Christina Zipf and BJ Glenn
Dec. 28, 2019, in Gladwyne, Pa.
The first words BJ spoke to Christina confused her: “Hey! Nice P.T.!”
She, a freshman at the Shipley School, definitely knew who hotshot sophomore soccer player BJ was, but she had no idea what he meant.
“That’s short for ponytail,” he offered. Flattered, she thanked him.
Two years later in the junior-senior lounge, she heard him talking about her friend’s party. “I really wanted to go, but I didn’t have a ride,” she said. Later that October day, as Christina was about to get into her friend’s car, BJ drove up, rolled down his window, and said, “Hey, Christina. Let me get your number so I can text you next time and give you a lift.”
When she tapped her number into his Motorola Chocolate, Christina, who grew up in Villanova, felt like one of the cool kids. In fact, their social circles merged. They became friends, then good friends. Then, right around Christmas, BJ, who hails from the Logan section of Philadelphia, invited her to watch Love Actually on DVD and attend the Shipley-Malvern basketball game.
They were a couple through the rest of high school. Both attended Lafayette College, where he studied government and law, she double-majored in anthropology/sociology and policy studies, and they dated off and on until her senior year, when they got back together seriously and dated for five more years.
Then BJ moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore to D.C. The distance took its toll. “We broke up, and we both thought that was it, the end of the long, drawn-out love story of ours,” Christina said.
BJ, who now works in real estate finance for Reshape Holdings, was working for Brookfield Asset Management while earning his MBA at the University of Virginia. Christina was already at Wawa, where she is now a regional real estate manager. They both dated other people.
Then, in 2017 they reconnected over social media. “If you’re ever coming home, let me know — we’ll try to get a drink or something,” Christina said.
In 2018, two years after BJ and Christina broke up, the Sixers made the playoffs. BJ came home to take his parents to a game, and messaged Christina so they could meet up for that drink.
Christina, who is now 30, was a little nervous. “We were just meeting up as friends, but I had to look good,” she said.
BJ, who is now 31, reasoned with his nerves: “I was a better version of myself than I was when we broke up.”
What could have been awkward was easy, joyful, and not without butterflies.
“I was not looking to date anybody,” BJ said. “She threw a huge wrench into that.”
They texted fervently for three weeks, then Christina visited him in D.C. It felt like they were in a movie. They decided to try again, but, just in case it didn’t work, to keep it a secret.
“What I’ve always loved about Christina is her ability to allow me to escape the ups and downs of everyday life,” BJ said. “Whether it was soccer in high school or business school when we got back together, when I was with Christina, the stress didn’t matter. Being with her has always been the most joyful thing in my life.”
“BJ is the one person who knows the full me, and embraces that,” Christina said. “I admire how he is the light in the room, and is thoughtful and generous to anybody and everybody.”
Christina invited BJ to join her family at their place at the lake that July, so she figured she had to tell her parents, Geraldine and Lawrence, that they were back together.
“Oh, all is right in the world!” said Geraldine.
BJ told his parents, Robert and Sherita, because he invited Christine to their family vacation in Kiawah, S.C. His father, who had guessed months ago, wasn’t shocked. His mother cried with happiness.
The moms had never stopped being friends.
Just before Thanksgiving 2018, BJ flew from two weeks of classes in Mumbai to D.C., then grabbed a train to Philadelphia, conspiring along the way with Christina’s roommate, Carolyn.
“What’s your plans for the rest of the day?” Carolyn casually asked Christina, who had worked from home that morning and was wearing pajamas, plus a little flour. “I’m getting these pies in the oven by 3:55 so I can be on a 4 p.m. conference call,” she said.
“4 won’t work,” Carolyn texted BJ.
BJ called Christina, too tired from traveling to think of anything clever: “I need you to meet me at Fitler Square at 4 p.m.”
“He’s been in India for two weeks — he might just be excited to see you,” Carolyn suggested. “But you might want to do something with your hair.”
BJ arrived with flowers and champagne and words that neither can remember ending in “Will you marry me?” Christina said yes as her roommate and his cousin, Kyree, snapped pictures. Celebrations continued through Thanksgiving and a Friday engagement party for 85 — a surprise planned by BJ.
It was so them
Msgr. Donald E. Leighton, Christina’s childhood priest, officiated the ceremony at St. John Vianney. The Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller, BJ’s pastor from Enon Tabernacle Baptist, also took part, speaking about the couple’s relationship as an example of the best that our society has to offer, and something that both Martin Luther and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be proud of.
Christina has long been inspired by the be-yourself quote, “Wear the hair that got you there.” She followed the advice literally that day, wearing her hair in a fancy and wispy “P.T.”
St. John’s organist and singers and a trumpet player from Enon Tabernacle played “Oh Happy Day” as the newlyweds walked back up the aisle together.
The reception for 190 at Union Trust featured the couple’s hashtag #TogetherAGlenn and their signature cocktails, the “French ‘76er” and “Cider of Brotherly Love.”
At the after party, the couple served one of their favorites: Wawa macaroni and cheese.
“To walk down the aisle with my dad toward BJ was something I had been imagining. I was hoping I wouldn’t break down. When it was really happening, I didn’t cry, I was just overwhelmed with happiness,” said Christina. “Then to walk out with BJ, to hear the singers in the balcony and look up and see the friends and family that were there for us, it really was the happiest day of my life.”
“As I was about to say my vows, I was thinking back over the last 13 years and realizing we’re really here, and this is really happening,” BJ said. “I looked out at my parents who were smiling and crying, and her parents who were smiling and crying, and our family and friends who were all part of this journey. And then I started crying.”
BJ turned to the congregation and said, “Sorry!” It was enough to diffuse his tears, and he got the words out just fine.
The budget crunch
A bargain: The couple planned to skip videography to save money, but so many people said they’d regret it that Christina looked harder and found Greg Hoffman Films. “His work is excellent, and we are so glad we did it.” she said.
The splurge: Mirrored banquet tables, which made for great sparkle and showed off the dramatic centerpieces by Robertson’s Flowers.
The couple, who now live in Manhattan, spent five days at an Antigua all-inclusive, where BJ enjoyed their kayaking together on the bay and Christina enjoyed their sitting on the beach together without planning a single thing.
Behind the Scenes:
Participating Pastor: The Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller, Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, Philadelphia.
Ceremony Venue: St. John Vianney Church, Gladwyne, Pa.
Reception venue and food: Union Trust, Finley Catering, Philadelphia.
Music: St. John Vianney musical director of sacred music, Cara Latham. Enon Tabernacle trumpet player Robert Randolph and singers Dawn Morgan-Moore, Elaine Lawrence-Green, Janet Gilmore, and Jessica Ross-White. East Coast Entertainment’s Jump Street Band.
Photography: Mike Morby, Morby Photography, Pottstown, Pa.
Videography: Greg Hoffman Films, Audubon, N.J.
Flowers: Bri Crowley at Robertson’s Flowers.
Bride’s attire: Romona Keveza, purchased at Elizabeth Johns, Ardmore, Pa.
Groom’s attire: Ralph Lauren Purple Label.
Hair/Makeup: Onlo Beauty.
Planner: Clover Event Co., Philadelphia.
Transportation: Philly Trolley Works, Philadelphia.