Jen felt like her heart skipped a beat. She'd been hoping this handsome, dark-haired man would be the person in the seat next to her since she saw him walking down the aisle.
Jen, too shy to introduce herself, half-focused on some arthritis documents as she turned toward John, hoping he'd take the hint she wanted to talk.
John fished out his Steve Jobs biography and forced himself to read it. Then five hours into the six-hour flight, "I started to second-guess my decision not to talk to the pretty girl."
Seeing the arthritis info on her computer screen, John was sure she was headed to the conference, and mapped out 20 or 30 points of related conversation.
"Are you going to the orthopedic surgeon's meeting?"
"No," she said.
John couldn't think of anything else to say.
Jen produces videos, iPad applications, 3-D games and other digital products to help educate and train health-care workers, and was traveling to meet a client. But in her excited panic that Mr. Handsome was actually speaking to her, she didn't think to tell him that.
Cue awkward silence.
John got out his papers, but realized he had nothing to write with. Aha!
"Do you have a pen?"
Jen handed him one. Then she had an idea. "How's your book?" she asked.
Once begun, their conversation went everywhere. She told him she wanted to climb mountains. Avid climber John showed her pictures from his trips.
Jen grew up in Northeast Philly and Feasterville and then lived in Center City; John, originally from Staten Island, lived in Gladwyne. They soon were talking about their favorite restaurants, and John poetically described the grilled pineapple in the pineapple martinis at his favorite Mexican place.
At the San Francisco airport, John gave Jen his card. On her return flight she sent him an e-mail, subject line: Pineapple martini. "Want to meet up for a drink when you get back?"
Two weeks after their midair conversation, they talked so much at Umai Umai in Fairmount that chairs were being upturned on adjacent tables, and the hostess brought them their coats.
On date No. 3 in Conshohocken, Jen agreed that Coyote Crossing's pineapple martinis are delicious. "We immediately were inseparable," she said.
Together, they went on her first mountain climb: The Adirondacks' Mount Marcy. They worked up to California's Mount Whitney. When not climbing mountains, they often biked them.
How does forever sound?
In August 2013, Jen, who is now 34, and John, now 39, spent a week in and around Vancouver, British Columbia, mountain biking and kayaking. The last day of their trip, they traveled the Sea-to-Sky Highway from Whistler Mountain back to the city. Where the road hugged the water, Jen could see the islands they'd visited earlier on their trip, and John pulled into a scenic overlook. They walked to a spot away from other travelers. "I love you, and I want to take care of you the rest of my life. I know we'll always take great care of each other," John said. "Will you marry me?"
He gave her a flower-shaped ring he had had made to represent their love of gardening at their home in Gladywne.
It was so them
The couple were wed at Cape May's Episcopal Church of the Advent. Jen was raised Episcopalian, as was John, since that's the U.S. denomination most similar to the Mar Thoma Church that John's family attended before they emigrated from India, he said.
The co-officiants at the ceremony were the church's Rev. John P. Mitchell and Rev. Roy Cole, the rector of the Abraham family's church in Staten Island, who learned the Mar Thoma traditions for the occasion.
John's sister presented Jen with a traditional wedding sari, from which seven threads had been taken. These threads were wound into a cord that John used to tie a gold minnu pendant around her neck.
Jen's bouquet featured white peonies from the couple's garden.
Their Congress Hall reception for 180 featured Indian fusion appetizers, a mountain-bike ice sculpture, and a band that could do justice to Springsteen - a nod to the many hours Jen has spent listening to the Boss with her father.
John felt such love watching Jen walk down the aisle toward him. But when she stood next to him, he could see she was on the verge of tears. "I leaned over and gave her a little shoulder bump," he said. It was John's way of breaking the intensity of the moment and saying, "Hey, it's just us." Jen says her legs immediately stopped shaking.
Before the couple was introduced, their guests listened to audio Jen had put together of the couple telling their story. As Jen and John waited for their entrance, they could hear it, too. "I was listening to each of us say such nice things about the other," she said. "And then there was this drum roll, and some music, and we were introduced. I was happy and felt so loving and warm, and at the same time, I was crying tears of joy."
A bargain: Bridesmaid and professional stylist Kelsey Tome did Jen's hair and makeup as a gift.
The splurge: John's father loves champagne, but only the good stuff. In his honor, they spent $1,800 so the newlyweds could be toasted with Veuve Clicquot.
One week in Turks and Caicos; one week working on their home and garden.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiants: The Rev. John P. Mitchell, Episcopal Church of the Advent, Cape May; and the Rev. Roy Cole, St. John's Church, Staten Island, N.Y.
Venues: Episcopal Church of the Advent and Congress Hall, both in Cape May
Photography: Heather Waraksa Photography, New York
Dress: Designed by Berta Bridal of Ashdod, Israel
Music: Don't Call Me Francis, www.francisband.com
Florist: Britt Killeen at Garnish, Philadelphia
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