Love: Lesley Matsushino & Jacob Grasch
September 7, 2013, in Philadelphia
Business was slow at the hot dog booth Lesley and her family staffed for Diablo Japanese-American church's 2007 summer festival in Concord, Calif. - so she used the time to socialize with other volunteers she'd known most of her life.
At the always-popular tempura booth, a stranger hustled to dip orders of battered shrimp and vegetables into hula-hoop-size woks of hot oil. "He looked like the Karate Kid with a bandanna around his head to keep the sweat out of his eyes," she said.
Jake was not a church member. He grew up in Bala Cynwyd, then earned a business degree in supply chain management at Arizona State University, where his roommate, Theo, became one of his best friends. Jake moved home after graduation, but in 2006, Theo "convinced me to move out to California," Jake said.
Jake got a job at the semiconductor company where Theo worked, and the guys became roommates again, in Theo's hometown of Walnut Creek - also Lesley's hometown.
When Theo invited Jake to volunteer at his church's annual fund-raising festival, "I figured . . . it was a good opportunity to be part of the community," Jake said.
Yet Jake stood out from the other volunteers, said Lesley, who had earned a visual communications degree at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. He was the only white guy.
From the moment she introduced herself, Jake was hopeful they'd be friends.
After the festival, the two frequently were at the same group gatherings at clubs or bars. Over time, their small talk grew, until it wasn't so small anymore.
In spring 2008, Lesley asked Jake if he'd like to have dinner. He calmly gave her his number, but was secretly thrilled.
At the Japanese restaurant, Lesley asked for a fork. The server brought it to Jake, incorrectly assuming the woman of Japanese heritage knew how to use chopsticks. They laughed about that - they laughed and talked a lot. "It was the night that changed everything," Lesley said.
The following weekend, she suggested a road trip to Santa Cruz. "She was playing music, and I was like, 'Oh wow! She likes a little hip-hop,'" Jake remembered. "I couldn't wait to share with her the music I liked."
Lesley wanted to show him her state - Monterey, Oakland, Muir Woods, Lake Tahoe. "There were all these different places we were exploring, sharing our love for the outdoors, restaurants and music," Jake said.
By 2011, the couple, now both 32, were living together in Pleasanton, Ca., and Lesley was an administrative assistant for an Oakland solar panel company. Jake had his resumé posted on several job sites, and selected Philadelphia as a place he'd be willing to relocate. He didn't give it too much thought, but one day, he got an interview. And then, an offer for a promotion, back home.
The couple made hard decisions: Jake should take the job. But Lesley couldn't leave California yet. Her sister was about to have a baby, for one. But also, "I needed to make sure the move was right for me, too. What if Jake and I didn't work out?" she said.
Jake moved to Center City in September 2011. The couple made good use of FaceTime and Skype, and flew to each other's states for visits. On Jake's visit in January 2012, he and Lesley talked about her joining him. By then, Lesley was convinced their love had staying power.
A month later, she joined him.
How does forever sound?
One August night in 2012, Jake told Lesley he'd meet her at 30th Street Station after her shift at Main Line Health, where she's a sterile processing technician.
They crossed the river and walked along the Schuylkill Banks trail. Lesley was tired; the only thing she wanted more than sleep was dinner. But Jake, who is now a supply chain management consultant with RGP Consulting, wanted to hike up the Art Museum stairs, the first place he took her on her very first visit to Philadelphia.
The whole way up, Lesley complained about her bad workday. Then Jake started talking. "Remember the first time I brought you up here?"
Butterflies fluttered in Lesley's stomach. When she turned to face Jake, he had a ring in his hand.
It was so them
The couple's invitations were vintage-style postcards of the view from the Art Museum steps.
They designed an image blending the LOVE sculpture with the Golden Gate Bridge for their programs. Jake did the wood-block printing onto paper fans.
The ceremony took place at the Headhouse Square Shambles. Jake and Lesley stood facing the arch. Behind them was a full bar, and their 66 guests were invited to enjoy a drink during the ceremony. The Belleville Quartet acoustic jazz ensemble, friends of Jake's, played during the ceremony and cocktails. "For Lesley, they played an incredible version of 'Stairway to Heaven,' " Jake said.
Lesley made mizuhikis - Japanese cords tied in a knot that symbolize affection, warmth and togetherness - for the boutonnieres.
The cocktail hour featured gourmet cheesesteaks, a pretzel bar, and sake bombs, and the reception was held at the adjacent Society Hill Dance Academy.
Lesley's father, Steve, closed the family's Asian food market for the entire weekend - a first! - to attend the wedding.
He and Lesley have a tight bond, but he's a reserved kind of guy. Not wanting to make him uncomfortable, Lesley didn't plan a father-daughter dance.
Jake danced with his mother, Jan, to the Beatles' "Let It Be." Near the end, when the MC invited everyone onto the floor, Lesley's father caught her eye, and she spontaneously asked him to dance.
The rest of her family, dumbfounded at the sight of Steve dancing with his daughter, immediately took out their cellphones to snap pictures.
"It was one of the most special things in my life," Lesley said.
A bargain: The flowers. Florist friend Lori Hamer gave the couple a great price.
The splurge: Because of their venue choice, the couple had to rent chairs, linens, and cooking equipment. "All that stuff added up so quickly," Lesley said.
A weekend at a Cape May bed and breakfast.
Do You Have the Date?
Tell us in a short e-mail - at least six weeks before your ceremony - why we should feature your love story. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Unfortunately, we can't personally respond to all submissions. If your story is chosen, you will be contacted.