Love: Kara Rodemer & J.Michael Hatalski
December 31, 2014, and February 7, 2015, in Horsham and Manhattan
Kara and J.Mike grew up in Lansdale, attended North Penn High School, and ran in overlapping circles of friends, yet graduated without knowing much about each other.
J.Mike, who is now 31, graduated from the Institute of Audio Research in New York City. In 2010, he moved to Brooklyn and became a production manager for Tallen Technology Rentals, where much of his production work is for pharmaceutical companies.
Kara, now 30, moved to suburban New York a month after her 2007 graduation from James Madison University, but eventually also settled in Brooklyn. She works in pharmaceutical advertising for AgencyRx.
They never caught sight of each other until a New Year's Eve party that rang in 2011.
Kara invited two girlfriends from back home to the party. Both are also friends of J.Mike's. And so before the party, Kara and J.Mike both knew they'd be seeing an old acquaintance for the first time since high school.
"I did a little reconnaissance," J.Mike said. "I always thought she was cute, and so I tried to get as much info as I could, through Facebook and such."
Spotting the trio of women at the party, he sauntered over to say hello. "I'm J.Mike," he told Kara, even though she knew that much.
Kara thought J.Mike was cute in high school, but most of the time, he had a girlfriend. "The guy was off-limits."
Now, both were single. By the end of the night, they went from being not-exactly strangers to new friends, with the possibility of more.
"In every picture, he and I are together with our arms around each other, looking like we'd known each other forever," Kara said.
Four days later, they met for dinner. Kara loved his sense of humor, and said she found "a comfort in knowing we come from the same place. I assumed we had the same morals and values." Further dates proved that was true.
"I, of course, thought she was smokin' hot," J.Mike said. But he also found their ease of conversation wonderful, interesting and unusual. "We are both a little bit introverted," especially in some circumstances, such as large groups of people and first dates, but never with each other, he said. "That was pretty key for me."
After dating a year, Kara was ready to make a big commitment. J.Mike loved her, but said he was not mature enough for that step. "I was having fun, and was not looking to take on that much responsibility," he said.
They broke up, and did not speak for three months. Then Kara got a 4 a.m. call from her sister Lindsay, who had gone into labor.
Kara immediately called J.Mike. "I was so surprised that he answered the phone right away," she said.
"That surprised me, too," J.Mike said. He had always known how much Kara loves her family, but something in her voice that night underscored that point.
After Kara's niece Sofie was born, she sent J.Mike pictures. Two months after her birth, J.Mike's nephew Carter was born, and he sent her an update and photos, too.
About a month later, J.Mike was in Miami for work and thinking about Kara. "I asked her if she wanted to come join me. I told her I'd fly her down."
"I left the next day," Kara said.
They have been together since.
How does forever sound?
J.Mike invited Lindsay and her now-husband Jim to New York for New Year's Eve 2013.
Kara loves fireworks, and J.Mike knew they could watch the city's from Brooklyn Bridge Park - even though it's not an official viewing spot.
The group was running late for the midnight display, and literally began running toward the park, with J.Mike and Kara in the lead.
J.Mike had no time to scope the perfect location, so he knelt where he was.
"I don't want to spend another minute of another year of my life not married to you," he told Kara.
She bent down, kissed him, and said yes.
"I didn't cry," she said. "I think I was too out-of-breath from running."
Lindsay and Jim, who had watched from afar, arrived moments later, followed by a police car.
In the park after-hours, the couple thought they were in a bit of trouble. The officer turned on his loudspeaker.
"Congratulations on your engagement!" he said.
It was so them
The couple married at the Joseph Ambler Inn, in front of a huge, stone fireplace. Their officiant, Diane Smith-Hoban of Journeys of the Heart, had also married Lindsay and Jim.
"It felt really warm, really cozy, and very intimate - exactly what we wanted," J.Mike said.
The couple held the ceremony close to Lansdale so his grandmother Ila and her grandmother Sonja could attend with ease.
Kara's wedding band is the one her grandfather, Fritz, who died in October, had given to Sonja decades ago. J.Mike tucked one of Fritz's handkerchiefs into his lapel, and Kara carried another.
Just as Smith-Hoban began talking about Fritz, the fire crackled loudly.
"Everybody in the room heard it," J.Mike said.
"It was like he was just reminding everybody that he was there," Kara said.
Kara's niece was the flower girl and J.Mike's nephew the ring bearer.
Their 25 guests joined them for brunch. Instead of wedding cake, Kara and J.Mike served wedding pies: Her grandmother made two German apple ones, his made two strawberry ones.
Their February reception for 125 was not at the originally planned venue, which had gone bankrupt. Family, friends and strangers raised money to replace their lost deposit, and the couple found a new venue: Manhattan's Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, a nonprofit organization that supports people who are homeless and have or are affected by HIV/AIDS. Kara volunteers at a homeless shelter, where she reads to children.
The couple wore their wedding-day attire, but with its hors d'oeuvres, cocktail hour and packed dance floor, the second event felt more like a party than a wedding reception.
At the start of the ceremony, "my hands were shaking and the whole nine," J.Mike said. And then Kara was standing next to him. "I immediately felt like it was just us in the room. For just a second, I couldn't see anything else."
During their vows, the couple spoke of their new life together, and Kara had a similar sensation that it was just the two of them in the room, creating "our own little corner of the world."
A bargain: Lindsay, a florist, did the floral design and arranging as a gift. Friends gave discounts on photography and invitations, and Housing Works offered all couples who had booked at the bankrupt venue 20 percent off.
The splurge: Ten days in Hawaii, where they did everything they wanted, including taking a helicopter ride in Kauai, and ate everything they wanted, including a $50 burger with Wagyu beef, foie gras, and lobster tail.
Love: BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: Diane Smith-Hoban, Journeys of the Heart, Lafayette Hill.
Venues: Ceremony and brunch: Joseph Ambler Inn, Horsham. Reception: Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, New York.
Catering: Housing Works.
Photo: Jennifer Brown, Brooklyn.
Music: DJ James Mulry, Brooklyn.
Dress: Designed by Nicole Miller, purchased at Lovely Bride, New York.
Flowers: Ceremony: Lindsay Rodemer Lucas, sister of the bride, Flourtown. Reception: Bourgeon, Brooklyn.