In summer 2006, Holly and Robert wound up at the same casual gathering at a mutual friend's house.
They had eyed each other across another room on an earlier occasion, each noting the other's cuteness without doing a thing about it. This time, they were braver.
Before the night was over, Holly and Robert knew they were the same age and had grown up only a few miles apart - he in Frankford and she in Bridesburg. She learned he was starting his sophomore year as a Holy Family University psychology major and also working as a groundskeeper at the Torresdale Country Club. He discovered she was a nursing student at Northeastern Hospital School of Nursing who also worked part time at Hollister Co. in the Neshaminy Mall.
That last bit of info Robert put to good use; whenever he found himself at Neshaminy for a movie or whatnot, he just happened to wind up at Hollister. "Oh, hi!" she'd say. "Don't I know you from somewhere?"
Robert also found Holly on MySpace, where they exchanged phone numbers, but they let several weeks go by without using them. Holly was sitting in class thinking about Robert one day and decided to see whether she could make something happen.
"Hi," she texted him. "How are you?"
That simple exchange made Robert, who was on his lunch break at work, smile widely.
That weekend, Robert and Holly had Lorenzo's pizza on South Street, then swung on the swings and played on the monkey bars at Starr Garden Playground.
Holly soon left Hollister to work nights and weekends as a nursing assistant, and she and her nursing friends worked when Robert was free. They teased Holly that she had made up "Invisible Bob." Somehow, the couple found enough common time to attend alternative folk rock shows and Union games and to fall in love.
On June 29, 2011, Robert and Holly closed on the Pennsauken house where they still live with their dog, Kingston. Making the purchase felt like a miracle to the couple, who at the time were 24 and 25. So on that date for the next two years, Holly, now an intensive-care nurse at Kennedy Health in Stratford, and Robert, who now works in admissions at Belmont Behavioral Hospital, celebrated another year in their house. On their 2013 home-iversary, Robert suggested a special dinner, somewhere they had never been. After dinner at Keating's Grill at Penn's Landing, they headed to South Street for a stroll.
On their walk, Holly's sandal strap snapped, leaving one shoe useless. Robert tried to manage his nervousness as she took forever to shop for another pair that matched her dress. When they resumed walking, he led them to Starr Garden Playground, scene of their first date. They swung on the swings and talked, but vacated when kids wanted a turn. The same thing happened on the monkey bars. "Why don't we go home?" Holly suggested. "Not yet," Robert said. "Let's sit on the bench."
Holly sat. Robert knelt.
"I'm sorry for making you wait so long for this, but do you want to spend the rest of your life with me?"
Holly couldn't speak. She nodded her head yes.
The couple, who are now both 28, were married in a traditional Catholic ceremony at St. Peter's in Merchantville.
To honor the memory of Holly's beloved Uncle John, the organist and vocalist performed "Because He Lives," a song her dad, Fred, who plays the banjo, and Uncle John, who played the guitar, would perform together whenever they visited nursing homes.
The reception for 120 was held at the Bradford Estate in Hainesport. Candles, pumpkins, and leaves were everywhere, and handmade centerpieces featured acorns the couple had gathered.
During the cocktail hour and dinner, the DJ played the low-key folkie music the couple has always loved. Their first dance was to Dustin Kensrue's "Of Crows and Crowns." When it was time for everyone to dance, the couple gave the DJ free rein to get people moving. There were oldies tunes and Michael Jackson, and umbrellas handed out so everyone could do the Mummers Strut. That went over big with Fred and some of the guests who are members of the Greater Kensington String Band.
Holly and Robert were raised in Sunday-feast kind of families, and they wanted that homey feeling of plenty duplicated at their reception. An entire room was dedicated to dessert, and Holly got her martini ice luge, too. At the end of the evening, guests left with more food: mini cheesesteaks and zeppole.
"During our first dance, everything was kind of like in slow motion," Robert said. "I was trying to take everything in, to let it sink in that we were finally married after such a long wait."
Eating together is something Robert and Holly always do, but sitting down for their first meal as husband and wife felt so different, Holly said. "The day was finally here, and I could see that all our guests who were there for us were enjoying themselves, too."
A bargain: Cescaphe's trolley service was $500 to $600 cheaper than all the others the couple considered, and two additional hours were included.
The splurge: An open-air photo booth with a rose-gold backdrop and tons of props.
A week at Sandals La Toc on St. Lucia. The bride surprised the groom by reserving the honeymoon hideaway bungalow that came with a private pool and a butler.
Officiant: The Rev. Anthony Manuppella, St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Merchantville.
Venues: St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church and the Bradford Estate, Hainesport.
Food: The Bradford Estate.
Photography and Videography: George Street Photo & Video, a national company with local photographers and videographers.
Flowers: Alisha Simone Elegant Event Flowers & Decor Design Studio, Moorestown.
Dress: Designed by Martina Liana, purchased at Philly Bride, Philadelphia.
Music: Steve & Co., Berlin.
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