Love: Lisa Mahoya & Christopher Browne

Lisa Mahoya and Christopher Browne enjoy a quiet moment together on their wedding day.
Lisa Mahoya and Christopher Browne enjoy a quiet moment together on their wedding day. (TG Anderson of UBara Photo)

June 7, 2014, in Philadelphia

Posted: August 06, 2014

Hello there

"No! Are you crazy?" Lisa near-shouted at Chris at the end of their first conversation.

Both arrived late for a May 2010 church cleanup that ended hours early. Chris swears his offer to drive her to the Ardmore home where she then worked as an au pair was his way of helping out a new member of Christian Stronghold Baptist Church in West Philadelphia, where the Cheltenham native has attended his whole life.

But there was no way Lisa, who had recently moved here from Johannesburg, was getting in a stranger's car. "I didn't want to become a CSI story: This girl came from South Africa . . . three months later, she was dead!"

Lisa took the trolley.

They saw each other frequently, but it was hearing Chris that first impressed Lisa.

"Seeing him leading a choir, and then some days, singing a solo, he is really gifted," she said.

She told him so at an October Bible study.

Chris was so nervous he doesn't remember his reply.

Before long, Chris' kindness to everyone - most especially his mother - got to Lisa. So did his humor and the way he wears a suit and tie - Chris often came straight from his financial services job at Lincoln Investment Planning.

They wound up at the same party one weekend.

"Do you have a ride home?" he asked near the end of the night.

She did. She said she didn't.

In front of her place, Chris gave Lisa an astonishing hug.

"I really like this guy, and I think he might like me back," Lisa told friend Patrizia. Patrizia tried to be gentle: "No, honey. He hugs everybody like that."

Then Patrizia told their friend Ginny about Lisa's crush. "He asked me two weeks ago what the deal was with you, and I wasn't sure what to tell him," Ginny said. "You guys both like each other!"

In the way Lisa treated others, "I was able to see her heart," Chris said. She is caring, compassionate, and funny.

Chris and Lisa joined Ginny and her husband Tim at a Christian cafe. Afterward, Chris craved candy and a drink. They spent the next five hours in the 7-Eleven parking lot, talking in his car.

Chris, who is now 27, and Lisa, 24, were both only interested in serious dating if it led to marriage, so there were many group dates as they got to know each other. Wow, did they click! He met her au pair program host family, she met his parents and his brothers and their families.

In December, after an especially nice date, he asked if she'd be his girlfriend.

"Ahhhhh, no," she said.

Things were great and Lisa just wanted more time, she told him. Chris was crushed. "I was resigned that things would not be more formal between us until she asked me," he said.

Two days after Valentine's Day, she needed to talk. Why hadn't Chris asked her again to be his girlfriend? "I told her why. And then I asked her."

How does forever sound?

In December 2012, Lisa took Chris to Johannesburg to meet her mother and grandfather.

In June 2013, they traveled to Manchester, England, for her sister Charmaine's wedding.

A few days after the wedding, Lisa, her mother, and sister went shopping. Chris ran errands of his own.

When everyone returned, Chris led them to the dining room, and asked Lisa to sit among flowers and candlelight.

He thanked her for having him in his life. He sang John Legend's "Stay With You."

Lisa still didn't get what was happening.

"He does romantic things all the time," she said.

Then Chris did something he never had: He knelt. And Lisa started to cry. "Will you marry me?" he asked. And she hugged him and cried harder and nodded. "Did you ask my mom [for her blessing]?" she asked. He had.

The nodding wasn't enough for Chris. "Well Lisa, what do you say? Will you marry me?"

"Yes!"

It was so them

Lisa guarded nearly every detail about her wedding attire, but assured Chris she would not wear heels.

"I had a small insecurity that on our wedding day, my wife would be taller than me," Chris laughs.

Following the traditions of their church, the couple's vows weren't promises made to each other, but to God.

Chris surprised Lisa by singing "When I First Saw You," from Dreamgirls.

It wasn't until they stepped down from the altar that Chris saw Lisa's custom-made Chucks, done in their pink and gray wedding colors, with "Mrs. Browne" written in black on the side.

The shoes weren't about Chris' vanity, but Lisa's feet. "I needed to hear every word of our ceremony. I couldn't think about pain."

The couple, who live in West Oak Lane, entered their reception for 150 to Ne-Yo's "Stay With Me." Then Chris and his brothers from West Chester University's Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., chapter surrounded Lisa and strolled around her.

After dinner, the couple changed into traditional Zulu wedding attire, in honor of Lisa's South African heritage. "She was stunning again," Chris said.

Lisa, who has an associate's degree in early childhood education from the Community College of Philadelphia, will soon start work at University City's Children's Community School and is pursuing a bachelor's degree. Chris is also earning a second degree from the Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield. He hopes to be a pastor.

Awestruck

After Jamie Foxx sings "When I First Saw You" in the movie Dreamgirls, he says, "That's my dream." After Chris sang it, he looked into Lisa's eyes and said, "You're my dream." She wept. "That's the thing I will always remember."

At picture-taking time, the couple and the bridal party, in their 20-passenger limo, headed for Kelly Drive but found it closed for an event. Chris was disappointed, then stunned. "They let us through," he said. "And I thought, 'You know, this day was just anointed.'"

Discretionary spending

A bargain: Lisa found her dress at La Bella Moda's annual trunk show, and paid less than a third of the original cost.

The splurge: The limo.

The getaway

A long weekend in Cove Haven Resort in the Poconos.


Love: BEHIND THE SCENES

Officiant: Rev. Willie Richardson, Christian Stronghold Baptist Church, Philadelphia

Venues: Ceremony: Christian Stronghold Baptist; Reception: Woman's Club of Bala Cynwyd, Bala Cynwyd

Photography: TG Anderson, Ubara Photo, Philadelphia

Dress: La Bella Moda, Conshohocken

Music: Singers John Graves, Kanita Benson, Jakeya Sanders with lead musician Sean Tripline, all Philadelphia-based artists and friends of the couple

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