Sept. 28, 2019 in Philadelphia
Junior year of high school, a mutual friend brought Keisha to Stephen’s house. They didn’t know she was playing matchmaker.
A month later, friends gathered at another home in Lower Merion to celebrate 2007 giving way to 2008. Keisha had a date — not Stephen, but not anyone serious. She and Stephen chatted a bit, right at midnight. "My phone was in military time, and Stephen made a comment, ‘That’s really cool that it shows up as 0000.’ The next day, he messaged me on AOL Instant Messenger, asking if I got home safely.”
They texted and talked for a couple of weeks, each liking the other, but uncertain if the feeling was mutual. Their friend stepped in again, telling Keisha that Stephen liked her, and relaying to Stephen that Keisha liked him, too. With this newly dropped knowledge, Stephen asked Keisha to go see a movie.
“In hindsight, Juno, which is about teen pregnancy, was an unusual choice for us,” Stephen said, laughing.
They had a nice time, broke up a few weeks later for no particular reason, got back together that February and stayed together for the rest of junior year and senior year. Then, Stephen was off to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he majored in computer science, and Keisha headed to Penn State’s main campus, where she studied immunology and infectious disease.
“We split up right before I left,” Keisha said, purely due to logistics. They kept in touch, though, occasionally visited each other, and saw each other back home on school breaks.
“We were never just friends,” Stephen said.
Junior year of college, Keisha had just returned from a medical mission trip to Ghana when Stephen asked if she’d like to visit him in Michigan. “So I drove there, from Penn State to Michigan, in a snowstorm,” she said. “That weekend, we got back together.”
Stephen, who is now 28, began college in international studies but felt a bit bored. He took a computer science elective and felt challenged and excited. “Keisha encouraged me to follow my dreams, and not settle for something easy,” Stephen said. He is now a senior software engineer at Comcast.
Keisha, also 28, worked as a research coordinator at Penn for two years, then enrolled at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden. She is now an ob-gyn resident at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
“I’ve never met anybody with the drive she has,” Stephen said.
“I wouldn’t be where I am in my life without him,” Keisha said. “I’m the first in my family to go to college. He’s been there with me every step of the way. When my parents were getting a divorce, he was my person. He fully supports me, and he fully loves me.”
Stephen melts whenever he sees Keisha with his nephews. “One of the things I look most forward to is seeing her with our children.”
The couple, who now live in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood with shepherd/husky mix Cody and gray cat Ash, made a December 2018 trip down the Shore. They were walking Cody when Stephen took off in a run down Brigantine Beach. He knew Cody would follow him and that Keisha would not.
From where she was, it looked like Stephen and Cody were playing. But Stephen was tying a faux diamond ring to Cody’s collar. “He strangely enough knew to turn around and run back to her,” Stephen said. He followed the dog, and waited for Keisha’s reaction.
“Look at Cody’s neck,” he prompted.
“Oh my God!” Keisha said, and started crying.
Stephen knelt on the sand in front of her and took out the real ring. “I had this whole thing planned to say, but it was pretty emotional. I was at a loss for words,” he said.
So, Stephen took a simple approach: “Will you be my wife?”
“Yes!” Keisha said.
It was so them
The couple married at the Please Touch Museum. Following a procession of seven groomsmen, seven bridesmaids, two flower girls, and two ring bearers, Keisha walked down the aisle to “Flightless Bird” by Iron & Wine.
The couple’s chuppah had a chandelier. Stephen’s parents, David and Natalie, Keisha’s father, Geoff, maid-of-honor Natalie, and best man Matthew stood beneath the canopy with them. Keisha’s stepmother, Sayeeda, watched from the front row.
The couple’s rabbi led the couple through some standard vows, but the ceremony ended without the planned exchange of vows they had written for each other. They took those vows privately, on their first morning as newlyweds.
“I promised to support him even when he’s panicking about Michigan losing a sports game,” Keisha said.
“I promised to always let her eat my Siggi’s triple chocolate cream yogurt,” said Stephen.
They made more serious promises, too.
Stephen and Keisha launched their reception for nearly 200 guests by dancing to “Heart Songs” by Weezer, a song they listened to in the car on the way to high school. The band switched to the quicker tempo of Bruno Mars’ “Treasure,” and the couple kept dancing, with moves choreographed by the bride.
As the couple danced, Keisha’s friend Karlee watched from behind her easel and captured the moment in acrylic paint.
Before the wedding, everyone got ready at The Inn at Penn. When it was time for the couple to meet in the library, where they would see each other for the first time that day, Keisha waited for the elevator with Stephen’s mother. The doors opened, and Stephen and his groomsmen were inside. “Everyone started saying, ‘No! No! No!’ and I ran away,” Keisha said. “I saw him, but luckily he didn’t see me.”
She took the next elevator down and began walking toward the room where all the noise was coming from. “As soon as I walked in, everybody stopped talking, and my heart started racing.”
Stephen was waiting with family members and the bridal party. “I was so ready to see her, and it felt like we were waiting such a long time. And then she tapped me on the shoulder. I’m not a crier, but I had tears falling from my eyes. I couldn’t speak. I was totally shocked at how amazing she was,” he said. “We had been talking about getting married for a long time, but that was the first moment that I felt it was happening, that I was about to marry this person.”
“When he turned around, he was crying, and then I started crying,” said Keisha. “It was the most emotional moment of the whole day.”
The budget crunch
A bargain: Band EBE Amsterdam “was so unbelievable,” Stephen said. “Without them, the night would not have been what it was. They were not cheap, but for what we got, they were the best deal of anything.”
The splurge: Thanks to Synergetic, “We had pin spotting on every table. We had fireworks going off multiple times throughout the night. There was draping everywhere, and we had a monogram, and that chandelier in the chuppah,” Keisha said. “We went 50% over on production costs, but it was well worth it.”
Seven days in Portugal included a private food and wine tour through the Douro Valley. “The views were amazing, the wine was amazing, the food was amazing,” Stephen said.
Officiant: Rabbi Bradley Bleefeld, Temple Beth Hillel — Beth Abraham, Dresher, Pa.
Venue: Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia.
Food: Brûlée Catering, Philadelphia.
Music: EBE Amsterdam, Philadelphia.
Photography: Gabrielle Smarr, Emily Wren Photography, Philadelphia.
Videography: Allure Films, Havertown, Pa.
Flowers: Riehs Florist, Philadelphia.
Keisha’s attire: Vervain wedding dress designed by Watters, shoes by Sophia Webster, veil by Pronovias.
Stephen’s attire: Danielle Holland (stylist), Enzo Custom, Philadelphia.
Transportation: King Limousine, Philadelphia, and Cescaphe Trolley, Philadelphia.
Cake: Isgro Pastries, Philadelphia.
Jeweler: Michael Goldberg, Indulgence Jewelers, Greenville, Del.
Production: Jason Weldon, Synergetic, Bensalem, Pa.