Cara Horner & Chris Arter
Feb. 14, 2020, in Haddonfield, N.J.
One winter about 15 years ago, Cara, a vocalist and music student at Camden County College, and Chris, a guitarist and music student at Rowan University who frequently collaborated with CCC students, landed in the same song-making circle.
It was a supportive group of friends — everyone attended everyone else’s performances, for example — so they got to know each other organically. “She even came over to my house once to check out a recording,” remembered Chris.
From 2004 to 2010, Chris sang, played guitar, and wrote songs for the Chris Arter Band, then continued to play gigs and work as a recording and sound engineer.
Their mutual admiration had always extended beyond music, but they were never both simultaneously available — not in college, not in 2015, when they both volunteered at a food bank charity event, not in 2016, when Cara, who performed with bands and duos, was singing at the Golden Nugget and Chris said hello.
In early 2019, Cara, who had moved to Haddonfield, wrote a Facebook post welcoming Haddonfield Police Department’s new puppy, Blue, to the neighborhood, and Chris liked it.
“Wow, that’s a name I haven’t heard in a couple years! I wonder what he’s up to?” Cara asked herself.
While they hadn’t known each other as kids, Cara and Chris had lived less than a mile apart, on opposite sides of Somerdale Road. A little electronic sleuthing revealed that Chris was once again in her neighborhood — just three-tenths of a mile from her. Cara’s musician hours prevented her from knowing many neighbors, but look at that! Here was one she already knew.
Cara, now 34, sent Chris, now 38, a message: “Hey, if you’re playing somewhere, let me know — if you don’t mind the awkward company of an old acquaintance.”
Chris replied that he planned to play a Keg & Kitchen open mic, and would post to Facebook once certain.
“I remember hoping she would see it,” he said. There was no way she could miss it, Cara said. “I might have been stalking his Facebook page.”
It was a little awkward at first. “I was nervous,” Chris admits. “I thought she was really attractive, and I had a hard time talking to her.” Cara was also nervous — she talked mostly to Chris’ brother, Rich, until Chris got up to play. “That broke the ice, and then it was really like we hadn’t missed any time.”
Chris and Cara had dinner the next night, then drinks at King’s Road Brewing Company. Chris walked Cara home in the rain. They kissed goodbye on her doorstep and have been together ever since.
“Chris is my best friend. He makes me belly-laugh. He soothes me, understands me, and loves me in a way I’ve never experienced,” Cara said. “You sometimes put yourself second when you are following music as a passion, and it’s hard to find someone who not only accepts that and understands that, but lives that as well.”
“Cara is the only person who thinks I’m funny, and Cara is seriously hilarious. She could be a stand-up comedian.” Chris said. “It just makes me so happy to be around her. She makes me smile, she makes me laugh, and she is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
In 2017, Cara launched her cover band, Late Last Night — for which she sings songs from ABBA to AC/DC to Ariana Grande. She’s also the office manager and private event coordinator for Anderson Entertainment Management. Chris continues to work as a recording and sound engineer. He’s long taught guitar, piano, bass guitar, and percussion to all ages, and in 2018, launched Practical Music Lessons. And Chris recently began playing bass and singing with Late Last Night.
In September 2019, Chris moved in with Cara in the Haddonfield house where her great-grandmother once lived. In late November, he told his parents, Rick and Beverly, he was ready for the next step. Soon after, Cara’s mother, Lynne, gave Chris her blessing and Cara’s grandmothers’ diamond rings. Her father, Jim, was ecstatic.
In December, Chris snagged a few bee-themed flowerpot decorations from the jar-full that Cara’s bee-loving mother had made for her bee-loving daughter. Everyone exchanged Christmas gifts at the home of Cara’s sister, Jill. Cara was a little confused why the cute bee earrings Chris gave her came with the “Bee Happy” flower stick she already owned, and the bee necklace with her “Bee Healthy” stick. Then came a third box containing a once-blank bee stick on which Chris wrote, “Bee My Wife.” When Cara looked up, he was kneeling and offering a rose-gold ring featuring her maternal grandmother’s diamond.
It was so them
Cara and Chris were planning a January 2021 wedding when she read that the Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture Trust , the Haddonfield Foundation, and the Partnership for Haddonfield were hosting the second annual “I Heart Haddonfield” Valentine’s Day event at the town’s Open Heart sculpture and inviting couples to marry there.
“Chris, wouldn’t it be hilarious if we got married in three weeks?” Cara asked. But the more they thought about it, the less hilarious and the more absolutely perfect it seemed. Why not get married in the town where five generations of Cara’s family have lived, and in the same square where they sip coffee almost daily and beers every week, where Chris had lived when they started dating, and where he had played his first gig in the gazebo?
And so at 4:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day 2020, the couple exchanged vows in a ceremony led by former Haddonfield Mayor Tish Colombi, whose obstetrician husband had delivered Cara and her sister. It was cold but sunny, and the trees were decorated in pink, twinkling lights. Their friends, family, neighbors, and strangers surrounded them. “It was really a town event, which was important to us from the beginning,” Cara said. From their cocktail hour at King’s Road Brewing, the couple and their 140 guests watched as about 40 couples renewed their vows, with many brides donning the very ’80s or ’90s gowns they had wed in.
The reception was held at another local establishment the couple frequent — P.J. Whelihan’s. All of their favorites — wings, sliders, roast beef, pulled pork, crab and buffalo chicken dips — were served. Sweet T’s, a bakery on the square, provided the wedding cake.
The Juliano Brothers had a Valentine’s Day cancellation and played the reception except when Chris’ brother stepped in to perform “The Book of Love” for the couple’s first dance.
That dance was deeply meaningful for both Chris and Cara. “I remember just thinking, ‘You look so beautiful, and gosh, this song is beautiful,’ ” Chris said. “And then I look around to see my mom, smiling and crying, and my dad taking pictures. And all of our friends smiling. And it was all for us.”
“We saw the culmination of the love and support that we have come together — to look around and see all of our friends and family in one place and celebrating with us in this nontraditional way that came together in three weeks,” Cara said. “And it was the first moment I really got to connect with Chris on that day. It was somehow quiet and loud at the same time.”
The budget crunch
A bargain: A meaningful and free ceremony venue and a fun yet inexpensive reception spot. Plus, Cara bought her dress from Rent the Runway and it cost $186 including alterations.
The splurge: The savings elsewhere allowed the couple to put no limits on the caliber or amount of adult beverages guests wanted.
The couple plans to go to parts yet unknown during next winter or fall when there’s a break in Late Last Night’s schedule.
Behind the Scenes:
Officiant: Tish Colombi, former mayor of Haddonfield.
Ceremony Venue: Open Heart sculpture in Kings Court, Haddonfield, N.J.
Reception venue and food : P.J. Whelihan’s Pub + Restaurant, Haddon Township, N.J.
Music: Juliano Brothers
Photography: Bill Edwards, BE Squared Photography Collingswood, N.J.
Videography: Collab Lab Studios, Michelle Smith.
Flowers: Nature’s Gift Florist, Voorhees, N.J.
Bride’s attire: Designed by Badgley Mischka, purchased through Rent the Runway.
Hair: Kate Hodges.
Makeup: Tanya Robinson.
Cake: Sweet T’s Bakeshop, Haddonfield, N.J.