Laurie Butera & Paul Green

Nov. 1, 2020

Laurie and Paul had only exchanged a few texts since a dating app introduced them, but he was bored, she was having a bad day, and getting to know a virtual stranger over diner food seemed like a fine way to reset the trajectory of that cold, rainy Saturday in January 2014.

He hopped the train near his apartment in Palmyra, and she picked him up at the station in Norristown. Just after 7 p.m., they settled into a booth.

“He told me his life story and I listened and asked questions,” said Laurie. “I thought he was cute, and he was so excited to be telling me about his family. He showed me every photo on his phone. I was thinking things were going well.”

“I thought so, too,” said Paul. What he didn’t think about was the time. It was after 11 when they left the diner — too late to make the last train to Palmyra.

Laurie had never driven to Palmyra, and she was not keen to do so in the late-night rain. “I guess you’re spending the night,” she told him.

At her Swedesburg townhouse, Paul made fast friends with cats Toby and Shelby, which Laurie took as another good sign. It was her turn to talk about her family and show Paul photos, and his turn to ask the questions.

It wasn’t all talk: They kissed before saying goodnight.

The two woke to dark clouds and the threat of a massive snowstorm. After cereal, they drove to Walmart for sidewalk salt.

Paul was cracking her up. One aisle over, Laurie’s mother recognized her daughter’s laugh and went to find her.

Paul saw Laurie’s smile turn to panic. “What’s wrong, baby?” he asked, throwing his arm over her shoulder.

“Mom, this is Paul,” Laurie said nervously. “Paul, this is my mom.”

Paul removed his arm from Laurie’s shoulders and hugged her mother hello.

Back at Laurie’s place, Paul salted the sidewalks, then the two settled in to watch some of each other’s favorite movies — his old ’80s standbys and her horror flicks — while the snow piled up. When Laurie lamented all the sidewalk clearing that awaited her, Paul volunteered to shovel. He cleared the walk every few hours, and stayed over Sunday night, too.

Laurie, then a pharmacy tech at Bryn Mawr Hospital, worked a seven-days-on, seven-days-off schedule, and was off all week. Paul took Monday off from his job at a home improvement store. By the end of their long weekend, they proclaimed themselves boyfriend and girlfriend.

“She’s very smart,” said Paul. “I love her relationship with her parents, and she’s sweet, and kind to all people. Plus, she enjoys my company.”

“He is the first guy who I’ve been able to fully trust,” said Laurie. “He says everything he’s feeling or thinking, and he can’t keep a secret to save his life, so I never have to wonder if he’s telling the truth. He met all of my family very quickly, and they all liked him, which is important to me. Plus, my cats liked him.”

And his cats, Momma Mias and Phillie, liked her, too.

The couple has watched all 200+ titles of Laurie’s horror collection, all of Paul’s 100+ VHS tapes, made the most out of subscriptions to Netflix and Amazon Prime, and — pre-COVID-19 — saw something on the big screen at least once a month. In June 2017, they headed to Somers Point to see John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, whose music is featured in one of their favorite movies, Eddie and the Cruisers.

They were unpacking at their hotel when Paul said, “I want to be your husband.”

“What?” asked Laurie.

“Do you want to be my wife?” he asked.

“What?” she repeated.

And then, “Did you ask my parents?”

He had not.

It was too late to ask that night, but first thing the next morning, Paul called and Laurie’s father answered. “Mr. Butera, I want to marry your daughter,” Paul said. “That’s great!” said Laurie’s father. “Does she know about it?”

“Yeah,” said Paul. “She’s sitting right here.”

The couple met Laurie’s sister, brother-in-law, and three nephews on the Ocean City boardwalk. At first, it was all about the kids, who rode rides and played games as the adults tried to keep up.

“Laurie!” shouted Paul to get her attention among all the activity. She turned toward his voice, he knelt, and she said yes.

Paul beamed. Laurie cried. After their family members hugged them, strangers stopped to hug them, too.

Due to Laurie’s work schedule, they only saw each other every other weekend. She had asked Paul to move in multiple times, but the man who stayed at her townhouse on their first date always put it off.

“I knew I was going to eventually do it, but moving in is a huge step, and I needed to make the right moves first,” said Paul, who is now 38. One of the biggest: finding a job in Pennsylvania.

His last day at his warehouse job in Jersey was a Friday in January 2018. His first day at Almac, a company that runs pharmaceutical clinical trials, was that Monday. The weekend between, he and his cats moved in with Laurie to what is now their home in Eagleville. Paul is now a production coordinator. Laurie, now 37, also works at Almac. She is a project coordinator.

All Paul wanted was to marry Laurie in a way that made her happy and drink white Russians. All Laurie wanted was to marry Paul and for his glasses of coffee liqueur, vodka, and milk to be the only place the color white was prominent.

“I wanted a Halloween wedding. I wanted a Beetlejuice wedding. I wanted dark purple and black. I wanted our centerpieces to look like [director] Tim Burton’s creepy trees,” Laurie said. “I was not wearing a white wedding gown.”

At David’s Bridal, Laurie found a silvery-gray Vera Wang dress and an employee who understood her vision and suggested sewing in some black tulle. Paul’s attire was found at Spirit Halloween. It’s a Beetlejuice costume, but without the makeup, so the nod to the movie wasn’t too campy, Laurie said.

The couple did not marry on Halloween — Laurie listened to her nephews’ pleas to let that day be its own glorious thing — but the following day. Inspired by their love of animals, they held the ceremony and reception at the Elmwood Park Zoo. Their photos were taken with Luna the jaguar, Sally the cockatoo, Slash the red panda, and Stella the great horned owl. Their 62 guests also met Stella during the cocktail hour.

Due to COVID-19, special precautions had to be taken. Each guest received a mask and every table bore a big bottle of hand sanitizer with a sign that said, “Spread love not germs.”

The bridal party walked down the aisle to the grand finale theme from Edward Scissorhands. Paul cried, and whenever Laurie looked at him, she cried, too.

Laurie’s best friend from college became ordained to lead the ceremony, which included a prayer for loved ones who have passed on.

The couple’s first dance was a country line dance to “Boardwalk Angel” from Eddie and the Cruisers. The bride danced with her father to Alabama’s version of “My Girl.” The DJ taught everyone a dance to “Soul Man” from The Blues Brothers — one of Paul’s favorite movies.

The highlight for the couple was finally getting married. For Laurie, the second best part was seeing her unusual wedding vision come to life. Paul was thrilled they found a safe way to be with almost everyone they love despite the pandemic.

It took two and a half years to save for the wedding, so Laurie and Paul hadn’t planned to take a honeymoon right away.

“We’re hoping that for some anniversary we can go somewhere special,” said Laurie.

“How about Salem on Halloween?” suggested Paul.