Courtney Morris and Niko Papatsiaras
July 27, 2019 in Broomall
It was a typical summer gathering of teenagers in the Drexel Hill Wawa parking lot until Niko and Courtney spotted each other.
Courtney, then a rising Upper Darby High School sophomore, had come with one bunch of friends, and Niko, who would soon be a senior, with another. But the groups overlapped both in real life and online.
“We recognized each other — we had spoken before on AOL Instant Messenger,” Niko said. “But we had never met in person until that day outside the Wawa.”
From that first spoken hello, sparks flew.
There was more group time together that summer of 2008. When school started, Niko played football and Courtney was a cheerleader, so there was time to talk before the games on the sidelines and at McDonald’s or at someone’s house after the game.
“He made me laugh all the time,” Courtney said. “He has great looks, but his personality really shines. He would do anything for me, or for anyone he cares about.”
Niko loved to make her laugh — he was smitten by her smile. “She was outgoing and caring,” he said.
By October, they were dating. They were soon in love, and not long after that, loved and were loved by each other’s families, too.
“Seeing her interact with my family was huge,” Niko said. His brother, Stelio, is 10 years younger and was just a kid back then. “We would take him with us on our dates sometimes, and she was really kind to him.”
Courtney has one sibling, Rachael, and it was clear early on that Niko was like the son her dad had never had. “They were best buddies!” she said.
After graduating from high school, Niko studied at Wesley College in Dover, Del., and Courtney would visit on weekends. She later chose West Chester University and he transferred there so the two education majors could be together. Niko, now 28, teaches health and physical education at Primos Elementary School. Courtney, now 26, is a special-education teacher at Westbrook Park Elementary. Both schools are in the Upper Darby School District.
Niko’s Greek heritage is firmly anchored in the Kozani region of Greece, where his father was born. In August 2017, Niko and Courtney traveled there. They stayed in the family home and one day rented a yacht with Niko’s sister, Christina, cousin Dina, and friend Teddy. There was snorkeling, and cliff diving. Then, when it was almost time for the famous Santorini sunset, the sea got choppy. Their captain said he wasn’t going to turn into the sunset, but turn for shore instead.
Niko quietly pleaded with him to face the sun, and, hearing why, the captain agreed to stay out a little while longer.
“The boat was going up and down in the waves,” Courtney remembered.
Dina and Teddy got Niko’s parents, Dimitrios and Katherine, and Courtney’s, parents John and Sharon, on FaceTime, while Christina got ready to document with photos.
Niko put his arm around his girlfriend. “When we met at the Wawa, I knew I was going to marry you one day,” he said.
“Are you kidding me?” asked Courtney.
Courtney thought back to two years earlier, when, in his parents’ living room, Niko had theatrically knelt with a huge and obviously fake ring. They both thought the joke was funny.
This time felt real to Courtney, but it was a year ahead of their timeline, and her love is a big jokester.
“Niko, you better not be freakin’ playing with me!” she said.
“Will you marry me?” he asked.
Courtney knelt herself, grabbed Niko’s face, and kissed him. “Of course I will!” she said.
The waves were quite loud. “Did you say yes?” Teddy shouted from the upper deck. “Of course!” Courtney repeated, more loudly.
The couple, who live in Broomall, hosted their own mini-parade down the aisle of St. Luke Greek Orthodox with a 22-member bridal party. Then the traditional ceremony began, with Father Christ Kontos saying each part in both Greek and English so everyone could understand. The couple held lighted candles as the priest blessed them. Then the Koumbaro, who assists the priest with the ceremony, placed crowns on their heads, and Courtney and Niko each drank from the Holy Cup — the communion cup — three times.
Father Kontos told a bit of the couple’s story, weaving in the families who are central to their lives, and then pronounced them husband and wife.
The newlyweds celebrated with 233 guests at the Ballroom at the Ben. “It was a black-tie event, so everyone was dressed sharp,” Niko said.
As Greek tradition suggests, guests tossed money at the couple as they danced.
At cake-cutting time, groomsman Ian tapped Niko on the shoulder. “I tweeted at Mike Scott to come to the wedding. Do you care?”
Niko laughed. As if the 76ers basketball star would come to his wedding!
Later that night, everyone was dancing to Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares” and there was another tap on Niko’s back. “I turn around, and Mike Scott puts his arm around me.”
The couple’s love for their favorite forward only grew as Mike danced with Niko’s mother and yia yia (grandmother) and took pictures with every guest who wanted one.
Somewhere around 1 a.m., Niko’s father surprised the couple and the bridal party at their hotel with a big stack of pizzas from the place he owns, Wynnefield Pizza.
Imagining his wedding day, Niko pictured Courtney looking beautiful in a poufy white dress. He was not prepared for how gorgeous she actually looked walking toward him in a formfitting lace gown with a trumpet hemline. “It was so her, and I knew that this was going to be the rest of my life — I was going to be able to spend the rest of my life with Courtney.”
Courtney had that “I-get-to-spend-forever-with-you” feeling during the couple’s first dance, to Dan + Shay’s “Speechless.” “We don’t take life too seriously, we love to have fun, and we wanted a song that spoke to us,” she said. “That moment was something I’ll never forget.”
A bargain: Ballroom at the Ben threw in some upgrades, including the white dance floor Courtney really wanted.
The splurge: After seeing giant sparkler fireworks at their friends’ wedding, the couple decided they must have two. Later, they added two more.
Back to Greece for a three-week trip that included riding an all-terrain vehicle up into the mountains, down onto the beaches, and through Santorini’s streets.
Officiant: Father Christ Kontos, St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church, Broomall, Pa.
Ceremony venue: St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church
Reception venue: Ballroom at the Ben, Philadelphia
Food: Finley Catering
Music: Jeffrey Marc, RhythMix Entertainment, Philadelphia
Photography: Ashlee Mintz, Philadelphia
Videography: Zack and Lydia Teator, Zela Films, Royersford, Pa.
Flowers: Kerry Fabrizio, FabuFloras, Philadelphia
Dress: Designed by Pronovias, purchased at Elizabeth Johns, Ardmore, Pa
Groom’s attire: James Buchakjian at Sagets Formal Wear, Drexel Hill, Pa.