In winter 2005, Ccelli ran Black Out Records in Pennsgrove and needed a female vocalist. He posted as much on Myspace, and Jodie replied.
No audition happened, but what did is a long e-mail conversation, starting with their mutual love of music and their shared, daytime reality of real estate work.
Six months later, they'd talked and texted about growing up in large, loving, Italian families that gathered for Sunday feasts, and the joys of Catholic school. But they still hadn't met in person. Feeling philosophical just before her 30th birthday, Jodie texted Ccelli that they needed to just meet already.
They rendezvoused in a Glassboro Wawa parking lot. "Hop in my car and let's go to the city," she suggested. Back over the bridge, they hit a place at Front and Bainbridge, where Jodie's friend tended bar and her roommate also waited "just in case things got bad," Jodie said. But things got quite good.
"We noticed a connection right away," Ccelli said. They walked to Penn's Landing for private, riverside conversation. There was chemistry, and a good bit of it was cerebral. "Jodie's business acumen really impressed me, " Ccelli said. "We both had dreams of doing bigger things," Jodi agreed.
They talked of family and food, music and goals, until 2 a.m.
"That was pretty much it," Ccelli says.
Except for the fact that he was moving to Florida two weeks later.
They spent as much time as possible together before Ccelli left to develop real estate near Fort Myers, and then it was back to calls and texts.
"I was so far away, and all I could think was, 'I really miss Jodie,'" he said.
He called one day to tell her he was listening to a new song, "Stay With You," by John Legend. "It's making me think of you," he said. "Go listen to it."
"This was before iTunes," Jodie said. "I immediately drove to Best Buy to buy a CD." In the parking lot, she tore off the cellophane and popped it in the player.
And when the dark clouds arrive/ I will stay by your side/ I know we'll be alright/ I will stay with you.
That's pretty much when Jodie knew that somehow, this was going to work.
A tanking real estate market meant Ccelli returned much sooner than planned. "We lost our funding," he said. But that cloud had a sterling silver lining.
By day, Ccelli, now 31, is a director of operations at Telepoint Communications in Cherry Hill, and Jodie, now 38, is sales and marketing director for Yikes, Inc. in Fishtown. Nights and weekends, they pursue business and musical interests together as co-owners of Exponent Entertainment, a music- and entertainment-focused marketing company based in Philadelphia.
How does forever sound?
Ccelli's search for the perfect vintage ring ended when his mom gave him his great-grandmother's setting. While the jeweler set the diamonds, he began planning an over-the-top proposal - something in a grand Philadelphia space that would make Jodie feel like a movie star. Then, the jeweler told him to come pick up his ring.
From the moment he saw it, Ccelli knew there was no way he could keep it secret. "I had the biggest cheese smile on my face, and I couldn't get rid of it," he explained. "The only way I could surprise her was to do it right then."
Ccelli paused at the door of their Queen Village apartment and took a deep breath.
On the other side of that door, Jodie was in her pajamas, cooking chicken fingers. He walked in with two of her favorite things. "What's with the white lilies and Prosecco?" she asked.
"Tonight is the greatest night of our lives," Ccelli said.
"Why is that?"
"It's the night we get engaged."
She turned around, and Ccelli was on one knee. For the first time in the history of ever, Jodie was speechless.
"You're going to have to say something," Ccelli said.
She said yes.
It was so them
The couple wed at the IATSE (stage workers' union) ballroom. Both Jodie's parents walked her down the aisle. Her somethings blue were earrings and a necklace made with the blue aquamarines that were originally in her engagement ring setting, a gift from Ccelli's mom. The flowers in her bouquet - and in the bouquets and boutonnieres of the entire bridal party - were made from sheet music. She could look down and see the words and notes of her late grandmother's favorite song, "On Eagle's Wings."
During the ceremony, Journeys of the Heart officiant Bob Pileggi told their guests that this couple came from Italian royalty - Ccelli's grandfather, a South Philly native, was national president of the Order Sons of Italy in America, and back in her hometown of Hazleton, Jodie's pasta-purveying grandfather was known as the Ravioli King.
Instead of place cards, their 175 guests found their table assignments attached to locally grown apples. On the back of the name flag stuck into each one, the couple wrote every guest a personal message. The apples led to tables with Philadelphia street names instead of numbers.
Guests signed some of the couple's favorite albums, including Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder and a collection of Philadelphia love songs. Federal Donuts made a doughnut tower that took the place of honor usually held by cake.
Their first dance was to "Stay With You," the song that made Ccelli think of Jodie in Florida.
During the ceremony, the couple was asked to join hands. "I looked down at Jodie's hands, and then I looked up at her face," Ccelli said. "She had the most beautifully happy, blissful face, and she just looked so beautiful. That moment is just frozen in time for me."
In another moment, everyone was asked to shake hands with someone they didn't know. Jodie looked out at friends and family meeting each other, and then over at Ccelli. "I felt so honored that all of these people came to support us, and that they were feeling the love we felt right then, as we were finally getting married," Jodie said. Then her niece walked up to the front and held out her phone so that Jodie could wave to her oldest sister on FaceTime. She's fine now, but was then in the hospital. "I didn't think she was going to get to share in the wedding, but she did," Jodie said.
A bargain: The ballroom and its caterer, Anthony's Caterers. The food, which was plentiful and tasted "like Nonna made it," was more than even the most expensive venues offered, and made the package the best value by far.
The splurge: Eleven days in Jamaica, where the couple hired a butler to take care of them and did every activity the resort offered, from swimming with the dolphins to a private tour of a coffee plantation.
Love: BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: Bob Pileggi, Journeys of the Heart, Jenkintown
Venue: IATSE (stagehands union) ballroom, Philadelphia
Catering: In-house caterer Anthony's Caterers
Photo: Marc Anthony Photography, Philadelphia
Videography: Sick Flix, Philadelphia
Music: Cocktail hour: Montgomery Streets, Brooklyn. Reception: DJ Sonny James and DJ PHSH, Philadelphia
Dress: Allure Bridals from Jay West Bridal, Haddonfield
Wedding planner: Stacy Pane-Segal from Weddings by Stacia Jude, Philadelphia