Love: Sophia Christodoulakis and Michael Samula
Hello there Michael was half an hour early for Mihir's 30th birthday party, but there was already one person sitting in the festively decorated restaurant booth.
Michael was half an hour early for Mihir's 30th birthday party, but there was already one person sitting in the festively decorated restaurant booth.
"I see this girl, with lovely long hair, busy texting on her phone," he remembered.
"The birthday boy told me to get there early to greet people," Sophia explained.
The inevitable conversation about how they both knew their mutual friend led to some remarkable discoveries. Sophia and Michael grew up mere blocks from each other in Somerton. Now both 30, they were born just 10 days apart. And both were the first generation of their families born in the United States - Michael's parents were born in Poland, Sophia's in Greece.
Each was fascinated by the other. "It felt like our first date, for a solid 30 minutes," Michael said. "Then as people started arriving, our conversation got diluted."
Michael was disappointed to hear Sophia had to leave early. She is assistant bank manager at 3rd Fed Bank in the Northeast, and had to be in early the next morning.
Mihir walked Sophia to her car, and Michael's name came up in the conversation. "Oh, he's cute," Sophia said.
Back at his party, the birthday boy had a question for Michael: "What do you think of Sophia?"
Michael's eyes lit up. "She's gorgeous," he said.
"Good," said Mihir. "She thinks you're cute."
"Oh wow. Really?" he asked his friend. Yes, really.
Michael, who is now an interior architect with KlingStubbins, didn't want to rely on their friend to play matchmaker - if things didn't work with Sophia, it could ruin their friendship.
He called her bank the next day and asked to speak to Sophia. "How may I help you?" Sophia said when she came to the phone.
"I was swallowing butterflies when I heard her voice," Michael remembered.
"I was wondering if I could open a bank account with your branch," Michael told Sophia that day in October 2010.
Sophia recognized his voice. "Do you really want to open an account?" she asked.
What he really wanted was to take her to dinner.
At Toscana Restaurant in Feasterville, the conversation from the night they met started right up again. Theirs was the last car in the parking lot.
How does forever sound?
Sophia and Michael spent Dec. 23, 2011, in Center City. First stop: Christmas Village at LOVE Park. Sophia suspected something was up when Michael said it would be just the two of them. And her suspicion grew when he showed up with for-no-reason flowers.
As the couple walked around the stalls of potential holiday gifts, Michael was grateful for the cold. The gloves meant Sophia didn't know how much his palms were sweating.
The second trip around the shops, Michael gathered his courage and suggested they get a picture taken at the LOVE statue. When it was their turn, he switched his camera to video mode, handed it to the girls behind them in line, and whispered, "Be sure you get everything."
In front of the statue, Michael got down on one knee. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?"
At Sophia's yes, the crowd around them burst into applause.
The couple celebrated with dinner at Lovash - Michael had reserved the booth where they met.
It was so them
The couple were married at St. George's Greek Orthodox Cathedral on the second anniversary of the day they met.
The marriage crowns came to them on a silver platter sprinkled with koufetta - sugar-covered almonds that represent the sweetness and strength of a good marriage. The couple was crowned by the priest and their sponsor - their church witness.
Sophia and Michael were honored that her cousins and his aunt and uncle made their first trips to the United States for their wedding.
Michael's mother, Elizabeth, surprised the couple with a dove release just outside the church. Sophia loved the symbolism, but admits she was a little afraid of the birds.
The couple prepared to DIY their reception decor by watching wedding planner David Tutera's show each week. Their one little snag - getting the red-tipped orange rose buds to stay submerged in the bottom of the clear glass vase - was remedied by taping pebbles to the stems.
The reception soundtrack included traditional Greek and Polish songs, along with current dance music.
At each place setting, the couple left a bundle of glow sticks wrapped in silver paper with a note: Open me when you feel the beat. Their guests soon sported glowing necklaces and headbands.
Sophia's mother, Elpida, made traditional Greek pastries. The couple hired family friend Ella, co-owner of the Golden Gates restaurant, to bake their wedding cake. Ella surprised them with eight different cakes, including several traditional Eastern European varieties.
This didn't happen at rehearsal
Sophia's goddaughter, Eleni, then 5, took her flower-girl role very seriously. She was told to toss petals on the aisle runner as she walked. When petals went elsewhere, she picked them up and placed them on the runner. Her careful work was taking so long that the priest gently called down the aisle, "Come on, Eleni, come on."
After the ceremony, Sophia looked over at Mike, who was sitting next to her in the back of the 1939 Ford that took them to the reception. "Oh my gosh, baby!" she said. "We did it! We're married!"
It was past time to cut the cake, but noting the high energy of the dancing, the DJ suggested the couple continue to delay. Michael - who himself was drenched with sweat - loved knowing all that celebrating was in honor of their wedding. "Everybody's lives are so busy, it was great having everybody together at that one moment," he said. "I didn't want it to end."
A bargain: The wedding photos. Michael and Leonardo became close friends at Temple University. Now, their entire families are close. Leonardo's mother owns a photography business, and the family provided those services as a gift to the couple.
The splurge: The couple says hiring a DJ who specialized in both Greek and American music was worth the cost, which was more than double a typical DJ.
Michael and Sophia delayed a honeymoon to devote finances to the renovation of their home in Torresdale. They hope to take a trip next year.