Courtney Hoffer and Joe McClernon
Oct. 19, 2018, in Warminster.
Both on the brink of deleting their Match.com accounts, Courtney, an elementary schoolteacher from Churchville, and Joe, a product manager from Morrisville, found each other interesting enough to give online dating one last try.
They met for drinks at Horsham’s Iron Abbey.
“Those blue eyes!” Courtney said.
“I thought she had the prettiest smile I had ever seen,” Joe said.
After the basic introductory Q&A, the conversation landed firmly in Courtney’s classroom. She loves teaching every single day, she told Joe. She loves her students, and helping them grow academically and as people.
Their drinks nearly empty, Courtney was almost certain so much teacher talk had ruined her chances with the first guy from online she really wanted to see again. But as he walked her to her car, Joe asked for a second date.
“I liked that she was talking about teaching, because I could see her passion about it,” he said. “The minute she started talking, I could feel myself getting hooked.”
On Wednesday nights, Courtney, who is now 30, babysat. The two older girls were doing homework, the youngest had gone to bed, their parents would soon be home. She texted Joe. They had plans for Friday, but that seemed a long time away. “Do you want to catch up tonight and grab a drink?” she wrote. His yes was instant. At 10:30 p.m. on a weeknight, he drove from his home in Bristol to Steam Pub in Southampton to spend an hour and change with her.
They spoke more about Joe’s family of five, and her family of six, in full agreement that family always comes first. Joe said he was searching for someone to be his family, not a fling. Courtney said that’s what she was looking for, too.
From then on, they saw or at least spoke to each other every day.
Joe, now 31, admired her work ethic, and the fact that despite the demands of teaching, graduate school, and two part-time jobs, Courtney always made time for him, her family, and her friends. “She doesn’t let anything get in the way of caring.”
Courtney said Joe made life better. “He was always willing to support me, and to do whatever it was that I needed,” she said. Whatever was important to Courtney was important to him. Those kids she babysat? Joe went to their sporting events. When her Uncle John, who had ALS, needed his bed moved to the first floor, Joe helped make it happen. “I knew, no matter what, I had someone in my corner,” she said.
In spring 2017, Russell C. Struble Elementary, where Courtney then taught first grade, was preparing for spirit week. At a May assembly, teachers were to demonstrate the different spirit-boosting activities students could participate in the following week. Courtney volunteered to model pajama day — spirit and comfort! But the Friday before assembly Monday, she got email from a coworker: Would she demonstrate Guess Who Day instead? Could she dress up as principal Lana Judy?
The Monday morning of the event, Joe sang “Hooked on a Feeling” in the shower. He put on jeans and a nice button-down and headed to Struble.
“Hold up!” the faux principal proclaimed during Mrs. Judy’s assembly wrap-up. “As Miss Judy, I feel that I should be on stage, too!” She climbed up, got a good laugh, and then felt kinda dumb as the principal congratulated everyone for the good things they had accomplished that year. “She’s trying to be serious and congratulate our kids, and I’m standing here as part of a joke,” she thought.
It got worse.
“I’m going to ask Miss Hoffer’s class to stand up,” the real principal said. “We have another wonderful thing to celebrate.”
“Did my kids do something awesome that I don’t even know about?” Courtney thought in a panic.
Then Joe came out from behind the stage curtains. The kids — who recognized him from manning the cotton-candy machine at the school’s 40th anniversary carnival, reading at book night, and dropping off surprise cookies — all cheered.
Mrs. Judy handed Joe the microphone. “This beautiful lady here, you know as Miss Hoffer,” he said. “I know her differently. She is my girlfriend.”
“Ooooo!” the kids hooted.
“I love her,” he continued. “We may say we love pizza, or Avengers movies. But this love is different. This love is something that drives me every day, that makes me who I am. And when you love somebody that much, there is only one thing you can do.”
Joe turned to Courtney, and knelt. “Will you marry me?” he asked.
The kids held “Say yes!” signs, but Courtney needed no prompting. She said yes, and the room roared. They kissed. Joe pointed to the back of the multipurpose room, where her family was watching.
“I have everybody I love in this room,” Courtney thought. “It couldn’t be more perfect.”
The next day, one of her students, a little boy, came up to her desk. “Miss Hoffer,” he said. “I like pizza. And I like the Avengers. But I did not like the part where you kissed.”
In January 2018, Courtney, who now teaches fifth grade at Valley Elementary School, also in Bensalem, and Joe, who works at Airgas in Radnor, got their Warminster apartment.
As their 120 guests entered Saint John Bosco, they heard music loved by Courtney’s late Uncle John, who passed away 10 months before the wedding. The traditional Catholic ceremony was punctuated with Irish songs to honor the proud heritage of Joe’s late grandfather, whose name was also Joe. The bouquet of flowers the couple laid at the feet of a statue of the Virgin Mary was composed of purple roses — the favorite of Courtney’s late Aunt Sue, the person who inspired her to become a teacher.
The couple’s rescue pup Harley couldn’t attend, so Courtney attached his tags to her bouquet.
Each couple in the wedding party entered the reception, held at the Manor House in Horsham, to a theme song from one of the couple’s favorite TV shows. The six flower girls — nieces of the bride — entered to the Monday Night Football theme.
Courtney used the couple’s own artwork and other decor to transform the reception space into a larger version of the couple’s living room. Their first dance was to “Hooked on a Feeling,” the song Joe sang in the shower on proposal day. “We took dancing lessons, and Joe got really good at the cha-cha,” Courtney said.
Seeing Courtney in her dress for the first time, Joe was thunderstruck. Her smile is still the most beautiful one he’s ever seen. “Seeing her smile in her wedding dress, it summed up our entire relationship in one minute,” Joe said. “It was the culmination of everything, and knowing with the utmost confidence that this was the right decision.”
When the priest said, “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” the couple reacted the same as to all good news. “We gave each other a high-five,” Courtney said. “And then we kissed, and oh my goodness, finally, after knowing so early on in our relationship this is where we were headed, my best friend was my husband.”
A bargain: The ceremony venue was both the most affordable and the nicest of the 10 sites they considered, Joe said.
The splurge: The couple went all out on attire. Courtney had a vision of the perfect dress, and none she tried fulfilled it until at Kleinfeld Bridal in New York. The price was not, she wants you to know, in the ballpark of the Say Yes to the Dress dresses. But it was double their original budget.
Joe planned to rent a tuxedo, but none fit him very well. Instead, he ordered a custom-made suit, gray with a plum lining, and the wedding date embroidered inside. His hidden accessory: car-driving dinosaur socks.
Ten days on Oahu and Maui, including a drive on the Road to Hana in a rented red ‘57 Porsche convertible.
Ceremony venue: Saint John Bosco, Hatboro
Officiant: Father Kramer, Saint John Bosco
Music and photography: East Coast Event Group, Langhorne
Reception venue and food: Manor House at Commonwealth, Horsham
Flowers: Bird of Paradise Flowers, Bristol
Dress: Paloma Blanca, purchased at Kleinfeld Bridal, New York
Suit: JoS. A. Bank, Warrington
Hair: Chrissy Campbell, Fresh Hair Studio, Southampton