It was Thanksgiving 2008, and Sherri, a Center City resident who was a college recruiter for Susquehanna International Group, was looking forward to a long holiday weekend.
The day after the big meal with her family, she planned to join her mother, Nedda; Nedda's bff, Sharon; and Sharon's daughter, sister-in-law, and nephew for a shopping spree at Rice's Flea Market in Bucks County.
Everyone met at Sharon's house at 7 a.m. - early for Sherri and the other twentysomethings, who included Sharon's nephew, Brad. The younger folks decided they could not face Black Friday without caffeine, and made a Dunkin' Donuts run. But it was not the coffee that got Brad's and Sherri's hearts racing.
"Brad and I just started talking right away," Sherri remembered. He asked about her recruiting work. And she discovered that Brad, who grew up in Columbia, Md., was studying at the University of Baltimore School of Law and working as a legal clerk at David Balto's law offices in Washington.
The group took two cars for the ride to the flea market, and Sherri and Brad were separated.
Brad's group got to the meeting place first. "Right away when we got there, I was like, 'Where are they? Where did they go? Where's the other group?' " Brad said.
When Sherri's group arrived, she and Brad started talking again, and walking together. They sat together at lunch. "It was so easy to talk to Sherri," Brad said. "It was just something special."
Sherri couldn't stop looking at Brad's smile, and she wanted to know everything about him. "I felt like I knew him forever," she said.
That wasn't so far from the truth. While they didn't remember each other, they had played together as children. One summer about 18 years earlier, their families even vacationed together in Wildwood.
Brad friended Sherri on Facebook the next day but didn't send a message. So Sherri messaged him about her flea-market purchase: "You know, my hat is getting good reviews."
But that led only to a hat discussion. So Sherri tried again. "Do you ever come to Philly?"
That was all Brad needed. "I come a lot," he said, deciding on the spot that he'd be up that weekend. "You want to go out?"
Everyone had noticed the two pairing off at the flea market. So on the day of their first date, Sherri's mother and father, Paul, who had a Hanukkah party at their place in the Northeast, offered to invite Brad. But Sherri said no way - this was going to be a real date.
He took her to Monk's Cafe for dinner, and then they closed a coffee shop.
Brad was about to go to Israel for three weeks on a law school trip, but he asked if he could take Sherri out again when he returned. Just hours after the plane landed, he took her to a BYO with a bottle of Israeli wine.
"After that, we were together every weekend," Sherri said.
How does forever sound?
Brad graduated in April 2010, landing a full-time attorney gig at the same law firm. They couldn't stand the distance any longer, so Sherri moved to D.C. She is now a college recruiter for Vocus, a company that sells public relations software.
Brad didn't want to propose until he had the bar exam out of the way. Once that was done, he had to get Sherri to Rice's Flea Market. He asked Sherri's parents to invite her there on Aug. 7.
When the day came, Brad's mother, Janis, and her boyfriend Isik showed up. And so did Sherri's father, who is not a flea-market fan. "He never comes. And he had his camera," Sherri said. She was suspiciously hopeful.
Then, an hour passed with no proposal.
Sherri thought: "I'll make it easy for him." She wandered over to a costume jewelry booth, picked up a fake engagement ring, and tried it on.
"Oooh! I love this!" she said, showing Brad.
"Do you want one?" Brad asked, dropping to one knee. "Because I have one."
It was so them
The couple had a traditional Jewish ceremony, complete with songs sung in Hebrew.
Brad's grandparents, Hy and Sara, were the first people to walk down the aisle. They also said the blessing over the bread at the reception.
Brad and Sherri were the last of their parents' children to marry. "In Jewish tradition, if you marry your children off, you've done your job as a parent," Sherri explained. So during the reception, she and Brad placed crowns of flowers on their mothers' heads to honor the accomplishment, then danced around them.
When the formal family portraits were being snapped, Sherri had a hard time remembering who was whose blood relative. "It already felt like we were one family, we just all know each other so well," she said.
This didn't happen at rehearsal
Sherri's niece, Sasha, 3, was the flower girl. "She was very excited to go down the aisle and kept asking when it would be her turn," Sherri said. "But when it was her turn, she ran over and got cookies. And instead of tossing flowers, she ate cookies down the aisle." Everyone agreed: It was adorable.
Photos were taken before the ceremony. "The first time I saw her in her dress, I was blown away, and I started crying," Brad said. "She was so beautiful. And that was the moment for me when I realized, this is actually real. . . . I get to spend the rest of my life with this woman."
Sherri walked halfway down the aisle with her parents, then Brad met her and they walked together to the altar. "I was so excited that I tried to kiss him through my veil," Sherri said. "He's taller, and I'm trying to stand on my tippy-toes to kiss him on the cheek. And he said, 'Not yet! We're going to get in trouble!' "
A bargain: Sherri and her father made the save-the-dates using a picture of Sherri and Brad, age 10, during their families' Wildwood vacation.
The splurge: A photo booth was not in the couple's wedding budget. Sherri saved her spending money for two months to get it.
Ten days in Hawaii.
Love: BEHIND THE SCENES
Rabbi Robert L. Wolkoff, Congregation B'nai Tikvah, North Brunswick, N.J.
Congregation B'nai Tikvah
Classical Caterers at B'nai Tikvah, North Brunswick, N.J.
Sofia Negron Photography, Philadelphia
Charles St. Paul Band, Cliffside Park, N.J.
Gerad's Florist and Decorators, Pleasantville, N.J.
Augusta Jones from Nicole Bridal & Formal Shoppe, Jenkintown
You're Invited by Jan, Columbia, Md.
Love: DO YOU HAVE THE DATE?
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