Love: KIM SZALEJKO & GEORGE HIGGINSON

Kim Szalejko said she "just had to have red shoes and red roses." She splurged on chair covers and bows for the reception and saved on centerpieces.
Kim Szalejko said she "just had to have red shoes and red roses." She splurged on chair covers and bows for the reception and saved on centerpieces. (Kevin McPherson Photography)

December 28, 2013, in Lafayette Hill

Posted: April 03, 2014

Hello there

In the heat of August 2007, Kim gladly accepted her friend Colleen's invitation to a pool and barbecue party at Colleen's then-boyfriend's buddy's house.

While playing lawn and pool games, Kim met their host, George. "He was very funny, and made me laugh a lot," she said.

George first noticed "the typical things guys go for: She was beautiful."

Kim, who teaches fourth grade at Roxborough's Immaculate Heart of Mary, knew Colleen even before they attended Archbishop Carroll High together. George, a Philadelphia police officer, met Colleen's now-husband John at the police academy. And it wasn't long before Kim and George got to know each other well.

"We went out in groups throughout the summer, going out to dinner, or just being in the pool," at George's parents' Parkwood home, remembered Kim, who grew up in Norristown.

Neither really remembers their official first date - they think it was dinner at The Melting Pot - but by November, they were an established couple. Family is everything to these two, and the way they fit in so well with each other's people really cemented their bond.

About a year and a half later, their bond was further fortified when George and his partner were hit by a drunken driver.

Kim was sleeping when her cellphone rang about 2 a.m. She tried to ignore the call from a number she didn't recognize, but it kept ringing and ringing. It was George's sister Sara, who told her George was on his way to the hospital.

George, then a patrolman, had been working an overtime shift in the 24th District when he and his partner made a traffic stop. While they were investigating the situation with that vehicle, a second vehicle struck them. That driver was charged with DUI, aggravated assault, and other charges.

George doesn't remember many details - he was unconscious. But investigators said he and his partner were both lucky to survive. George woke up in the ambulance on the way to Hahnemann University Hospital; he received 300 stitches in his face, bruises, cuts on his arms, and road burn.

Kim's mom drove her to Hahnemann. "It put into reality the job that he did," Kim said. It made her realize that for George, "I was willing to put aside my fear, willing to take it as it went."

"I was very grateful that she stuck by me," George said. "For lack of a better word, it was an ugly time for me, personally."

George says the doctor "did a great job putting me back together and all." After recovering, he switched to the traffic unit.

How does forever sound?

In 2012, George, who is now 30, bought a house in Warminster. Kim, now 29, often joined him there on weekends. When she arrived that Dec. 15, he led her immediately to the living room.

"Look at my tree!" George said.

There were lights, a few ornaments of his, a few ornaments of hers, and something else that Kim didn't see at first.

George asked her to look closer. And then he pointed at an object smaller than an ornament, but very sparkly.

Kim reached out for the ring, and burst into tears.

"Is that a yes?" asked George. It was. He took the ring back just long enough to slip it on her finger.

Kim moved in around Easter.

It was so them

The couple were wed in a traditional ceremony at St. Philip Neri. Each of their godmothers did a reading.

The reception was held in a ballroom at the Valley Forge Casino Resort, which the couple found while looking for a place with both a hotel and something different for their 220 guests.

"Once the reception ended, the party didn't stop," Kim said. Wedding guests got free passes to the casino.

Kim spontaneously smooshed cake in George's face. "I let him get me back," she said.

This was unexpected

Just before showtime, the zipper on bridesmaid Andrea's dress split, and the teeth refused to fuse back together. "My aunt - her mother - came back and was trying to sew her into her dress," Kim said. It didn't work, and they had already delayed the ceremony by 30 minutes. Kim started laughing, and then so did Andrea, who was six months pregnant. The dresses are black, and someone had a black shawl that disguised the situation.

Awestruck

Much of the morning, Kim had been a jittery mess. But at the top of the aisle, she felt only calm and happy. "It was 'This is it, we're here, and we're good to go,' " she said.

When George heard the first notes of their first-dance song, Elvis' "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You," "I grabbed her, and I just started bawling my eyes out." He explains, "It was weeks and months of preparing. All the check-writing. We've got to go taste this, we've got to meet the DJ. This was the culmination of all that. It was over, and I could finally let loose."

Discretionary spending

A bargain: Dessert and flowers. The casino's package included both the wedding cake and floral centerpieces, and the church was already decorated for the holidays.

The splurge: Chair covers and bows for the reception. "Fifteen hundred bucks!" George noted. "But it made the look," Kim said. "It did really look nice," he concurred.

The getaway

A week in Mexico's Riviera Maya.

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