Alexandra Ulkus and Andrew Harder
June 11, 2016, in Conshohocken
There she was, like most workday mornings: The beautiful woman with the lovely smile who took the same train to Center City and worked one floor above him at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Andy wanted to speak to her - he had wanted to for six weeks - but never had the nerve.
The train made its usual screeching stop at Suburban Station and the woman headed for the doors. But this chilly morning in February 2013, a lone glove remained on her seat. This, Andy thought, was his opportunity.
Alex was hurrying up the concourse stairs when she saw the most incredible sight: The man who always gave his seat to elderly passengers, whom she and her friends had nicknamed "hot nabe," and whom she so often wished she had the nerve to talk to, was rushing toward her. But what did he have in his hand?
"You forgot your glove," Andy said, holding out the black, sequined thing that had already been on her seat when she sat down.
"Oh, that's not my style," she said, then walked away.
Why did she walk? she asked herself constantly the rest of the day, and occasionally for the next month, until the Friday afternoon she and a friend were rushing toward the elevator at work and she saw Andy inside.
He tried to hold the doors open. He hit the close button instead.
Monday morning at the Conshy station, Andy approached Alex.
"Yeah, so, I'm sorry about closing the elevator door on you," he said.
"Oh, you did?" Alex asked, as though she hadn't noticed.
From then on, the two talked at the station, all the way to their office and all the way home.
Alex, who grew up in East Lyme, Conn., and Andy, who grew up in Carlisle, Pa., discovered they's both attended Pennsylvania State University, and had lived across the street from each other for a year.
Now 27, Andy had earned a degree in actuarial science and landed his job in property and casualty at PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2011. Alex, now 25, joined the company as a compliance consultant the following year, after graduating with her biobehavioral health degree.
"She was very easy to talk to, and I was intrigued by her," Andy said.
"He was funny, in not an overly clownish way," Alex remembered. "We talked a lot about our families, and we have a lot of shared values." That includes working hard, the willingness to do anything for family, and a great love for (they are so sorry, readers) the New York Giants.
In April, he complained he needed a break from all the studying he was doing for one of the dozen actuarial exams.
Alex tried to be brave: "Well, would you want to hang out with me?"
Andy tried to be brave, too: "Would you like to have dinner tonight?"
They had sushi in Conshohocken and have been together ever since.
How does forever sound?
Alex liked to work from home on Fridays, but one Friday in June 2014, Andy's promise of a food cart chicken-and-falafel platter persuaded her to go to the office. On the ride home, he reminisced about the crazy way they met and all the fun they'd had since.
As they walked toward their apartments, he stopped at a light post and pointed at the ground. "Look at that glove!" he said. "Is it yours? Why don't you put it on?"
The ewwww! of her initial reaction was replaced within milliseconds with the sense that something important was about to happen. She bent to pick up the glove. By the time she stood, Andy was kneeling, and offering something more sparkly than sequins.
"Now try this on," he suggested.
She took the ring out of its box and put it on her finger. They hugged. They kissed.
"So, what's your answer?" Andy asked.
She said yes. His parents, Andy and Patsy, and hers, Maria and Dave, were waiting at Savona to celebrate.
Alex has since earned a master's degree in public health from Thomas Jefferson University and now does pharmaceutical market research for Research Partnership in Horsham.
In January 2016, they bought a house in North Wales, which they share with Penny, a Jack Russell mix.
It was so them
The groom's parents brought a surprise guest to the rehearsal dinner: The Penn State Nittany Lion, who was kept busy taking selfies with all the Penn Staters in the room.
The couple wed in a traditional Catholic ceremony at St. Matthews in Conshohocken. At the request of Alex's Polish grandma, Mary Lou, she, Grandma Ethelyn and the couple's moms processed to "Serdeczna Matko," which means "beloved mother." A song that reminds the bride of her hometown, "Lord You Have Come to the Seashore," was played. The couple gave roses to their moms, and to the Blessed Mother.
The reception for 175 was held at the Radnor Valley Country Club, which the couple chose for its elegant interior and huge outdoor patio that encouraged relaxed conversation. Framed wedding photos of their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents were placed around the space.
The bride is grateful to chauffeur Dan from Secrets Limousine for two things: He made it his mission to help her manage her cathedral-length, sequined veil. He got her, the bridesmaids, and the flower girls to the church early, which meant from the comfort of that car, they could watch all the guests arrive.
Those who are family members narrated the procession for the three nonrelative bridesmaids, sharing little details about who everyone was. "It was really cool to see everyone coming together to celebrate us," Alex said.
Between Alex's arrival at the front of the church and the start of the ceremony, the couple sat together facing the altar, with their backs to their guests. "It was almost like we were alone, just the two of us having a normal conversation," Andy said. They inquired about each other's mornings, he told her how beautiful she looked, and she told him she felt surprisingly calm. "I'll always remember that," Andy said.
The budget crunch
A bargain: The bride's mom designed the programs and place cards and spent several days printing them out on her home printer. "She should go into printing for weddings, they are so beautiful," Alex said.
The splurge: To accommodate two foodie families, the hors d'oeuvre menu grew from four to eight, and the amount of coconut shrimp doubled.
Six days at Sandals Resort in Nassau, Bahamas.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: Rev. J. Thomas Heron, St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church, Conshohocken
Venues: St. Matthew and Radnor Valley Country Club
Photography: Krista Patton Photography, Ardmore
Flowers: Pam Yaller, Magnifique Decor Inc., Philadelphia
Dress: Allure Couture, Sposabella, Feasterville
Seamstress: Diane Pritchard, Seamstress Extraordinaire, Blue Bell
Reception Music: Vince Perkins, Sound Sensation, Skippack
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