From the time Match.com introduced them in July 2013, Ben and Beth made each other laugh. "I would be at my desk at work, laughing at every text he sent," Beth remembers.
Their phone calls often included stories about Beth's kids, Josie, who was then 5, and Michael, then 2. Like Beth, Ben had been previously married. He had no kids of his own, but he had spent a lot of time with his nephew when he, his sister, and her son all lived with Ben's parents in Upper Darby. He didn't just love kids; watching his sister taught him what it took to raise them.
A couple of weeks of conversation led Beth, who grew up in Willow Grove and then lived in Oreland, to suggest they meet in person. "I'd love to!" Ben said. "How about three weeks from Saturday?"
Beth, who is now 35, had to laugh at how booked his dating schedule was and at his internet-dating naivete. Saturdays were way too much pressure. "How about this Monday?" she asked.
They met outside Aberdeen Asset Management, where Ben is a client-service associate. Beth, now a vice president at Morningstar Credit Ratings, once worked in the same building. They walked to Good Dog. "Right away, I felt a spark," said Ben, who is now 38. "It was a lot of laughing and genuine fun."
Much too quickly, Beth had to relieve her babysitter. "As soon as she was on the train, I was texting her, 'When are we going on our second date?' "
Beth's next free night was when Ben was in the Poconos with his family. He drove home to see her, then drove back to the mountains.
A week later, Beth asked by text whether they should, officially, date only each other. "You mean go steady?" Ben asked. "Well, yes," Beth typed. "But we're not going to call it that!"
Whatever Beth wanted to call it, Ben was in.
Once they decided to go steady - what Ben called it - the couple figured he would meet Beth's kids and her parents, Dorothy and Michael, all at once during their August 2013 week in Ocean City.
The group met on the boardwalk for miniature golf and other Shore delights. "We really pushed it with their bedtimes, and the kids were really tired and asking to be carried," Beth said.
Ben swooped them up, one in each arm. Soon, Josie was asleep on one shoulder and Michael on the other. "He ended up carrying them the whole way down the boardwalk to the car," Beth said. "That was the moment I first thought, 'This could be it.' "
Ben's definitive moment came shortly after, on a family game night. He brought the young players costumes: Batman for Michael, Wonder Woman for Josie. The board games were soon abandoned for a Justice League meeting. "I was Superman via a red towel cape," Ben said.
Beth was laughing her head off at all the playful silliness. Ben was also laughing when a strong feeling came over him. "This feels like a family," he thought to himself. "This could be my family."
In August 2015, Ben, Beth, Michael, Josie, and Beth's parents were in Ocean City when Ben suggested he and Beth have dinner alone on the boardwalk.
The couple were walking, presumably toward dinner, when Ben excused himself to duck into the men's room. His friend Mike walked out. "Please follow me," he told Beth.
Beth's heart was jumping in her chest as Mike led her to the beach, asked her to sit on a chair, and handed her an iPad and headphones.
On the screen in the iPhone movie he had made, Ben asked Beth's parents whether he could marry her. He asked her kids. He even asked his cat, Mia. With yesses from all the humans, and a "fine" from Mia, expressed through subtitle, movie Ben turned things over to real-life Ben, who by then was kneeling in the sand, wearing a suit, and offering flowers and a ring.
"Will you marry me?" he asked.
At Beth's yes, the crowd that had assembled on the beach and boardwalk erupted into cheers.
Mike taped the whole thing.
Back at the beach house, two excited kids and two excited parents of the bride-to-be waited to celebrate.
It was perfect, except dinner never happened. Ben ran out for Manco & Manco.
They married at the Lake-in-Wood camping resort in Narvon, Lancaster County. Including the couple and kids, there were 18 people in attendance, and Beth and Ben rented cabins around the lake for all of them.
Beth walked down the outdoor aisle with her dad to "He'll Make Me Happy" from The Muppets Take Manhattan, and then the couple married in a self-uniting ceremony.
"I promise to always make you and our family my No. 1 priority and the center of my universe," Ben told Beth. He then told everyone about the time he and the kids played superheroes while Beth laughed, and he realized he had found his family. "That feeling has grown stronger every day."
Beth promised Ben she would always "cherish your childlike spirit and enthusiasm and your love of Star Wars, comic books, and Disney World." She pledged to never stop coming up with inside jokes so stupid that they laughed until they cried.
Ben wrote words for Michael and Josie, too. "I vow to always encourage you to use your imaginations, to teach you the ways of the Force, and to show you how to fly higher than the clouds while fighting bad guys," he said.
The couple exchanged rings that Michael had carried in a heart-shaped space Beth carved into a Harry Potter book. The newlyweds recessed to the Star Wars "Throne Room Theme," then took a victory lap around the lake in a golf cart Beth had decorated with a "Just Married" sign and strings of tin cans.
The very fancy picnic reception featured grilled chicken, beef tenderloin, shrimp, potatoes, and veggies the couple ordered from Wegmans. Some people played tether ball or Baggo while others danced.
The family dance was to the Shins' "Simple Song." Beth danced with Michael. Ben danced with Josie. "It was exactly how we wanted it," Ben said.
"Looking out during our ceremony and seeing our families' faces, all of whom had these huge grins, I could feel so much love and happiness for us," Beth said. "When Ben said his vows to me, I got teary-eyed. They felt so meaningful and so special."
"Listening to Beth give her vows to me, I don't think I've ever felt so loved in all of my life," Ben said.
A bargain: Although they rented the cabins, the gazebo where the ceremony and dinner were held was free. Beth saved money with her DIY centerpieces, signs, and gazebo bunting, made from paper doilies dipped in various shades of Kool Aid.
The splurge: A custom wooden cake topper made by a company in England featured a wand-bearing bride wearing a Hogwarts robe, a little boy Batman, a Super Girl, and Darth Vader in a tux. "It was $300 - ridiculously expensive, but perfect," said Beth.
A week in Turks and Caicos.
BEHIND THE SCENES: