Kate was getting ready for a Fourth of July 2010 barbecue when her friend Melissa, who was going with her, asked if she could bring her friend Bettner. Sure, Kate said. This was a come-one, come-all kind of summer shindig.
Kate caught Jon Bettner's eye at hi. "She was a tall blonde with blue eyes wearing white jeans," Jon said. "That's a trifecta for me."
Jon assumed Kate was dating someone at the party, but enjoyed their conversation. Kate did, too. "I thought Jon was funny."
After the barbecue, the three hung out at Melissa's. It turned out Kate and Jon were both heading to Sea Isle the next day. They decided to meet up. She knew Jon was a good guy - not just because her instincts were saying so, but because Melissa had been hanging out with him since their days at Lenape High in Medford. "There was definitely a spark there," Kate said. "But I didn't know his [romantic] situation."
Jon, who is now 30, had broken up with a long-term girlfriend about six months prior and had moved in with his mother, who was living alone in the family's Mount Laurel home.
On Sunday, Jon sent Kate a text: "Where are you going out?" They met up in line at the Springfield. Jon paid Kate's cover.
Despite the noise of a Shore bar on a holiday weekend, the two managed to talk about personal, serious things. When Kate was 19, her brother, Ted, then 17, died in a tragic accident. When Jon was 19, his father, Thomas, then 54, died in a car crash.
That shared loss brought them closer quickly, Jon agreed.
"I like you a lot," he told her that night. Jon returned to his print ad sales job on Tuesday, keeping in touch with Kate through texts. They set a date for sushi on Saturday, the first night back in town for Kate, now 31, who grew up in Erial and was then living in Cherry Hill and working in public relations in Philadelphia.
"You never know how it's going to go on a first date, when it's just one-on-one," said Jon. "But there was no stoppage in the conversation or anything."
It was the last first date for both of them.
Jon's gregariousness is a trait shared with his mother, Dolores, who always encouraged Jon to invite his friends to the house. Kate was such a frequent visitor that she often cooked dinner. With Dolores' blessing, "I just kind of gradually moved in," Kate said.
And so Kate was there in July 2012 when Dolores was hospitalized for shortness of breath. She fought back from broken heart syndrome, Jon said, and made it to rehab for a few months. But then she got an infection she was not strong enough to fight, and passed away that September.
Jon says Kate "went through that hell" with him. "She never complained that we went to go see my mother after work every day, or that we were eating dinner after 9:30 every night, and then going to bed at 11, and doing it over and over," he said. "She was really strong, and it was something I really admired."
Kate, who now does PR for TD Bank, and Jon, who hopes to soon have a new job in sales, were hosting a barbecue Memorial Day weekend 2013. They spent the day before the party sprucing up the deck and yard. Then Jon suggested dinner at Sansom Street Oyster House. "Are you sure you want to go out?" asked a very tired Kate. "We could stay in. We have a lot to do."
But Jon said he had an about-to-expire gift card from his uncle, and seafood and drinks sounded great, and so they went. Dinner was great. "Is the Happy Rooster near here?" Jon asked after. Kate knew that Jon knew it was - they'd been there for drinks after their first date. "My wheels were turning," she remembered. They were talking at the bar in the back room when Jon suddenly dropped to his knee, holding out a ring. "You make me so happy," he said. "Will you make me happy for the rest of my life?"
Kate said yes. Jon sent a text, and within minutes, her parents and girlfriends, who were waiting down the street, showed up to celebrate.
Kate and Jon were married at Our Lady of the Angels in Cape May Court House. A reception for 184 followed in the Grand Ball Room at Cape May's Congress Hall.
Kate's something blue was a heart made from the blue fabric of her brother Ted's hockey jersey and pinned to her gown. The wedding program included a message for Jon's parents and Kate's Rita and Edward, about the inspiration Kate and Jon get from their long, happy marriages. The wedding date was chosen because the bride's parents' 40th anniversary was the next day. The location honored the groom's parents, who loved weekends at Cape May B&Bs.
Rather than wedding cake, the couple provided an ice cream sundae bar and a station with fresh-made doughnuts, icings, and dipping sauces. There was one cupcake which the couple was to cut and serve each other, but it never happened. The Shore-inspired tunes kept the bride and groom, and many guests, on the dance floor all night.
After the reception, everyone went to the Boiler Room bar downstairs. "It was great having time to go back-and-forth with everybody I love," Jon said. "It felt like we were off-duty," said Kate.
The last song of the night was "Hey Jude," Jon's father's favorite. The band, Midnight Hour, played a rocked-out version, and everyone "went nuts," Kate said. She had told Jon there was something special for his father at the reception, but he wasn't prepared for this. He grabbed Kate in his arms and buried his head in her neck. "His eyes were a little bit filled up," Kate said. "That was my favorite moment," said Jon.
A bargain: Photographer Joseph Haber, who is just starting his career, took the couple's engagement photos for free to build his portfolio. They loved his work and hired him for their wedding shots, on which he also gave them a good deal, Kate said. "When we were talking, I found out he played football with my brother in high school. It seemed like it was meant to be."
The splurge: A cigar bar. It was nice having one, the couple said, but since cigars can be up to $12 a pop, it isn't cheap.
Nine days in Key West.