Ariana Seidel and Alex Hayes

Dec. 20, 2019, in Wilmington, Del.

Hello there

Ariana was talking with two other girls before the start of history class on the first day of their freshman year at Unionville High School when Alex ran up and gave Susannah and Emily huge happy-to-see-you hugs. Ariana, who had just moved to Kennett Square from Dallas the year before, was still figuring out where she fit in. “I wish I had friends like that,” she thought that day in 2003.

Her wish soon came true – Alex, Susanna, Emily, and the rest of their large group of friends became Ariana’s friends, too.

“We went to the movies a lot, or to Friendly’s to get ice cream,” Ariana said. As many as 30 kids would go sometimes.

Sometimes … a somewhat smaller group would politely invade Alex’s friend Kyle’s house -- which had a pool table, shuffleboard, and darts in the basement.

The summer after sophomore year, Ariana’s family moved to a new house – her backyard and Alex’s shared a boundary. They hung even more, sometimes just the two of them, often with her brothers, Cameron and Trevor, and his brother, Christopher.

To college and beyond

Alex and Ariana both attended Penn State, where he studied finance, Spanish, and international studies and she studied English and political science. “We hung out the entire time,” Ariana said. When they were seniors, Christopher and Cameron joined them at Penn State, where Alex became Cameron’s big brother at Delta Kappa Epsilon.

After graduating, Alex, now 31, landed work with Siemens, where he is an internal auditor with Siemens Healthineers. His first gig was a rotational program that took him around the country. He then earned his MBA from Friedrich Alexander University in Nuremberg, Germany. When he wasn’t in an international city for classes, he lived in Queen Village with three high school friends -- a pad that became the clubhouse of the old Unionville gang – including Ariana.

She returned to the area to earn a law degree at Villanova, then she and sorority sister Megan moved to Graduate Hospital. Ariana introduced Megan to Kyle of Kyle’s basement fame – the two are getting married this summer. “On weekends when Kyle came over to our house, Kyle and I would invite Alex to come over so he would have a buddy, because I didn’t have a boyfriend then,” remembered Ariana, who is now 30 and an attorney with Spector Gadon Rosen Vinci P.C.

“We hung out for a year, going to dinner or watching the Eagles and Flyers at our apartment.”

Alex and Ariana discovered a common love of music festivals and together went to Firefly and Bonnaroo. In 2016, he invited her to see Heart, Joan Jett, and Cheap Trick at the BB&T Pavilion. They grooved to Cheap Trick and Joan Jett and then, right before Heart, Alex turned to Ariana: “If I don’t say this right now, I don’t think I ever will. I think we should date.”

Alex’s suggestion wasn’t exactly spontaneous. He had periodically wondered if he and Ariana should be more than friends since college, but previously, they were never simultaneously single.

Ariana had thought about it too, but always concluded no potential romance was worth risking what they already had.

“What are you talking about?” she asked. “You’re my best friend!”

“Exactly,” said Alex. “You are the person I have the most fun with, the person I want to spend all my time with. I don’t see any reason we shouldn’t date.”

Ariana saw one big reason: “What happens if we break up?”

Alex looked her square in the eye: “I thought about that,” he said. “It’s never going to happen.”

They danced to Heart, then Ariana suggested a single, trial date. One date, no matter how bad, couldn’t ruin 13 years of friendship, she reasoned.

Back at her apartment, she went right to Megan’s room. “Alex wants to date me, what should I do?” she asked.

“You’ve been dating him for a year,” Megan said sleepily. “You’re just calling it what it is.”

Five days later, Alex had a charcuterie board on the counter, jazz on the record player, and an extra dirty martini in the fridge when Ariana arrived.

“We started talking like always,” Ariana said. “I thought, ‘Ok, he’s right, this is my last, first date ever.’ ”

Almost as happy as the new couple: her parents, Roxanne and Howard, his parents, Douglas and Jeanie, and their best bud brothers, all of whom had been willing this to happen for more than a decade.

The engagement

In 2018, Alex and Ariana moved to a South Philadelphia apartment. The couple travel to Manhattan every December to see the holiday sights. That year they and their friends walked through Central Park. At the Bethesda Fountain, Jason and Mary Kate started taking pictures and video. As Alex knelt, family members began appearing from their hiding places.

“Ariana burst into tears, which threw me for a loop. I blanked. I couldn’t come up with anything,” Alex said. “So I just asked, ‘Babe, will you marry me?' ”

After more tears and a big yes, everyone enjoyed the holiday lights and dinner together.

It was so them

Both ceremony and reception for 240 were held at the Hotel duPont. Following the 20-person bridal party, the bride walked down the aisle to a song composed by her brother, Cameron. Officiant Bradley Burke is a friend and the former youth leader at the bride’s hometown church. Readings came from the book of Ruth and Winnie-the-Pooh.

The cocktail hour featured a jazz quintet and Santa Claus. The reception was rather like a showcase of bands: Alex’s father’s band, MoeJoe, played classic rock, with brother Christopher taking a turn on the drums. Cameron’s band, The Burning Bees, played classics and current hits. Trevor jumped on the drums when the bride serenaded the groom with Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” In between, friend Erik played tunes.

Awestruck

The couple met before the ceremony to read vows they had written for each other.

He promised to always love and care for her, and that he’d always see the Jonas Brothers with her, provided they could also attend Big 10 championships. She told him how grateful she is for his compassion, and also that the TV was his for Monday Night Football, since she could record The Bachelor.

“That was my first time seeing her on our wedding day, and the moment it hit that, wow, today’s really our wedding day and we’re doing this,” Alex said. “It was awesome.”

Ariana cried through all of that and most of the other big moments of their lives, but when she walked with her father down the aisle, her eyes were dry. “In a very crowded room, all I saw was Alex standing there and I was so excited that he was going to be my husband.”

The budget crunch

A bargain: Two phenomenal and free family bands.

The splurge: Ariana returned from a wedding expo with plans to hire videographer GT Cinematics. “It was definitely a splurge, but well worth it,” she said.

Honeymooning

A few days in Newport, R.I., to be followed by a trip to Europe next fall.

Behind the scenes:

Officiant: Rev. Bradley Burke, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Lionville, Pa.

Venue and food: Hotel duPont, Wilmington, Del.

Music: Ceremony: Pianist Michael Maguire of Mage Jazz Collective, Newark, Del. (Instagram: @magejazz) Cocktail Hour: Mage Jazz Collective

Reception: DJ: Erik Rivadeneyra, friend of the couple.

Bands: MoeJoe, Kennett Square, Pa., The Burning Bees, Hoboken, N.J. (Instagram: @theburningbees)

Photography: Carly Landolt Photography, Kennett Square, Pa.

Videography: GT Cinematics, Philadelphia.

Flowers: Le Style 25, Kennett Square, Pa.

Bride’s attire: Allure Bridals, purchased from Bijou Bridal, Ardmore.

Groom’s attire: Gentleman’s Guru and The Black Tux.

Hair: Anthology Salon & Style Bar, Lancaster, Pa. (Instagram: @anthologylancaster)

Makeup: 1MakeupMan by Russell Borns, New Castle, Del. (Instagram: @1makeupman)

Planner: Tara Harlam of the Hotel duPont.

Santa: Jay Kennedy, friend of the couple.