Jayna Patel and Chip Schofield
Aug. 9, 2016, in Wynnewood, and Feb. 11, 2017, in Philadelphia
Jayna's friend Caroline promised her she wouldn't be a fifth wheel at Caroline's spring 2012 birthday celebration at now-closed Chifa. "She told me there were going to be a lot of single guys there," Jayna remembered.
Caroline's then-boyfriend, now-husband, Jared, was simultaneously and similarly encouraging his friend Chip to attend. "He told me there would be a lot of single ladies," Chip recalled. "They both lied."
When Jayna walked in, a bit late and really hungry, everyone was already eating, and the only available seat was next to the one other single person: Chip.
"He offered me his fish tacos," she said. The tacos were good. So was their conversation.
"We were both making jokes -- it was perfect," Chip said.
Between laughs, they covered the basics: She was earning her master's in occupational therapy at the University of the Sciences. He held a master's in social work from Temple University and was working on a second and certification in school psychology at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Jayna, who is now 32, grew up in Scranton and moved here for school in 2008. Chip, now 37, grew up in Overbrook Park.
Chip asked to see Jayna again. He planned something fancy-ish in Old City, but she suggested simple: City Tap House, near her West Philly apartment. That night was even better than the setup.
"I felt like I had known him a long time," Jayna said.
"I was really into the fact that she is someone who likes to help people," Chip said. "She wanted to make a difference in people's lives."
Jayna returned to Scranton for six months to do internships at local hospitals, then moved back to Philadelphia. She got a place in Fishtown, where Chip lived, and landed a job at a Center City rehab hospital. Chip worked as a school psychologist for the Delaware County Intermediate Unit.
On a Tuesday in December 2015, Chip got ready for work. Jayna packed his lunch and kissed him goodbye.
Two hours later, her dad called from Scranton. "Why is Chip here?" he asked on her voice mail.
"Chip is at work," Jayna texted back. "I saw him leave today."
But Chip was, in fact, in her parents' living room. He had taken the day off to visit her parents, Leela and Ramesh, and to ask Ramesh for his blessing.
Jayna had also been texting with her friend Leanne about evening plans, and she shared her confusion over her dad's message.
Luckily, Leanne was in on Chip's secret. She told Jayna she didn't see how Chip could be in Scranton, as Jayna had seen him that morning. Leanne sent Chip a warning that Jayna was suspicious -- something he'd gathered because Jayna was texting him, too.
Chip worried his secret mission was blown. Then Jayna's brother Tej, home from college, wove for Jayna an elaborate tale about how a friend from school who looks remarkably like Chip was visiting and temporarily confused their father.
Jayna was suspicious but went with the story.
That Saturday, with Ramesh's blessing procured, Chip took Jayna to dinner at Devon. After, they walked in Rittenhouse Square, where a man played guitar and sang Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay."
"Oh, my God, how does this guy know to play our song?" Jayna asked. "Have a dollar ready for him." Chip -- who had hired the musician -- pulled her close to dance for a few bars. Friends hidden around the square snapped pictures as Chip knelt on the concrete and Jayna said yes.
They met friends at Parc to celebrate. A conversation that night with a friend of their friend Catherine revealed coming openings for both an occupational therapist and a school psychologist -- jobs the couple landed by the start of the next school year.
When and how?
From the moment the two were engaged, Jayna's parents, Chip's dad, Clay; mom, Susan; stepdad, Ross, and just about every other family member very much wanted to discuss two things the couple very much did not want to discuss: When were Jayna and Chip getting married? And would they have a Hindu wedding, honoring Jayna's family traditions, or a Jewish wedding, honoring Chip's?
In spring 2016, they bought their Old Richmond home. "That was a diversion for awhile, because we could say, 'We have no money for a wedding now,' " Jayna said.
That August, Chip's Bubbe Ruthe became very ill, requiring multiple surgeries, and went into the ICU for weeks. When she was awake, she would say to Chip and Jayna, "I really wish you guys would just get married."
The couple offered a bribe: If Ruthe ate and participated in therapy, they would get married. The next day, Ruthe walked with a therapist; she started eating. "I guess we have to live up to our part of the deal," Chip said.
The couple met with the hospital chaplain, got a Montgomery County marriage license, and stopped on the way to Lankenau Medical Center for two 14-karat gold rings from Kmart. They married in their only guest's hospital room.
The couple still wanted a wedding with family and friends and were saving for it when Chip's mom posted a link to the Mamma Mia! Wedding Giveaway, sponsored by the Kimmel Center and Garces Events, to Jayna's Facebook Page -- one week before entries were due. Using iMovie, they created a 30-second film about themselves, their cultures, and their families.
As finalists, they won tickets to Mamma Mia!. "It was awesome, but there was a lot of anxiety sitting through an entire show about a wedding, waiting to know," Chip said. After the performance, the cast announced their names.
They had six weeks to plan a wedding and reception with the participating vendors. The ceremony, created by Journeys of the Heart officiant Diane Smith-Hoban, was not religious, but it blended elements of Jewish and Indian tradition with stories of the couple and their families. The bride wore a red-and-gold sari, the groom wore a blue suit, and the couple married beneath a chuppah adorned with marigolds -- the Indian wedding flower -- and draped with Chip's grandfather's tallis, and Jayna's mom's wedding sari. A bowl of candles represented the sacred Hindu fire pit, and Chip stepped on a glass in the Jewish tradition.
Chip promised that Jayna would never have to struggle without him right next to her. Jayna promised always to encourage Chip to be the unique spirit he is.
Bubbe Ruthe, soon to be 95 and doing much better, was among the 115 guests.
DJ Ben Ostroff provided a mix of '90s hip-hop, traditional and contemporary Indian music, Motown, and Jewish standards for the hora. Jayna's cousin Riya performed a classical Indian expressive dance called a bharatnatayam.
Garces Catering created veggie main courses especially to accommodate the couple's many vegetarian guests.
An hour before the ceremony, Chip saw Jayna for the first time in her wedding sari and jewelry. "There were seconds where I couldn't even remember anything but the moment I was in," he said. "Seeing her looking that beautiful and knowing that she was my wife was really amazing."
After Jayna reached Chip at the end of the aisle, they clasped hands and turned toward their guests. "Everyone was there, smiling right back at us," Jayna said. "I felt an overwhelming sense of love."
A bargain: Winning the wedding.
The splurge: The prize included a dress from David's Bridal, but Jayna wanted a sari from India, and traditional jewelry, too. Chip's mother and grandmother wore dresses from David's Bridal, however.
An eight-day spring trip to Cuba.
BEHIND THE SCENES:
Wedding sari: Imported from India.