagons.

To honor her late grandmothers, Kathryn wore Nanny Conda's triple strand of pearls, and Memom Boylan's diamond cocktail ring.

Since the wedding was held on a Friday, the couple didn't start the ceremony until 6:30 p.m. so more of their 175 guests would be able to see the ceremony without taking a day off. That meant the reception at the Merion in Cinnaminson didn't start until 9. At that hour, stations of food seemed more appropriate than a sit-down meal, they decided. Some offered fancy fare. "Pete Station" had cheesesteaks, mini cheeseburger sliders, and buffalo wings.

Awestruck

Kathryn will never forget watching Pete's face as she walked down the aisle, and then holding his hand. "Pete is really shy, and I was afraid he would look terrified and nervous. But he looked so confident, and so thrilled to see me."

When they were pronounced husband and wife, "Kathryn had the most beautiful smile ever," Pete said. "And then when we kissed, it was a combination of many things: a sense of joy, relief and happiness. We made it, and could now celebrate in the first second of our marriage."

Discretionary spending

A bargain: Stations on a November Friday night cost about one-third less per person than a sit-down dinner on a June Saturday. And the bride's Aunt Diane, who owns Richardson's Flowers in Medford, gave the couple way more flowers than they paid for, and upgraded red carnations to red roses.

The splurge: The bride's dress, from Rena Elle Couture in Maple Shade, cost about twice what she wanted to spend.

The getaway

A long weekend in Manhattan, to be followed by a longer getaway when school isn't in session.


DO YOU HAVE THE DATE?

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