Alyson Ragone and John Demas
June 15, 2019, in Roxborough
Alyson added her name to the beer pong waiting list for her chance to play that night in March 2013.
She waited and waited, then squeezed her way through the crowd of mostly Rowan University students to see how many names remained ahead of hers — just in time to see some guy cross her name off the list. “Hey!” she yelled. “What are you doing?”
John had also gotten tired of waiting to play. He was constantly at his friend Chris’ house, and he had no idea who this Alyson Ragone was. Crossing off a stranger’s name seemed like an easy way to expedite his turn.
He answered Alyson with a question of his own, “Who are you?”
Alyson was not intimidated. “I’ve been waiting so long to play,” she said.
“All right,” said John. “I guess you’re my partner.”
Alyson agreed — in no small part because she found John very handsome.
The two defeated many opponents, giving Alyson time to tell John who she was, and vice versa.
Alyson, who grew up in Medford, Burlington County, was a Rowan liberal studies major. Now 27, she has since earned her master’s degree in counseling and mental health services at the University of Pennsylvania and is program manager at DragonsTeach Middle Years in Drexel University’s School of Education.
John, who grew up in Washington Township, Gloucester County, had graduated with an accounting degree from Chestnut Hill College and was working for Stephen Starr. Now 29 and a CPA, he is a senior regulatory accountant at Vanguard and pursuing his MBA at West Chester University.
John loved that Alyson was a talker like him, and that they laughed together. He liked that when he crossed her name off the list, she didn’t freak out, but she didn’t let him get away with it, either. “It all led me to want to get to know her better,” he said. So he handed her his phone. Alyson typed in her name and digits.
John texted a few days later. Alyson didn’t answer. “I had just transferred to Rowan that year, and was really trying to enjoy living on my own and making friends. I didn’t want anything serious.” With a connection so instantly strong, she suspected “serious” was exactly what would happen with John.
A week later, John texted again and again got no response. “That’s it, I’m done,” he announced to himself. “You’re lucky you got two shots.”
Three months later, social media alerted John that it was Alyson’s birthday. Remembering the connection they shared, he decided to give it one last chance.
“Happy Birthday,” he texted. Alyson’s resolve melted. The easy flow of conversation ramped back up, and a week later, they went out for Italian.
She soon fell in love with everything about him. “When he is dedicated to someone, he is completely dedicated,” she said. “He is a hard worker and had the same goals as I did about higher education and trying to be the best you can be. 24/7, he wants to make sure I’m OK.”
John was charmed by her smile. He fell in love with “how genuine a person she is. She can talk to anybody, and see the good in anything and anyone, which is something I felt was making me a better person.”
In November 2015, the couple rescued Mason, a pit bull/Lab mix. And in October 2016, Alyson moved from her Center City apartment to John’s place in Chestnut Hill. Six months later, they got a house in Conshohocken.
The couple booked a spring trip to Lake Tahoe for Alyson’s birthday in 2018. John’s an avid golfer, and so Alyson wasn’t surprised when he chose the Edgewood Country Club — a course with a breathtaking view of the lake — for a celebratory drink. They were leaving for dinner when he requested a detour to watch the sunset from a small pier.
As beautiful as the setting was, as great as their trip had been, Alyson was a wee bit disappointed. They had been together for such a long time. They had established years ago that they wanted to marry each other. But there would be no progress toward the aisle on this trip, she was certain: While John was in the shower, she had searched his clothes’ pockets, his suitcase, his hotel sock drawer. Nothing.
“John, when are we going to get engaged?” Alyson asked as they walked. “Aly, you’ve got to relax,” John said. “You shouldn’t rush these things.”
Alyson then saw a photographer and let the topic go. “Why don’t we ask her to take a picture of us?” she said, heading over. “No,” John said with an emphasis unlike him. “Leave her alone.”
“It will just take me a second,” Alyson said. John — who had hired that photographer — knew his time was up. He touched Alyson’s arm so she looked at him. “You know I love you very much, and I always want to be with you,” he said, kneeling. “Will you marry me?”
Alyson began hysterically crying. “Oh, my god, oh, my god!” she said. “Yes!”
John had hidden the ring where he knew Alyson would never look: In the toe of his sneaker.
Because their church, St. Matthew’s in Conshohocken, is under construction, the couple wed at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Roxborough, a church they attended together when they lived in Chestnut Hill.
John was raised Catholic and Alyson grew up in both her dad’s Catholic faith and her mom’s Jewish one. To celebrate both traditions and make every guest feel welcome, Alyson’s uncle said a Jewish prayer, and the groom’s aunt read about love’s patience and kindness from Corinthians.
The reception for 150 was held at the ACE Golf Club at the Chubb Hotel & Conference Center in Lafayette Hill. Yes, the groom went to the driving range on his wedding day.
Since girlhood, Alyson had dreamed of her dad playing the guitar at her wedding. He joined Marquee to jam on the Eagles’ “Take It Easy” and several other songs. “Everybody got on the dance floor, and no one left the entire night,” John said.
At the end of the night, the couple climbed on stage to belt out Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” The crowd sang with them.
John’s most vivid memory of his wedding day is the moment he first saw Alyson walking down the aisle. “It was knowing that all of this planning, everything we had dreamed of, it was finally happening,” he said. “A wave of emotion starts taking over you, and you’re just happy.”
Before she began that walk, Alyson was nervous. Did she look her best? How fast should she walk? Then she took the first few steps and saw every emotion on her husband-to-be’s face. “The nervousness went away completely, which is pretty much the story of our entire relationship. I’m pretty anxious, but all I need is John to help me through it,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is the man of my dreams.'”
A bargain: Alyson’s parents have a friend at KRB Printing in Cherry Hill, and the couple got gorgeous invitations at an unbelievable cost.
The splurge: There are less expensive places to celebrate, but none where the couple so loved the views and the caterer. They also loved the great service they got, and the on-site hotel made things easy on their guests.
Honeymooning: A 10-day summer journey to swim with sharks, paddle a glass-bottomed kayak, and relax on the beach in Bora Bora.
Officiant: The Rev. Sam Verruni, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Philadelphia.
Ceremony: Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Reception: Chubb Hotel & Conference Center, Lafayette Hill.
Food: Jose Garces Catering within Chubb Hotel & Conference Center.
Photography: Laura Napoli Photography.
Flowers: Sarah Gerber Designs.
Dress: Essence of Australia.
Make Up: Dani Gaudiosi.
Groom’s attire: Men’s Wearhouse, Plymouth Meeting.