Hello there

Nicole’s anatomy lab partner at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine kept telling her about Jim, this biomedical science master’s degree student who would be so great for her. The same friend talked up first-year medical school student Nicole to Jim. Buried beneath intense deadlines and exams, neither had the energy for their friend’s matchmaking experiment.

Dr. Nicole Kelbon and Dr. Jim Brandt
Ron Soliman
Dr. Nicole Kelbon and Dr. Jim Brandt

Then, an epic spring 2014 class project was finally over, and Jim and Nicole were among the 15 people gathered to celebrate at the Hotel Monaco’s rooftop bar, Stratus. Halfway through the night, the matchmaker approached Nicole. “So ... what do you think about Jim?” he asked, nodding toward him.

Nicole recognized Jim from another night out, where she thought he was with someone. “He seems like a nice guy, but he’s got a girlfriend,” she said. He doesn’t, the matchmaker insisted before leaving to talk to Jim: “There’s Nicole, who I’ve been telling you about.” Jim – both single and intrigued – made his way toward her.

They talked about school, they talked about life. Jim amazed Nicole by correctly guessing she hailed from Mount Laurel, Burlington County. Jim, who grew up Southampton, Bucks County, had spent many summers helping his father, a contractor, work on New Jersey homes, and he took a wild guess.

They talked for two hours, but at the end of the night, Nicole’s mind was already on her next final. “Bye!” she said as she turned to head home. “Wait!” Jim called after her. “Can I get your phone number?”

He texted the next day, and they texted and talked and saw each other at school until the first weekend after finals were over. Their first real date began with lunch at a Mexican joint in Manayunk and stretched into dinner in Old City and drinks past midnight at Stratus, the bar where they had met. They saw each other as much as possible over the summer and were serious by the time school resumed that fall.

Dr. Nicole Kelbon and Dr. Jim Brandt - the serenade
Courtesy of the Couple
Dr. Nicole Kelbon and Dr. Jim Brandt - the serenade

“As much as I hate to admit this, he is funny – funny and so, so smart,” Nicole said. “When I got to know him, I realized he is also one of the most thoughtful and kind people you will ever meet.” For example, after one nine-hour medical board exam, Nicole opened her door to find Jim bearing flowers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Nicole’s appreciation/tolerance of his dry humor is a plus, Jim says. Even better: the way she cares for her family, her friends, him, and all of her patients. “She is 100% invested,” he said.

The engagement

Jim, now 31, recently finished his internship at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital. Nicole, 28, is an internal medicine resident at PCOM. In June 2018, she had five days off before starting her second year of residency and planned to do as little as possible. But she was happy to go out when Jim told her one of his buddies from his college days at Florida State was in town. He suggested they have dinner at Parc before meeting his friend.

Nicole thought it odd that Jim ordered a second drink at dinner. He was stalling until the team of family members helping with his true quest texted that all was ready. When they arrived at Assembly Rooftop Lounge, Jim stopped at the top of the stairs and waited for Nicole to notice a wall of flowers and balloons. “I looked at the wall and it says ‘Marry Me?’ and I was so confused,” Nicole remembered. “Then he pulled me closer to the flower wall. There were roses and candles everywhere, and that’s when I knew it was for me.”

“Nicole, we started our journey together on a rooftop. It’s only fitting that we start the next phase of our life together at the same location,” Jim said. He knelt and asked her to marry him.

“Yes, of course!” said Nicole, who hugged and kissed him, then cried.

Dr. Nicole Kelbon and Dr. Jim Brandt, the proposal
Courtesy of the Couple
Dr. Nicole Kelbon and Dr. Jim Brandt, the proposal

Jim’s friend was not really in town. But the couple was soon smothered in hugs from his parents, Robert and Sandy, his sister, Stephanie, her parents, Ed and Regina, and her sister, Kristen. Then everyone got out their cell phones and within 20 minutes, other family members poured in to join the celebration.

It was so them

A month before the wedding, 120 people gathered at Nicole’s parents’ house for a roast pig from Esposito’s Meats, the Quaker City String Band, and – the highlight of the evening – Jim’s serenade for his soon-to-be bride.

Nicole sat in a chair on the driveway dance floor and Jim stood before her and belted out Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” then pledged to never sing again in public.

The wedding ceremony at the National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia featured a recording of Nicole’s grandmother, Rita, singing “Ave Maria.” An opera singer who directed the choir at the Epiphany of Our Lord Church for 60 years, Rita died when Nicole was a junior in high school, but her voice rings out at every family wedding and funeral. Nicole’s bouquet included a locket with photos of all four of her grandparents.

A reception for 220 was held at the Bellevue’s Grand Ballroom. The couple did a foxtrot to “The Way You Look Tonight,” then later joined Nicole’s family for a tarantella. All the guests hit the dance floor with mini umbrellas to do the Mummers strut.

The couple, who live in Manayunk, donated their flowers to Forget Me Knot, a charity that reassembles special occasion floral arrangements into bouquets and delivers them to nursing homes and hospitals.

Awestruck

Dr. Nicole Kelbon and Dr. Jim Brandt
Ron Soliman
Dr. Nicole Kelbon and Dr. Jim Brandt

Nicole’s dress was “probably a more tightly kept secret than Area 51,” said Jim. It was stored in a back room at her family’s house, and when Jim was there, the windows were covered with garbage bags so he couldn’t see it. “When I saw her walking down the aisle toward me, she blew me away,” he said. “She was the most beautiful lady I’ve ever seen.”

Jim slid a wedding ring on Nicole’s finger, then she did the same for him. That’s when it hit her hard: “Oh my God! We’re married! This is incredible!”

Honeymooning

Dr. Nicole Kelbon and Dr. Jim Brandt
Ron Soliman
Dr. Nicole Kelbon and Dr. Jim Brandt

Nine days in Maui, including a fantastic hike to Twin Falls on the Road to Hana and a beach full of sunbathing turtles.

Officiant: Rev. Phillip Lowe, a family friend.

Ceremony: National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia, Philadelphia.

Reception: The Bellevue Grand Ballroom, Philadelphia.

Cake: Sweet Eats Bakery, Voorhees, N.J.

Music: Eddie Bruce Orchestra, Philadelphia.

Photography: Ron Soliman.

Videographer: CinemaCake, Conshohocken, Pa.

Flowers: Carl Alan Floral Designs, Philadelphia.

Bride’s dress: Eve of Milady from Castle Couture, Manalapan, N.J.

Groom’s attire: Custom tuxedo From Distante, Philadelphia.

Makeup: Looks and Lashes Beauty, Cherry Hill N.J.

Transportation: Bridal party trolley from Philadelphia Trolley Works and

Rolls Royce from Ali Baba Limo, Philadelphia.