Erin stepped onto the patio of her friends' Ardmore home to get a little air. She saw some guys hanging out on the other side of the short wall separating the twin home's space from the neighbors'. But more important: beagles!
"Oh, hi!" Erin said, bounding over the wall that August night in 2010. "I'm Erin. What's your dogs' names?"
Erin was most enthralled by "this chubby little dog" named Mildred. Mildred's person, Andrew, was enthralled with Erin.
"I thought she was really cute," he said. "I obviously loved that she loved dogs, and it was really impressive that she could just talk to complete strangers."
As suddenly as she showed up, Erin was gone, having bounded back over the wall to her friends' party.
Andrew loved hanging out back with his brothers, Daniel and Patrick. But his plans had just changed. "I need to talk to that girl," he thought. He changed into an Eagles shirt, and joined the party next door.
"I tried to do what I could to get to talk to her again," Andrew said. When that didn't happen immediately, he concluded she might not be an Eagles fan, and went home to ditch the jersey for a polo. That didn't lead to the conversation he'd hoped for, either. So he tried again with a button-down.
Erin doesn't find button-downs particularly irresistible, but she did notice Andrew's changing garb, and wondered if he was trying to get her attention.
She started talking to him, and it was so easy. They took their talk to the cooler, quieter patio. "He's one of the nicest people I've ever met," said Erin. "We talked for hours."
They talked about the dogs, discovered a mutual love of running, and went through the usual getting-to-know-you questions.
Erin, now 24, grew up in Drexel Hill. She's the administrator for both the Delaware County Community Foundation and the Orphan Society of America, but back then was studying political science at St. Joe's.
Andrew, now 30, grew up in Havertown. He was already working as an auto claims examiner for Philadelphia Insurance Company.
At the end of the night, Andrew realized he'd neglected to get Erin's number, and didn't even know her last name. The party hosts provided the info, and a week after meeting, the couple went bowling at Wynnewood Lanes in Ardmore. Andrew is a decent bowler, but his nerves got him that night. "We left early, because I was beating him so bad," Erin laughs. Then came drinks and dinner at Kildare's in Manayunk.
"It's just so easy to talk to her. She's a great listener," Andrew said.
"We kind of instantly became best friends. It seemed like I knew him for years," said Erin.
They were exclusive within a week.
How does forever sound?
Every summer, Andrew and his family go to Bailey Island, Maine. In July 2012, he brought Erin. "There are waves crashing against the rocks, and the water is crystal clear, and the lobsters are cheaper than McDonalds," he said.
Andrew had an elaborate plan to propose on the island's famous bridge. But back at the cabin after their first day of hiking, sightseeing, and feasting on those cheap lobsters, they each had a glass of wine. Erin fell asleep on the couch.
"I had a bottle of champagne on ice, and was trying to keep the cubes from clinking and waking her up," Andrew said. He put a vase of wildflowers he'd picked on the table next to the champagne, and put Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years" on his iPod.
Erin began to stir. "I had always said, 'If we ever get married, this is going to be our wedding song.' And I heard the song."
"Erin, I have to tell you something," Andrew said. She rolled over to face him, saw the ring box, and started to cry.
The ring, made with a diamond more than 100 years old that had been Andrew's grandmother's, was on her finger for several minutes before she collected herself enough to say "yes."
It was so them
The couple wed at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic in West Chester.
Loving Halloween, they danced their way into the reception at the Radnor Valley Country Club to Michael Jackson's "Thriller."
Each of the 130 guests received a box of chocolate from Truffles for a Cause - and for every box, the company donated money to the ASPCA.
Before going in to their reception, Andrew got the keys to a golf cart and he and Erin rode around so the photographer could take some shots. "It was breezy, and Erin's veil was blowing out of the back. It was the first time we were alone that day. And we got to talk. And I was looking at our hands, and seeing our wedding rings, and it felt real."
At the end of their first dance to "A Thousand Years," the DJ invited the guests to join Erin and Andrew on the floor. "Every single person got out of their chairs," Erin said. "I looked around, and everyone was out there. To see all of these people who were here for us, it was surreal and amazing."
Best bargain: The DJ makes or breaks the party, Andrew said, and while a few cost less than Schaffer Sound, none provided the services they did for the price.
The splurge: The ice cream sundae bar. "We already had so many desserts, but I'm a huge fan of ice cream," said Erin.
Ten days in Maui.
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