Something else Melissa didn't know: Mr. Handsome Stranger had noticed her, too.
"I was blown away by this beauty that came out of nowhere," he said.
Later that evening, Melissa discovered that Jarryd's hotel roommate was her good friend Geoff. She got herself an introduction, and a bit of conversation.
Jarryd left right after his Saturday talk, but not before asking Melissa for her phone number.
They were soon smitten.
"Jarryd's so confident in his skin," Melissa said. "He's so genuine, and he's just loving. You can hear it when he talks about his family, when he talks about his friends."
Said Jarryd: "Every time she opened her mouth and said something, I was more intrigued. She's a purely kindhearted soul, and she would do anything for anyone."
Jarryd lived in Florida during soccer season, but this was the off-season, when he lived with his mom in North Jersey. A few weeks after the conference, he invited Melissa to his five-year high school reunion, held at a New York City bar, their first real date.
"It was the best time ever," Jarryd said.
"We were pretty serious by December," Melissa said.
There were dates every weekend until mid-February, when soccer took Jarryd back to Miami. "We got really good at using iChat," he said.
For three years, they saw each other in the off-season in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and in Florida when Melissa could get away from her summer lifeguarding job.
Then in 2011, the couple decided they could no longer be apart, and Jarryd decided he was ready for the next chapter in his professional life. He and Melissa moved to an apartment in Langhorne, the same town where they recently bought a house. Jarryd, now 28, is a sports insurance agent for Borden Perlman Insurance Agency of Lawrenceville, N.J. Melissa, 29, teaches first grade at Herbert Hoover Elementary in Langhorne.
How does forever sound?
In December 2012, Jarryd told Melissa he'd planned an overnight stay in Philadelphia: a spa day, dinner at Melissa's favorite restaurant, and a room at the Westin.
Jarryd enlisted the help of the El Vez staff, and they reserved a huge booth for the couple, within sight of the photo booth. Melissa noticed Jarryd kept watching the booth, where the line stayed long all through appetizers, dinner, and Jarryd's stalling process.
"I could see his face starting to sweat," she said.
Finally the line thinned. "Melissa, I would love to go take photos with you right now," Jarryd said. "But I don't want to take one more picture without you as my fiancee. Will you marry me?"
After a series of joyful shots, they returned to their booth for another hour. "We called everyone we know," Melissa said.
It was so them
The couple wed in a traditional Jewish ceremony. Close friends Michael and Elissa were witnesses for the signing of the ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract. Melissa has known Rabbi Jeff Schnitzer, a Neshaminy music teacher, since he gave her brother trombone lessons years ago. He told part of the couple's story, and then asked family and friends at the signing to tell more stories.
The three ring bearers - Melissa's cousins Drew, a fourth grader, Cameron, a second grader, and Ethan, an 18-month-old, walked down the wrong aisle, but eventually made their way to the right spot.
Pausing during the service, Rabbi Jeff noted that Jarryd and Melissa kept staring at each other. "The two of you aren't even listening to me," he said teasingly. "This is for everyone else here."
The highlight of the reception for 195 was the crowded dance floor, and seeing the mix of dancers - Jarryd's family rocking out with Melissa's friends; Melissa's friend slow dancing with Jarryd's grandfather. The night ended with the Gordon family party tradition: enthusiastic dancing to "Shout."
Neither will forget the first time they saw each other on their wedding day. "I get outside, and the snow is just coming down," Melissa said. "I have this tiny little black-and-white polka-dot umbrella, and all I want is to see Jarryd. And then he came around the corner."
"I could hear her voice," Jarryd said. "Then I turned around, and I had never in my life seen anyone as beautiful. I started crying. Every emotion, all these good feelings about Melissa, and spending my life with her, just hit me right there."
"I was smiling, not crying, but it was the same emotion," Melissa said. "I kept thinking how lucky I was that I get to marry this man. And then he shared his bigger umbrella with me, and I was just so incredibly happy."
This was unexpected
Before the wedding, Melissa sent her sweets-loving sweetie a poster with packages of message-appropriate candies glued on. "After dating many Goobers and Nerds, I finally met a Hot Tamale, who makes me Snicker. I'm so happy I found my soul mate in this enormous Milky Way."
A bargain: Melissa's craft work, including the cards receptacle she made from a $15 black mailbox painted with "Jarryd and Melissa, established December 2013."
The splurge: Their 14-piece band, EBE Talent's Dreamtime. "We just had to have them," Melissa said.
10 days in St. Lucia.
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