Ashley couldn't believe her luck when Senorita Ainge suggested that she and Anthony become Spanish-class conversation partners.
It was early 2001 when Ashley, then a North Penn High School sophomore, noticed Anthony, then a junior, staring at her. At first she thought her hair was a mess or she had spilled something on her shirt. Soon she realized she liked looking at him, too.
Practicing Spanish showed them they had much to talk about: Mutual friends and an interest in music, for starters. They went to the school talent show together and to the VFW to see a live show by a friend's band.
Then Senorita Ainge announced that a new seating chart was coming. "You've got to keep us seated together," Ashley pleaded after class. Anthony was the best Spanish speaker in class, Ashley told her teacher, and with her outgoing nature, she could get the shy guy really talking. Ashley suspected her teacher knew she had an ulterior motive. But in the new arrangement, Anthony sat behind her. Their conversations began stretching past the bell, and they would walk together after class until they had to part for their next classes.
One day, Ashley wrote her phone number on the worksheet she passed to him. He never called. She took that to mean he only wanted to be friends. She was disappointed, but figured she could always use a new friend.
But Anthony was not trying to send Ashley a message. He had lost her phone number. He also hadn't picked up on her hint that she was interested in him. Since he wasn't much for talking on the phone, he figured he'd just talk to his friend at school.
About a month later, Senorita Ainge announced extra credit for students who made a treat for Cinco de Mayo. Ashley invited Anthony to make cookies at her house after school. As usual, they had a great time talking. "His mom came to pick him up right before dinner," Ashley said. "We hadn't made any cookies."
After doing her homework that evening, Ashley stayed up late to bake. The realization that Anthony was interested in her, after all, made her so giddy that she forgot to put sugar in the cookies.
"They were pretty horrible," she said.
The couple, now both 27, have been together ever since - and consider Cinco de Mayo their dating anniversary.
Anthony earned a psychology degree from Temple University, Ashley a communications degree from Villanova University. They saw each other at least every weekend until the second semester of Ashley's junior year, when she studied in London. The separation was hard, but when Anthony visited, the couple used their Spanish skills on a short trip to Spain.
Anthony, a marketing coordinator for First American Mortgage in Bristol, and Ashley, a senior account executive at Cashman & Associates, live in Queen Village.
On a Friday in early August 2010, Anthony walked to Jewelers' Row and bought an engagement ring. He thought he would put it away and plan a proposal, but immediately, he said, it began "burning a hole in my pocket."
It was his birthday weekend, and Ashley had planned a Saturday pool party at her mother's home in Harleysville.
Anthony brought the ring with him and waited for the right moment.
Soon, it was Sunday night, and he and Ashley were back at their apartment in the city. The ring was still in his pocket.
Early the next morning, Ashley was to give an on-camera television news interview on fall-fashion trends, so she needed to get some rest. "I was putting on a face mask and teeth-whitening strips," she remembers. "I was wearing my pajamas and my glasses, and my hair was in a messy bun." Anthony kept popping in to check on her, which Ashley found a little odd.
"OK, I'm going to bed early," she announced. He followed her to the bedroom. "I love you. Good night," she told him.
"I love you, too - so much," Anthony said.
He dropped to one knee and asked her to marry him. The ring was finally out of his pocket.
The couple married before 175 guests in a traditional Catholic ceremony at Old St. Mary's Church. A family friend sang "Ave Maria," and the couple performed a unity candle ceremony with a candle Anthony's godmother had given them.
Anthony is a guitarist. He and Ashley's brother, Mark, have played in a band together and continue a musical collaboration. Most of the couple's dates - from high school to present day - have involved going to concerts. So a music theme was the only one that would do for their reception at the Down Town Club.
They persuaded the Theatre of Living Arts on South Street to put their names and wedding date on the marquee and photographed it to create save-the-date cards.
Instead of numbers, each table had a copy of an album cover - a Sam Cooke for the newlyweds, whose first dance was to his version of "I Love You (For Sentimental Reasons)," and the Zombies for their siblings.
The decorations included flowers that Ashley's mother, Connie, crafted from sheet music. A guitar case was used as a card-catcher.
Just before the last song of the evening - the Zombies' "This Will Be Our Year" - the bride asked the band, "Can my brother sing this one?" Mark was happy to oblige. "It was really special to me," Ashley said.
Ashley wasn't nervous until she and her father, Mark, were waiting for the change in music that cued their walk down the aisle. "My whole body got tingles, and I remember staring at Anthony the whole time," she said. "That's when it really hit me - the magnitude of what was happening."
A bargain: The flowers. The sheet-music flowers Ashley's mother made meant the couple could buy fewer fresh flowers, and the Rhoads Garden's price was 30 percent cheaper than the least expensive of the other florists contacted.
The splurge: The band. There
was no way this couple would go without live music. Ashley said the price was reasonable, as bands go, but it was a big part of the budget.