Amber Grinnage and Steven Atkinson
Dec. 7, 2019, in Cape May, N.J.
The first day that Amber waded into the waters of online dating with a Plenty of Fish profile, she got a message from Steve.
“We lived on the same road, 40 miles apart,” noted Amber, who lived on Route 73 in Oley, Berks County, the town where she grew up. Steve, from Chestnut Hill, was living in Blue Bell.
A week later, in June 2015, they met midway on the road between them at Facenda Whitaker Lanes, a bowling alley in East Norriton.
“It was fun — I won!” said Amber.
“We played a couple of games, and then sat at their bar and just talked,” said Steve.
Both were looking for a relationship, and they were upfront about that and their budding interest in each other, although they communicated it in different ways. Amber told Steve she liked him. Steve, who is more reserved, just kept calling her to hang out.
Hanging out with Amber remains a fantastic thing to do, Steve said. “She’s very easy to talk to, and she can be really funny.”
They saw each other two or three times a week, which still didn’t seem like enough. That September, they took their first vacation together in Cape May. The long weekend was by far the longest block of time they had spent together. “That was where I really fell in love with him,” Amber said.
In January 2016, Steve moved to Amber’s Oley apartment. That April, they got a place together in Roxborough. In August, on another Cape May trip, smells were really bothersome to Amber, who is now 31. She and Steve, now 33, soon learned a baby was on the way. Dominic arrived in spring 2017.
Dominic was four months old when he and his parents joined Steve’s parents, Helen and Tom, his sister, Jess, and her now-husband Barney in a Cape May house in fall 2017.
Helen and Amber had lunch together. When they returned, Steve came downstairs all dressed up.
Amber asked why he was being so fancy. Steve said he wasn’t, and that she should get ready to go to Sunset Beach — one of their favorite spots — while his parents watched the baby.
Amber was a little disappointed because she wanted to take their son on his first trip to Sunset Beach, but Steve told her things were all set, and she could see he was looking forward to some time alone.
At the beach, he didn’t head for their usual spot, but chose a less-crowded place. Amber was focused on the ocean when the sun began to set.
“She was looking away until I pulled out the ring and asked, ‘Will you marry me?’ ” Steve remembers.
Amber did not see that coming — they hadn’t really talked about getting engaged, as everything was focused on getting ready for Dominic’s arrival, and then adjusting to parenthood.
“Are you serious?” she asked. Steve assured her he was. “Of course!” she answered.
Then she had a question for Steve: “Does my mom know?”
Luz did know. Amber immediately called her. She couldn’t believe her mother had kept the secret. “I was dying!” Luz said. “I kept waiting for him to do it all day!”
The couple, who now live in Chestnut Hill, picked up pizza and brought it to the Shore house to share with everyone.
Soon after, Steve saw a posting for a job he knew Amber would be great at: events coordinator at Philadelphia’s Valley Green Inn. She got the job, loves it like nothing she’s ever done before, and originally thought the employee discount would come in handy for her own wedding. But during the couple’s engagement, Amber realized getting married there would likely lead her to think about things she needed to arrange for her clients’ events instead of enjoying her own.
In fall 2019, a neighbor told Amber about Cape May’s holiday traditions: decorations everywhere and a huge parade in early December. She and Helen made plans for a fun winter weekend. Steve, a truck driver, assumed he’d have to work. His inability to schedule vacation days well ahead of time was a big reason their engagement stretched to three years — it was hard to plan for a future date.
Then, in October, Steve started driving for YRC and scheduling vacation days was no longer a problem. He was so excited to tell Amber he would be coming to the Cape May Christmas. That gave Amber a bold idea: “Let’s get married that weekend,” she suggested. “That’s perfect!” Steve agreed. “Let’s do it!”
Since it would be too cold for the beach, Amber reached out, with fingers crossed, to another of their favorite places: Willow Creek Farm & Winery. They offered her the owner’s residence — a setting that worked well with the couple’s tiny guest list: the bride, groom, and their son; the groom’s parents, sister, and brother-in-law; the bride’s mother and father, Bob, and his girlfriend, Mary Beth.
They loved the idea of an intimate gathering — and it was also much better for their budget, Amber said. “Being in the industry, I’ve learned that you either invite everybody or you invite nobody,” she said. “My mom has a huge family — it was either going to be 10 people or 300.”
Dominic walked his mother down a winding staircase into the foyer, where Amber met her father, who escorted her the short distance to Steve, all as an instrumental version of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” played. The owner of the home and winery, Barbara Bray Wilde, officiated at the short-and-sweet ceremony. She spoke of love, and family, and of Amber and Steve raising Dominic together as a team.
The reception was held in the open living room/dining room area. The couple indulged their guests with crab and artichoke dip with crostini, smoked salmon, pulled pork, and the bride’s favorite, baked Brie, all paired, of course, with Willow Creek wines.
Amber’s tears arrived before she did. “Steve, Dominic, and I are together all the time, but I hadn’t seen them all day,” she said. “On my way over to our venue with my mom, Steve’s mom texted me a picture of Steve and Dominic all dressed up, and I started crying my eyes out. They looked so good, and I just got all excited that our wedding was finally happening.”
When Amber walked down the stairs with Dominic, Steve was overwhelmed with gratitude. “I knew that she was going to be my wife forever, and she was with our son, and we are a family. It was so meaningful.”
A bargain: The couple is saving to buy a house and kept the entire wedding, including venue, food and beverage, officiant, attire, and photography, to less than $3,000.
The splurge: The bride is so glad she abandoned her idea to have the guests take photos and hired a professional photographer instead.
Behind the scenes:
Officiant: Barbara Bray Wilde, owner of Willow Creek Farm & Winery, Cape May, N.J.
Venue: The Estate at Willow Creek Farm & Winery
Food: Master chef Brian Parker at Willow Creek Farm & Winery
Photography: Anita Gladovic, The Boho Photography by Anita, Cape May, N.J.
Flowers: Jin Kang, friend of the Atkinson family, Philadelphia.
Cake: Luz Cicone, owner of Luz’s Specialty Cakes and mother of the bride, Boyertown, Pa.
Amber’s attire: BHLDN, purchased at David’s Bridal, Conshohocken, Pa.
Steve’s attire: Ralph Lauren, K&G Fashion Superstore, Wyncote, Pa.
Hair/Makeup: Maryanna Nicoletta, stylist and makeup artist at Accent on Beauty, Cape May, N.J.
Planner: Shannon Vail-Massie, director of special events at Willow Creek Farm & Winery, Cape May, N.J.