Cecelia and David Harrison-Long
June 27, 2020 and Oct. 3, 2021
Her biology classes at Drexel and co-op research job at CHOP were finally done for the week, and all Cecelia wanted that June 2015 Friday night was to curl up under the covers and watch Netflix. Then her soon-to-be-roommate invited her to a night out with friends.
“She said it was a chance for us to get to know each other before becoming roommates and she coaxed me out,” Cecelia said.
His architecture classes and co-op design job at Paradigm Architecture were both finally done for the week, and all David wanted was to watch YouTube and relax. His friend Christina called with a last-minute invitation: She, some friends, and her soon-to-be roommate were about to leave for Spruce Street Harbor Park, but they would wait for him. He shut down the computer, rushed over, and climbed into the car where everyone else was waiting.
Cecelia was not immediately impressed with him. Not knowing he had just been invited, she assumed they were waiting because he was plain late. But whatever! They were soon all having fun at the river’s edge, and she was relishing a plate of chicken wings. “You can tell I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, because I was cleaning the bones,” she said.
Cecelia had impressed someone, though. “She’s really easy to talk to, and I just wanted to talk to her all night,” David said. “And she’s really cute.”
Everyone returned to Christina’s West Philly apartment to eat pizza and watch Men in Black II. Cecelia and David both fell asleep where they were sitting. When they woke, both knew it was time to head home. “It’s late,” David said. “I’ll walk with you.”
At her corner, they exchanged it-was-nice-to-meet-yous. Then came the goodbye hug that changed everything for Cecelia.
“I felt literal sparks,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘Wow! OK! Either he has a ton of static electricity on him or something just happened.’”
Their first date was June 27, 2015, at the University City Metropolitan Bakery, where David sat for 20 minutes, wondering if he’d been stood up, while Cecelia paced at her apartment, waiting for him there. One called the other, David picked her up, and then everything was great. They talked for three hours. At her apartment, David went to hug her and she kissed him on the cheek.
David was smitten, but Cecelia, who was newly out of a relationship, wasn’t ready to walk right into another commitment. While she was dating others, “he definitely stood out among the bracket,” she said. “He was very secure with himself — he wasn’t seeking validation from me.” Plus, he cooked. “I love food, and the fact that he was able to give me something that I really adore, that just spoke to me,” she said.
Within 90 days, they were exclusive.
“What I love about David is he’s very considerate,” said Cecelia, who eventually learned he hadn’t been late the day they met. “He has a very strong personality, but so do I. And I don’t like to push over somebody. They have to be strong to be a good partner for me. And he’s cute — there’s that!”
David said he loves Cecelia for some of the very same reasons. “I was never asking for validation, but yet, by virtue of her being someone who just accepted every part of me and was able to challenge me as well, I was validated all the same.”
They speak their minds and tell each other the hard things they maybe don’t want to hear, while also supporting each other fully.
In June of 2018, shortly after graduation, David went to the King of Prussia Mall to put a down payment on an engagement ring, which he planned to pay off in time to surprise Cecelia on her late-July birthday. Unfortunately, he soon learned his bank had sent him a new credit card and canceled the one in his wallet before he received the new one.
Cecilia heard David making increasingly heated calls to the credit card company. The week before her birthday, the couple had an argument. “You are acting so funny! What is happening?” Cecelia demanded to know. In the heat of that moment, she dropped another question: “And when are you going to propose?”
“Stay here!” said David, who tromped up the stairs then back down.
He handed her a piece of paper — a jewelry store receipt.
David knelt, took her hand, explained everything, and asked, “Cecelia Harrison, will you marry me?”
Cecelia was stunned: “It took me 30 seconds to find my words and say yes.”
They told her parents, Daphne and Larry, and his, Kathy and Drew. It was that small circle’s secret until the ring was paid off, sized, and on her finger.
David, who is now 29, grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and Harrisburg. He is an architectural designer at Paradigm, the Germantown firm where he did his co-op, and will soon take the first of six tests required for his architect’s license.
Cecelia, now 27, grew up in Roxbury, Morris County, N.J. She is currently a research associate at Christiana Care in Newark, Del., but will soon become an infection prevention associate at CHOP, where she did her co-op.
The couple live in East Falls with Australian shepherd/border collie mix Angus Dundee.
They planned to marry on Oct. 4, 2020 — a long engagement that seemed like a good idea until COVID-19 hit last spring. “Because I’m in public health, I had the sense [then] that we can’t have a wedding with 100-plus people. I did not want to put our families at risk.” Cecelia said. They decided to postpone for a year, but their originally chosen venue was changing caterers in the interim and would no longer be working with theirs.
Birch Tree Catering helped them find a new spot — Historic Strawberry Mansion. The reception could wait, but the couple did not want to wait until October to officially marry.
They chose June 27, 2020 — their fifth dating anniversary. Cecelia emailed the registrar of wills to plead their case: They were taking the pandemic very seriously, but needed to marry now because her father’s glaucoma was getting worse. “It was important for me, and for him, that he be able to see me walking down the aisle with him,” Cecelia said.
The wedding was held in the backyard of Cecelia’s Aunt Ann. Their self-uniting license allowed friend Chris to lead the ceremony. Cecelia and David didn’t shy away from tough but important topics even at their wedding. At their request, Chris spoke of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the protests calling for equal justice everywhere. He also spoke of Mildred and Richard Loving, the interracial couple whose Supreme Court case resulted in the striking of all state laws banning interracial marriage, noting that despite their victory, the summer’s protests were the direct result of Black people still being unable to live their lives.
The couple didn’t shy away from the soft stuff, either. David promised to keep cooking for Cecelia — her love language. Cecelia promised to always be his cheerleader.
Afterward, the dozen people gathered ate Primo hoagies and red velvet cake and drank champagne. They danced to tunes played over a Bluetooth speaker — both moms especially enjoyed “Shout.”
David and Cecelia are hopeful that they will be able to celebrate their marriage with everyone this October. “I know it has been slow going, but we have three vaccines on the block now,” said Cecelia, who has worked vaccination events. Part of their confidence also comes from having a second public health expert involved in the planning — Zupenda Davis-Shine of Shining Moments, who is also the director of health education for Burlington County.
As long as everyone can be together, Cecelia and David say, who cares if they still need to wear a mask or need to take other precautions in the new normal? “We can’t let this virus take away what we have planned,” David said. “We will all need a celebration,” said Cecelia. “People want to feel good again.”