Jessica Vogel and Jean-Luc Allegar
October 5, 2017, in Newtown Square
Jean-Luc looked quite fine in his U.S. Air Force uniform, but what really got Jess was the juxtaposition of the little brown dachshund in his arms.
She'd never dated a military man before, or anyone from a place as different from the Greater Philadelphia area as the Pacific Northwest. Heck, she'd always preferred big dogs! But maybe, she thought, she should try something different. She swiped right. Jean-Luc, drawn to her beauty and the poise she had polished as a part-time petite fashion model for QVC, had already done the same. They began talking through the Tinder app that had matched them, and their words made them more attractive to each other.
"She seemed very down to earth, and like she was trying to get to really know me," Jean-Luc said. "I just wanted more of Jess — to see her and talk to her in person."
"He had a good head on his shoulders," Jess said. "He had direction. He knew what he wanted in life." She liked it all.
They met two weeks later, on Sept. 5, 2015, in a very public place: The Market Street scissor ramp in Old City. They greeted with a hug, and soon decided to move their cars to a garage and walk to 2nd Story Brewing. After drinks, pretzel sticks, and easy-flowing conversation, Jess, who lived in West Chester with her parents and nannied when she wasn't modeling, and Jean-Luc, who lived at McGuire Air Force Base and was an air-traffic controller, decided to have dinner, as well.
"I wasn't creepy!" Jean-Luc said. Jess laughed. "He was fun." As they talked, a somewhat obscure Ben Folds song Jean-Luc likes began to play. "I don't believe in signs, but it felt like a sign," he said. What was more concrete: "She wasn't guarded — there wasn't anything she wouldn't talk about that night, so we got to know each other really well."
Jess felt the same way. "We just kept clicking."
And so they walked from Second and Chestnut to 15th and Sansom and the dance floor at Rumor nightclub. They danced, took their first joint selfie, and soon were making plans to take Baxter — the dog in his photo — and Jean-Luc's other dachshund, Luna, to the dog park together. "The fact that she really liked my dogs was a huge plus," Jean-Luc said.
On Oct. 5, a month after their first date, Jean-Luc asked Jess to be his girlfriend. They went to dinner a lot, and also hung out with Jess' family — parents Debbie and Bruce, brother Jake, sister Heather and her husband and six kids — for beach trips and holidays, as Jean-Luc's family was far away, in Castle Rock, Wash.
"He's so different from any other guy I had a relationship with in the past," Jess said. "He is career-driven, and more mature."
Jean-Luc would sometimes go with Jess to the homes where she nannied, where he saw her kindness and patience with the kids. "I was done spending time with girls I thought I didn't have a future with," he said. "I could see her being a mom; I could see her being a wife."
After four months of dating, Jess flew to Washington with Jean-Luc and met his parents, Billie and Douglas, his brothers Josh and Jake, and his sister, Justice. "I didn't know when, but I knew I was going to propose to her," Jean-Luc said.
Jean-Luc popped the question on Oct. 5, 2016. It was the first anniversary of their commitment, but more spontaneous than it sounds.
A few days before, Jean-Luc went to Jess' house after work and was stunned to see his mother sitting at the dining room table. "Why … how … are you here?" he stammered.
During a phone call a few weeks before, Billie told Jess she'd always wanted to see the East Coast in the fall, and Jess suggested they surprise Jean-Luc with a visit. "Your mom has a ticket to come to the [Seahawks vs. Jets] game with us, too," Jess told her still-shocked boyfriend.
She knew he was happy but didn't know that he was thinking: "OK, I just need to propose to this girl already."
Jean-Luc asked his mom to help him shop for a ring, and their searching led them back to Costco and a ring Jess had told Jean-Luc she loved.
On their anniversary, Jess confirmed that of course she didn't mind if his mom joined them for dinner. Jean-Luc and Billie went early, so that as Jess finished getting ready, Jean-Luc had time to talk to her dad and Mom-Mom. Her mom, still at work, found out later.
"Why don't we go to the bridge where you two first met, and I'll take some pictures," Billie suggested.
Jean-Luc knelt. "Will you make me the happiest man alive?" Jess put both hands over her heart, looked up to the sky, and shouted "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
When Jean-Luc's time with the Air Force was ending, the Federal Aviation Administration hired him. None of the airports they let him choose from was near Philadelphia, but Portland, Ore., is two hours from his parents. The couple moved to Vancouver, Wash., in May. Jess seeks work as a nanny, and intends to pursue a career in event planning.
It was so them
The couple married on the anniversary of both their first commitment to each other and their engagement — Oct. 5 — at the Ballroom at Ellis Preserve. The ceremony was led by Jean-Luc's dad, who, thanks to an online ordination, has officiated for Jean-Luc's siblings, too. The instrumentation technician-turned-reverend wrote a ceremony about love tailored just for the couple. He also wrote them a poem.
Jess' dad, a carpenter, built the arch they married under. Jess walked down the aisle to Ellie Golding's "How Long Will I Love You," sung by her cousin James. Lockets with photos of her paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother were tied to her bouquet, the stems of which were wrapped with lace from her mom's wedding gown and Jean-Luc's maternal grandmother's pearls.
The couple poured earth from his parents' backyard and her parents' backyard into a single pot. "Here and now, we vow to grow together," read the chalkboard sitting next to it. A tree will be planted in it in the spring.
The reception for 130 featured lavender cosmos and old-fashioneds. Guests received vintage-looking airplane bottle openers as favors, which kind of matched the groom's cuff links and socks. The bride and groom took lessons to dance to "Over and Over Again" by Nathan Sykes.
At the altar, Jess's dad placed her hand in Jean-Luc's. "Bruce was more emotional than I've ever seen him, and that's when I definitely knew it was all real," Jean-Luc said. "It was an incredible moment."
When the ceremony started, "We were staring into each other's eyes, and I hate to say it, but I don't remember all of what Douglas was saying," Jess said. "It felt like, OK, this is really it."
A bargain: The couple knew they wanted to marry on Oct. 5 — which just happened to fall on a Thursday. This rare wedding day yielded significant savings from their vendors, especially the Ballroom at Ellis Preserve. "We would not have been able to have our wedding there if we did it on a weekend," Jean-Luc said.
The splurge: The blush-tone Jasmine Bridal gown with ruffles was just a few hundred over budget when Jess tried it on. Alterations brought that to $700 over budget. "It was absolutely worth it!" Jess said.
Somewhere in Europe, sometime in 2018.
Behind the scenes
Officiant: Douglas Allegar, father of the groom.
Venue: The Ballroom at Ellis Preserve, Newtown Square.
Food: Finley Catering.
Cake: Termini Bros. Bakery, Philadelphia.
Music: Jay Roy Entertainment, Philadelphia.
Photography: Ashlee Mintz Photography, West Chester.
Videography: Dave Thomas, All Set Creations, Weatherly, Pa.
Flowers: Katie's Bouquet Shop, Bryn Mawr.
Dress: Jasmine Bridal, purchased, personalized, and altered at Irini's Originals, Wilmington.
Hair/Makeup: Shannon Redding (hair) and Morgan Bucks (makeup), Blush Salon, Newtown Square.