Melody Dougherty and Kevin Connell
March 30, 2019, in Philadelphia
She swiped right. He swiped right. But it took a month for them to meet in person.
Melody, who was born in Dallas but grew up and still lived in Northeast Philadelphia, had been made cautious by experience. “I had been on dating sites for about a year. You get a lot of people wanting to just meet up for — you know. Something physical. Something casual. I wanted to find somebody who was interested in connecting on an emotional and intellectual level. And I didn’t want to continue wasting my time.”
Kevin, who grew up in a suburb of Atlantic City and lived in Northfield, understood and respected all of that. “It was an offer to get to know each other on the basis of friendship first,” he said. “It was refreshing, and challenging, and rewarding.”
They had fun conversations about music and the arts, gaming, tech, and pop culture, then began sharing more personal things about their families, their beliefs, their goals. In July 2014, the two already-friends met for burgers at the Piazza and Ping-Pong at Frankford Hall and had a blast. In quick succession came a second date to Barcade and many summer afternoons and evenings in Brigantine, on the beach or at Laguna Grill for shrimp and cocktails.
Within a few months, she met his dad and stepmom, Edmond and Lori, and his mom and stepdad, Tracy and Michael. He met her parents, Kevin and Marsha.
Melody and Kevin had never had as much fun with anyone as they do with each other, but they fell for each other’s steadfast kindness.
“He always made an effort, and he always showed interest,” Melody said. “He was completely willing to drive the distance to see me, and he would show up when he said he would. I do musical theater, and he said while he didn’t know anything about it, he wanted to learn and to see me doing it.” Melody, who by day is director of a CORA preschool, invited him to the Playful Productions performance of Jesus Christ Superstar, in which she played the Maid by the Fire.
Kevin, now a low-voltage technician who designs commercial security and internet systems for OhmComm, remembers the first time he knew Melody really cared about him. He then worked at a casino, was on the late shift, he’d brought no lunch, and, “She sent me an entire pizza,” he remembers. “Melody makes tremendous effort in every aspect of her life, including showing me love,” Kevin said. “Once someone like Melody shows that to you again and again and again, love is easy to give back.”
Six months after their first date, Kevin, now 31, and Melody, 32, got a place of their own in Rhawnhurst and adopted cats Oreo and Rascal.
In 2017, a friend of Melody’s told her about a great Groupon trip to Tuscany, and that November, off the couple went.
“I had put a bug in his ear about what a great place that would be to get engaged,” Melody said. On their penultimate day of driving a Fiat from town to town, drinking the best wine, eating the best food, Melody had a little talk with herself: They were having a great time. She should not be disappointed.
“The sun is getting ready to set,” said one of their hosts at a family-owned winery. “Take a left out of our parking lot. Drive to the top of the hill. And there you will see the most beautiful sunset of your life,” he promised.
As the sky turned orange around them, Kevin dropped to one knee. “I don’t remember exactly what he said, or what I said. But he was really sweet. And I did a lot of crying,” Melody said.
They returned to their hotel, ate big, celebratory bowls of pasta, and called their parents to share the good news.
A few months after the couple met, Melody’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. Treatment gave her several great years of remission, but she was battling for the second time when Melody and Kevin — whom she already considered her son-in-law — got engaged.
Melody, always everyone’s caretaker, needed support herself. Kevin made sure she never had to ask.
Then in summer 2016, Kevin’s dad was diagnosed with cancer. It was Melody’s turn to support Kevin, and she knew exactly how. Edmond’s treatment is going extraordinarily well. But in March 2018, Marsha passed away.
After the engagement, Marsha and Melody had made the brooch bouquet that Melody carried down the aisle. Melody had three hearts sewn from the fabric of the navy blue jacket Marsha had planned to wear to the wedding. She wore one inside her dress, and gave the others to her twin sisters, Jenna and Jessica, to be their “something blue” in the future.
One room at the Knowlton Mansion was filled with photos of the bride’s mom, Kevin’s aunt, and the couple’s grandparents who have died. A sign read: “Let our love be a reflection of those who came before us.”
During the bridal party processional, the bride’s cousin Kaitlyn sang “Songbird” by Fleetwood Mac. Cousin Alison sang Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”
Kevin’s stepmom and Diane, Melody’s mom’s lifelong best friend, did scripture readings. Kevin’s stepdad read from The Velveteen Rabbit.
In honor of their shared Irish heritage, a ribbon bound the couple’s hands in a handfasting ceremony. “We literally tied the knot,” Kevin said. His mom and Melody’s dad read a poem about the tradition.
As part of her vows to Kevin, Melody sang “To Make You Feel My Love,” most recently covered by Adele.
Their reception for 120 was a nonstop party, a fact the couple attributes to DJ Bishop. “We wanted a crazy mix of orchestral versions of video game music, themes from the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead, to West Coast rap and East Coast hair bands,” said Kevin. “He mixed it all, old school. It felt like one song.”
Before the ceremony, Melody hurried to see Kevin, who was waiting outside to see her for the first time on their wedding day. Then she stopped herself. “I thought, ‘Once you see him, once this night really starts, it’s just going to fly by,' ” she remembered. “I paused to relish in how special it was, in what was happening to me and to us.”
Kevin will never forget sitting at the center of the bridal table with his new wife and their bridal party, watching guests eating, mingling, and talking. “These nearly 130 people were there to support this epic decision we both had made,” Kevin said. “I realized that we were not in this alone, and I was barely able to handle the positive emotion I got from that.”
A bargain: Melody took to Facebook to buy much of the decor from other recent Philly-area brides. She estimates she saved 75 percent.
The splurge: “At the end of the day, the cake will be eaten, the flowers will all die, and everything else will end up packed in the garage, but the photography is forever,” Melody said. They blew their budget to hire Jenny Castro Photography and add extra time to the package.
A summer trip — to parts unknown — is planned.
Officiant: The Rev. Owen Griffiths, pastor, Faith Lutheran Church, Philadelphia.
Venue: Knowlton Mansion, Philadelphia.
Food: Conroy Catering, Philadelphia.
Music: DJ Bishop of DJs Available Sound & Light Entertainment, Moorestown.
Photography: Jenny Castro Photography, Philadelphia.
Videography: Trabbland Video, Philadelphia.
Flowers: Hilary Felton, Country Meadows Florist, Royersford.
Hair: Frankie Verna Beauty, Philadelphia.
Makeup: Jessica McCorry, FeeelPreeety, Philadelphia.
Groom’s attire: Men’s Wearhouse, Philadelphia.