John and Jen met in November 2007, just before a party celebrating the forthcoming marriage of Jen's friend Jim and John's cousin Yvonne. Had they listened to Jim and Yvonne, they actually would have met about two years sooner.
John and Yvonne are the kind of cousins who are more like siblings. Their families were always together when he was growing up in Linden, N.J. - partly because the adults spoke mostly Polish.
Jen and Jim, who met through an ex of Jen's, are part of a large circle of friends who together hit the Philly region's bars and festivals.
When Jim first started dating Yvonne, he would ask Jen, who is now 30, for advice. Within months, he introduced the two women, who became instant friends. Not long after that, Jim started telling Jen about his girlfriend's cousin John, now 34, and suggesting that she meet him. Yvonne was simultaneously talking up Jen to John, who lived in Hoboken.
For two years it was, "Jen would be so great for you!" and "You and John have so much in common!" And for two years, Jen and John gave the same answer: Thanks, but no thanks.
Then in November 2007, Jen was at Jim and Yvonne's house in Perkasie, where everyone was gathering before heading out to the party. Jen looked up to see Jim pushing a well-dressed man with a big smile and slightly tousled dark hair into the room. He was the only person in the room Jen didn't know. And then it hit her. Stunned, she whispered to Jim, "Is that the guy you've been talking about?"
The conversation between Jen and John started flowing at the house and continued through the evening. When the party came to a close, John definitely wanted Jen's phone number. But he was feeling a little weird about asking for it with his entire family close at hand. Real casual, he said he knew that Jen frequently traveled to New York City to visit friends, and suggested he could show her around, if she wanted. They exchanged e-mail addresses.
The next day, John e-mailed, asking if she would like to drive up with Jim and Yvonne that Saturday so the four of them could take in the city's Christmas decorations. Jen agreed. On Friday night, Yvonne called to say that Jim was feeling sick, and they weren't going to go.
Jen had just talked to Jim the day before. She knew he wasn't sick. But she was happy to go to New York just the same.
After a full day of sightseeing, Jen and John went for drinks at a hotel bar with a great view of the city. But no sooner had they finished their first glasses of wine that the waiter told them the place was closing. He gave them Styrofoam cups for the rest of their wine, which they drank on the subway on the way back to Hoboken.
"Every time we drank, we toasted Jim and Yvonne," Jen said.
In November 2008, Jen, who is vice president of finance at GfK Healthcare in Blue Bell, was sent to Spain on a business trip. John, a sales team leader for Bloomberg Tradebook in New York, is also earning his MBA at NYU, so he doesn't have a lot of time off. But Thanksgiving break coincided with her trip, so he had a suggestion: "Let's meet in Paris!"
Jen's response was pure accountant. "The Euro is strong against the dollar. Why not Prague?" But John persisted, and she agreed.
After returning from their ascent of the Eiffel Tower, Jen just wanted to relax with a glass of wine. But John wanted to have a photo taken in the garden. A woman among a group of tourists from Hong Kong agreed to take their photo. But when she was done, John insisted on a second one. That's when Jen saw him pull out a piece of tissue paper, folded into a perfect, one-inch square.
Jen knew instantly what was wrapped in that paper. "I turned the other way and put my hands over my eyes," she said. By now, the tour group from Hong Kong knew what was happening, and about 16 people began chanting "Say yes! Say yes!"
John tugged on Jen's hand until she turned to face him, down on one knee on the sidewalk. "Of course it's yes!" she said. As the couple smooched, everyone cheered. Their recruited photographer captured the whole event.
The couple, who live in the Somerton neighborhood of Philadelphia, decided to have a destination wedding at a Jamaican beach resort.
The night of their rehearsal, their 65 guests were all invited to a beach barbecue, and both that feast and the one at the reception featured Jamaican food, including jerk chicken, conch fritters, and peas and rice.
They were married in a nondenominational ceremony on the beach, beneath a gauzy white canopy. Later this month, the couple will have a church blessing of their marriage at Jen's family parish, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Southampton.
The night before her wedding, Jen drifted off to sleep with romantic visions in her head. But she woke up with a fever that would eventually hit 104 degrees. "I threw up on my wedding day," she said.
Jen skipped the pre-wedding festivities with her bridesmaids to rest, then used makeup to make herself look better than she felt. But when she arrived at the ceremony, Jen suddenly felt fine. "It must have been some kind of adrenaline rush," Jen said. Jen later kept her sickness at bay by taking nap breaks - she took it as a really good sign that her new husband sat in the dark with her as she slept. Jen and John made it to the last half of their reception, where they had enough fun to make up for the part they missed.
Jen's father, Tom, walked her down the aisle. Before he sat down, Tom said, "Our wish for you today is that in your marriage you know the joy, comfort, and fulfillment a good marriage can bring. This is the biggest commitment you'll ever make. It will take hard work, but the reward will make it worthwhile."
Jen was not expecting her father to say anything so serious. "It made everything feel much more real," she said.
A bargain: Rather than the calla lilies she originally wanted, Jen decided to feature pink ginger flowers, which are native to the island, in all the bouquets and centerpieces. This saved $4,000.
The splurge: The entertainment. The couple hired the best reggae band they could find for the reception, a guitarist for the ceremony, and a steel-drum band for the welcome cocktail party. Plus they chose a barbecue package that came with fire dancers, limbo dancers, and a contortionist. This cost about $6,000 more than if they had just hired a DJ for one night, but Jen said it was worth every penny.
The couple hopes to travel to South Africa next year, after John receives his MBA.
Marriage officer Courtney J. Walters, Jamaica
Half Moon Resort, near Montego Bay, Jamaica
Half Moon Resort
Christopher Dumas Photography, Boston
Chokey Taylor Reggae Band, Montego Bay
David's Bridal in Feasterville
Flower Studio, Montego Bay
Abby Ryan Design, Philadelphia
Elegant Occasions, New York
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