Elizabeth Clattenburg and Gavin Harkins
September 2, 2017, in Chestnut Hill
The woman with cool style and a dazzling smile kept right on dancing after her friends left the floor. Gavin had to talk to her. But what should he say?
"Do you know the DJ?" he asked that night in fall 2015.
Liz knew his question was an opening line, but she was open to meeting someone that night. "I know it sounds cheesy, but before I went, I told [friend Anna], 'I'm meeting my husband at this party.' I just had this feeling."
Besides, even if Gavin wasn't the guy, he seemed nice. So she answered his question: "No."
"I do," Gavin said. It was DJ Matt Crouse, who had invited him to Blue Visual Effect's studio open house that night. Liz was there courtesy of Anna, who then worked for Blue.
Liz and Gavin were more interested in talking than dancing, so they went into another room where the music wasn't as loud. Liz, a Wyndmoor native who lived in Washington Square West and was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, told Gavin about her surrealist landscapes. Gavin, a food service professional, grew up in Chestnut Hill. He had spent about 10 years in Maine, and graduated from high school on Islesboro. He had lived in Virginia, where he went to flight school. Most recently, he'd tended bar and waited tables in Brooklyn for about four years. Gavin missed home, and now that he was back and living in South Philadelphia, he wanted to stick around. Liz agreed Philadelphia is a very cool place to be.
When the party ended, they exchanged numbers. Gavin surprised Liz by calling her. "People don't call anymore, they text," she said. "Gavin would call when he wanted to get in touch with me, and I really liked that."
Their first date, at Time on Sansom Street, soon followed. They quickly discovered a significant list of friends in common. They found these shared friendships comforting and spending time with each other simultaneously incredibly interesting and extremely easy. They've been inseparable since.
Gavin, who is now 32 and works in restaurant service, admires the passion Liz has for her art and her brilliance as an artist. She will have her first solo exhibition in September at the Waverly Heights retirement community in Gladwyne.
He was thrilled that she shares his love of travel, and their ability to get along so well when traveling together was a big clue to him that they would always be a good match. Besides all that, "She is very kind, very family oriented, has a great smile, and is very pretty," Gavin said.
Liz, also now 32, said Gavin is more kind than anyone she'd ever previously dated, has an uncanny ability to calm her down when she's stressed or upset, and constantly cracks her up. "I just wanted to be with him all the time, and I think that's what falling in love with someone is," she said.
On Memorial Day weekend 2016, the couple, who by then lived together in Washington Square West, traveled to Detroit for the Movement Electronic Music Festival.
One of Liz's molars had just been extracted, and she was having an awful allergic reaction to the medicines prescribed. "I was all swollen and blotchy, and we couldn't find an open pharmacy, and, really, I just wanted to go back to Philadelphia," she said.
They had been having fun with their friends at the festival, however, and talking about the good music and the good time they were having that weekend led to a discussion about their lives in general. "Things got really sentimental, and that's when I realized I want to marry this girl," Gavin said.
It took about five minutes to gather his thoughts and courage and ask, "May I have your hand in marriage?"
Liz was completely surprised — and, really, so was Gavin. She smiled, he cried, she said yes. Gavin called his sister, Lexy, and father, Richard, who, also surprised by the sudden news, thought he was joking at first.
It was just as well he didn't have a ring that day, as it wouldn't have fit her swollen finger, Liz said.
Gavin's mom, Natalie, died when he was in his early 20s. Lexy gave Gavin their mom's engagement ring to present to Liz.
The couple wed in an Episcopalian ceremony at the Church of St. Martin- in-the-Fields — the church Liz attended growing up, which is right around the corner from Gavin's childhood home. Their reception for 150 was held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, where Liz spent much time when she was younger, as her parents, Anita and Terry, are members.
The morning of the wedding, everything was set, but the New York photographer who was set to document the day — from getting ready through reception — was missing. Liz's maid of honor, Anna — the same Anna who invited her to the party where she met Gavin — called to see where he was. The photographer initially said he was coming but later called the father of the bride to say there had been a family emergency and he would not make it.
Anna and the bridesmaids sprang into action. One of them knows photographer Rebecca Barger, who rushed to make it in time to take photos before the 4 p.m. ceremony "She basically saved the day," Liz said.
Liz's brother, Will, and Gavin's sister did the readings.
Band All About Me kept the couple and their guests on the dance floor. "The main ballroom was very elegant. The band was really awesome, the food was great, the drinks were flowing, and we were in really good company," Gavin said.
So much thought and planning had gone into their wedding day. Excitement and a nervousness akin to stage fright gripped both bride and groom until the pastor pronounced them husband and wife. As soon as they got to the Cricket Club, Liz literally pulled Gavin into a side room and hugged him tight. "It was nice to have that moment alone, to take a little time to acknowledge what was happening," she said. "The hard part was over, and now we could go have fun," said Gavin. "It was a special moment, for sure. We were well on our way."
A bargain: Gavin so loved the silky floral tie he found on Amazon that the couple bought them for their dads, her brother, and all four groomsmen, too. Everyone agreed they looked great, which both pleased and amused the couple. "They looked awesome, but they were dirt cheap. Little did they know." Gavin said.
The splurge: All About Me "cost a lot of money, but was absolutely fabulous," Gavin said. "All that people have been talking about is our band," Liz said. "They were worth every penny."
Four days in Singapore and 10 in Thailand.
Officiant: The Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Philadelphia.
Ceremony: Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Philadelphia.
Reception: The Philadelphia Cricket Club, Philadelphia.
Cake: Bredenbeck's, Philadelphia.
Photography: Rebecca Barger Photography, Jenkintown.
Videography: Sky Orphan Productions.
Flowers: Petals Lane Inc., Philadelphia.
Dress: Pronovias, purchased at Van Cleve Bridal, Paoli.
Hair/Makeup: Bryona Smith, Salon Thalia, Philadelphia.