Even as a teenager growing up in East Norriton, Susan had heard a lot about Carlo, the cousin of her best friend, Fran. "Everybody knew him," Susan said. That is, everybody but her. But that would end in August 1997, shortly after Susan's 21st birthday, when Fran, Susan and half-a-dozen others - Carlo among them - met up at a Norristown bar. "We just got to talking, and we talked on and off throughout the night," Susan said.
The next day, Carlo, who lived in Norristown, called Fran and asked if she was OK about him calling her best friend. Carlo took Susan to lunch at East Side Mario's in Blue Bell. "He just seemed really kind and honest," Susan remembered. She liked that he was interested in what she had to say, and she couldn't help but notice how very handsome he was. A second date happened at the end of August, but in September, Susan moved to Philadelphia and started her junior year at Temple, where she threw herself into her modern dance studies. She felt that she didn't have time to date - not Carlo, not anyone.
So the Carlo-Susan relationship was over before it got started. "We didn't even kiss," she said. But in college and beyond, Susan still spent a lot of time with Fran. And that meant she sometimes spent time with Carlo. "We hung out in big groups," she said. "He would often have a girlfriend." Still, there was usually mild flirtation between them.
Fast forward to June 2004, when Fran was getting married. She complained to Susan, a bridesmaid, that some of her single male cousins were late with their RSVPs.
Fran got tired of waiting for Carlo to respond, so she called him. He was coming, solo. Susan still remembers Fran telling her that. "I was relieved in a way," she said. "When I got to the reception, I remember being at the head table, scanning the room, looking for him. Eventually, we ran into each other. We were talking. And as always, there was this underlying flirtation going on."
Another wedding guest noticed, and said the two should just exchange numbers already.
"I still have Carlo's phone number," Susan said. Carlo was dumbfounded. "Still, after seven years?" he asked.
Susan couldn't explain why it was still programmed into her cell phone. But she and Carlo spent the rest of the night talking and dancing. She gave him her phone number, and was sad and bit puzzled when several days passed without a call. "I couldn't stop thinking about him," she said. About a week after Fran's wedding, Susan called Carlo.
Susan later learned that Carlo needed her to take the first step. "He didn't call me . . . because he was afraid I would blow him off like I did years before."
On Dec. 20, 2008, Carlo and Susan went to Longwood Gardens for the holiday display. He was surreptitiously looking for a good place to propose. Susan had no idea. What she did know is that it was dang cold outside, and windy. Susan eventually asked that they go home.
When they got back to Collegeville, and Susan's attention was focused on putting away her heavy coat and gloves, Carlo seized the moment. "Something is in your stocking!" he said when she turned away from the closet. She looked to the mantel, and immediately recognized the square shape as a ring box.
Carlo, an assistant vice president at a regional bank, and Susan, an administrative assistant for a telecommunications company, were married at Holy Saviour in Norristown. Carlo's parents, Vincenzo and Zina, raised their children at Holy Saviour. Susan's parents, grandparents, and sister were married there. Susan and Carlo chose their Sept. 12 wedding date to honor Susan's mother, Katharine, and father, Lawrence. Sept. 14 would have been their 41st wedding anniversary. Lawrence passed away in May 2007.
Katharine walked Susan, 33, down the aisle.
After the cake was cut, all 175 guests sang "Happy Birthday" to Carlo, who turned 35 a few days later. Instead of tossing her white rose bouquet, Susan presented it to her mother.
Walking down the aisle, holding her mother's hand, Susan felt her father's presence with them. "I thought I would be crying, but I felt so peaceful and happy and excited," she said.
The couple had planned to have photos taken at the Wayne Train Station, but when they arrived, the beautiful building was under construction. "There was yellow tape and concrete everywhere," Susan said. But Susan had faith in her photographer. "She had the guys standing in front of the caution tape. We saw military academy cadets walking and we got pictures with them. The tunnel beneath the train tracks was gritty and full of puddles," said Susan. "I loved it."
A bargain: Susan reluctantly decided she would do without a video to save money, but then a friend recommended videographer Laura Bortman, who charged about half of what Susan was quoted by others.
The splurge: Susan's dress - a Grecian-style, empire-waist silk gown with rhinestones. It was about 50 percent more than other gowns she looked at. "I'm never really an outrageous person, but when I tried that dress on, I had to have it."
Twelve days in Kauai and Oahu, Hawaii.
Monsignor Charles L. Sangermano of Holy Saviour in Norristown
Holy Saviour, and the Radnor Hotel in St. Davids
The Radnor Hotel
Jackie Bayne of Love Shack Photos, Erdenheim
Signature DJs of Plymouth Meeting
Priscilla of Boston in Wynnewood (since relocated to Ardmore)
William Arthur invitations, purchased at Leap Frog Paper in Skippack
Jacquelyn Andrietta, with the Radnor HotelEndText