Todd's table assignment seriously threatened his ulterior motive for attending the National Museum of American Jewish History's March 2014 Only in America Gala. "They seated me with married couples," he said.
Across the room, he noticed a beautiful and, he hoped, single woman. A seat at Jillian's table opened. An introduction led to conversation, then an invitation to check out the museum's baseball exhibit with him.
"He was a nice guy, and I'm a kibitzer - I like to talk to and meet new people," Jillian said. She agreed to a date - dinner at Little Nonna's and a show at the Helium Comedy Club. "I liked her," Todd said, "and I wanted to get to know her better."
A second date was scheduled. It was "a little bit difficult," Todd said. "I was very demanding," Jillian confessed. He wanted to plan the date, somewhere casual and quiet where they could talk. She wanted to try one of Philadelphia magazine's 50 best restaurants and then go to a show. They compromised on the style of restaurant, winding up at La Viola Ovest. The food was good, but they were too late to get show tickets.
Then there was this: Jillian was also dating another guy, and soon after her second date with Todd, Other Guy asked her to meet his parents. She text-messaged Todd. "I had a good time with you, but things are getting serious with another guy. It's not right for me to continue seeing you."
Todd's disappointment was tempered a bit by their less-than-perfect second date. "Thank you very much for telling me," he replied.
Six weeks later, he got another text from Jillian. Things had ended with Other Guy.
"I'm making changes in my life," she said. "Would you be willing to give it a chance again?"
Jillian was so happy that he was.
Their second first date, at Domani Star in Doylestown, went so fabulously that another couple at the restaurant assumed they were married.
Over the weeks and months that followed, Jillian, now 33, a financial adviser who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and Warwick, and Todd, now 44, associate general counsel for AmeriHealth Caritas who grew up in Villanova, realized they had met their match.
Among the things they have in common: A love of family, a commitment to Judaism, a life-goal to see as many movies as humanly possible.
Additionally, Jillian said, "he's attentive, he listens. He's very gentlemanly. Lots of girls want the guy to take control and pick everything, but I want to be asked, and he's receptive to that."
"She always makes me laugh, and she just makes me feel happy when I'm spending time with her," Todd said.
A year and a half after they met, Jillian moved out of her parents' home to join Todd in Newtown.
How does forever sound?
Todd had made arrangements with a Napa winery, a secret until he answered the phone on their way to Philadelphia International Airport in June 2015. "I had the phone on speaker, and she said it was so-and-so from the winery, and I said, 'Please stop talking! I'm not alone!' but she continued: 'I just wanted to let you know everything's all set for Monday.' "
Luckily, Todd had a backup plan.
Jillian loves trains and was completely delighted with the Napa Valley Wine Train they boarded. "It was old-fashioned, with so much velvet, like the Orient Express," she said. Todd had reserved seats in the Crystal Dome - a car with a glass roof that allows for gorgeous views.
When the train stopped at the end of the line before beginning the reverse trip, a staff member suggested they tour the other compartments. Jillian loved every one of them and stopped to take pictures all along the way, giving plenty of time for Todd's nerves to build.
"At the end, where the caboose is," Todd said, "I suggested we go onto the outside platform."
It was fine until the train started moving - very slowly, but that didn't matter. "I don't like this," Jillian said. Before she could suggest they go inside, she heard Todd breathing so hard behind her she thought he might be hyperventilating. She turned to see whether he was OK, and that's when he knelt.
"You're my best friend -" he said.
"Oh!" Jillian said. "You're doing this here!"
He said, "I love you" and opened the ring box.
Just then, two women walked onto the platform. "Are we interrupting something?" one asked. They were. "But if they hadn't," Jillian said, "we would have no photos."
Jillian posed with the ring as Todd snapped photos. About 30 seconds later, the look on Todd's face clued her in that she had failed to answer his question.
"Oh, my God, yes!" she said.
Folks standing on the street cheered. Folks inside the train did, too.
It was so them
These two like to rock things old-school. Jillian asked her rabbi to help create a Jewish wedding featuring as many traditions as he could think of. Some have become so rare even their Jewish friends and family had not seen them before.
Two weeks before the ceremony, Jillian did a mikvah, a purifying ritual in which she immersed herself three times in water. At the ketubah signing, the couple had a bedeken, or veiling ceremony, in which the groom placed part of the veil over the bride's face. Then the couple's mothers broke a plate together.
At the ceremony, the couple shared a Kiddush cup. Todd broke a glass to symbolize that what had been done could never be undone.
Then they and their 100 guests headed indoors for an ivory-and-gold reception. "We had hundreds of candles of different sizes at every table, and ivory hydrangea, garden roses, and calla lilies," Jillian said. Traditionally, the last children to get married crown their parents in a special ceremony. As only children, Jillian and Todd are first and last. They placed crowns on the heads of his parents, Lawrence and Susan, and hers, Rene and Steven.
One table held family wedding photos: parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.
Their band, Jellyroll, had even Todd's 100-year-old grandmother, Florence, a.k.a. Gampi, dancing in her wheelchair.
During her matron-of-honor speech, Rachel, Jillian's best friend since age 5, said that when their elementary school music teacher would ask the class what they wanted to sing, they would say they wanted to hear Jillian. "Do you want to sing now?" Rachel asked the bride. "You don't have to pull my arm," Jillian said, launching into "New York, New York."
Wrapped in Todd's tallis as the rabbi sang the Seven Blessings, "I was thinking about all the women who have come before me, and who also heard this prayer as they took the same step," Jillian said. "I was one in a long line, perpetuating the Jewish faith. And I was marrying someone so good."
"I waited a long time for the right woman," said Todd, "on faith that it would happen, and it did happen. It was the right thing for me to wait to meet the love of my life, and it all came together, being with Jillian and the rabbi through all those traditions."
The budget crunch
A bargain: Pleased with the save-the-dates they bought from Minted.com, the couple also ordered invites there. A website glitch led to invites that came a little later than they wanted, but a sympathetic company rep comped them.
The splurge: Jillian couldn't see the point of spending so much money on a band when a DJ would play the actual musicians' work. After a solo scouting expedition of about 20 bands, Todd took her to see Jellyroll. "I found a band that changed her mind," he said.
Three weeks traveling around Italy.