Bridget McGeehan and Matthew Habermann
April 26, 2019, in Philadelphia
In fall 2017, Bridget moved from Paris to London to earn a master’s degree in comparative literature from University College London. A few months in, the Wallingford native and 10 housemates hosted a party, each inviting friends and colleagues from their various disciplines.
Bridget was still getting ready when the doorbell rang. “My, aren’t you prompt!” she said sarcastically as she opened the door to Matthew. It was a full 45 minutes after the start time given on Facebook, but Matthew was the first to arrive. The housemates guessed — correctly — that he was in the mathematics department.
Matthew, who is from Brisbane, Australia, had also gone to London to study. He’s now a doctoral candidate in mathematics at the London School of Geometry and Number Theory.
He and Bridget talked a lot that night, mostly about the countries they had lived in — Matthew was in Munich, Germany, for a year — and the challenges of learning new languages, their idioms and how those expressions say so much about their cultures. By the night’s end, they had plans to meet for coffee. From then on, Matthew and Bridget would regularly meet in the library, or for Thai, for more conversation about their families, homelands, politics, and the ways that, in both literature and math, things aren’t always as they appear.
Matthew felt ready for a serious relationship and was open to the possibility that it could be with Bridget. “She was so easy to talk to. I could be myself around her,” he said. “It was nice to find someone as interested in academic things as I am, plus she introduced me to new things. I had never gone to music concerts before and now, they are a big part of my life.”
Bridget, who was not that long out of a long-term relationship with a Parisian, was determined not to fall in love with anyone not from her home continent.
She told Matthew she wasn’t looking for anything serious. He kept seeing her, guarding his heart even while hearing echoes of his parents’ story in what was happening to him and this American woman: His dad, Peter, is from Australia; his mom, Helen, is from South Africa. They met in London.
Bridget went to her parents’ Queen Village home for the holidays. In the physical distance from Matthew, the emotional closeness she felt for him was undeniable.
“I felt I could be 100 percent honest with him. I didn’t have to protect myself. I didn’t have to try to be cool or hip,” she said. “He was so charming and so interesting. And he made me feel so happy and so calm — something I had never felt before.”
Bridget really wasn’t ready for the right one, but she knew she had found him and told Matthew that when she got back to school. From there, things progressed quickly.
“We said, ‘I love you,’ pretty early,” Bridget remembered. “I felt so fulfilled and so sure and so happy.”
Bridget’s yearlong program was ending in September 2018, but Matthew wasn’t worried. “I knew we could make it work with each other, and if we could make it work, we could just get married and be together,” he said. “That was a pretty intense thing to bring up after a month of dating, but that was always how I felt.”
One night in June 2018, the couple had an intense conversation about the geographical realities they would soon face unless they took some action. They concluded marriage was the absolute right step.
“We knew we wanted to get married eventually, but we had to confront the question: Are we getting married too quickly because of the visa situation?” Bridget remembered. They concluded that even without the visa issue, delaying their marriage would feel like putting their lives on hold.
A few evenings later, Matthew suggested a walk in their favorite park, Hampstead Heath. The couple had an established tradition of such saunters, and Bridget thought it was part of this wonderful routine.
But once in the park, Matthew guided Bridget to the middle of a field and asked her to marry him. “I knelt, but not for very long,” he said. “She said yes pretty quickly.”
That November, the couple wed in a civil ceremony at Haringey Borough Town Hall. Matthew wore a suit, and Bridget a 1960s-inspired white dress with bell sleeves. Matthew’s Aunt Lesley and Uncle Andrew, who live in Kent, were their witnesses. There was no time to linger — the next couple was waiting to wed. So the couple and their guests — Lesley, Andrew, and that couple’s two kids — left for lunch at the Cinnamon Club.
The visa process was still horrendous, said Matthew, who is now 26. But it did allow Bridget, 27, to get a real job: She is now a business development executive at London law firm Slaughter & May.
The couple, who live in Muswell Hill in London, had the civil ceremony knowing a wedding they would share with both families present would follow as soon as possible. “To have a ceremony in front of friends and family feels more official,” Bridget said. “We knew our families wanted to celebrate and meet each other, and we wanted to have a fun party, too.”
Bridget’s mom, Wendy, was her boots on the ground in Philadelphia. She attended every vendor meeting with iPhone in hand so Bridget could virtually be there through FaceTime.
It was important to Bridget to marry in a church, and so they and 120 guests assembled at Christ Church in Old City and the Rev. Tim Safford led them through their vows. Bridget’s dad, John, walked her down the aisle. Her sister, Grace, and best friend, Beatrice, were her maid of honor and bridesmaid, respectively.
Guests came from five continents.
At the Olde Bar reception, the couple danced to Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.” Everyone danced to Men at Work’s “Down Under” as a fun tribute to the groom. The DJ also played a few hits from AC/DC, another Aussie band.
Matthew had fun at the Philadelphia wedding, but the exchange of vows at Haringey Borough Town Hall — the first step in the long process they waded through so Bridget could stay in the U.K. — struck his heart the hardest. “It felt so romantic,” he said. “It felt like we were really doing something great for love.”
Taking vows in front of their families and many friends was Bridget’s favorite part. “I was nervous up there, but it was like they were all helping me, like the entire room was giving me strength, and giving the words strength,” she said. “As I said them, I thought about what each word meant, about my promise.”
A bargain: Bridget’s dad owns an ad agency. She designed and he printed the couple’s seating chart and programs.
The splurge: The couple did not want to scrimp on photography and hired Love Me Do for its journalistic approach and artistry.
Traveling to Philadelphia for the wedding was just the trip the couple needed.
Officiant: The Rev. Tim Safford, rector, Christ Church, Philadelphia.
Ceremony: Christ Church.
Reception: The Olde Bar, Philadelphia.
Food: Garces Catering, Philadelphia.
Music: DJ Richie Abrams, Cutting Edge Entertainment, Huntingdon Valley.
Photography: Amanda Jaffe, Love Me Do Photography, Philadelphia.
Flowers: RAM Floral, Norristown.
Dress: BHLDN, Philadelphia.
Hair and makeup: True Beauty Marks, Quakertown.
Groom’s attire: Ted Baker.
Transportation: Sterling Limousine & Transportation Services, Newtown.
Gluten- and dairy-free cupcakes: Sweet Freedom, Philadelphia.