Meredith Bush and Aaron Brill
August 8, 2017, in San Francisco and October 7, 2017, in Philadelphia
They met at a June 2010 Phish concert at the BB&T Pavilion. Meredith, who grew up in Marlton, lived in Philadelphia, where she was an accountant. Aaron grew up in Lower Merion, but since 2003 has lived in San Francisco, where he teaches outdoor education and tech integration at the San Francisco Day School. Some of her friends had been friends of Aaron's since their high school days at Episcopal Academy, and one of them had bought a passel of tickets to the show.
They had fun dancing with their friends at that show. Meredith, Aaron, and about 10 others in the group began spending much of their vacation time and discretionary income to travel to Phish and other shows around the country. "The whole group became really tight," Aaron said.
Concert by concert, he and Meredith became good friends. "She was really easygoing, and on the level," he said.
"He was such an honest and genuine friend," Meredith said.
They talked about concerts, music, restaurants, and cooking. Soon, they found they could talk to each other about nearly anything and were often each other's sounding board on the romantic relationships they had with other people. Their friendship lasted and grew closer long after those other relationships ended.
Aaron had been single for nearly a year and Meredith for nearly two years when she finally allowed herself to consider the feelings she had been rationalizing away. Perhaps obstacles such as the geography between them were worth overcoming.
In May 2014, as Aaron's birthday approached, Meredith scoured eBay for Phish memorabilia. She sent him a brochure, map, and plastic cup from the first show Aaron attended. Meredith signed the card: "To eternal joy and never-ending splendor."
"It changed my whole perspective," Aaron said. "Clearly, she had been listening to me over the years, because that gift struck right into who I am. I was blown away."
They saw each other that summer, when Aaron made his annual trip east. The vibes between them had changed, but neither openly acknowledged it until that August. "I want to take you out on a proper date this week," Aaron, now 36, told Meredith, now 34.
At the now-defunct Petruce et al, the waiter was still pouring their champagne when Aaron spilled the more important things: "I'm really into you. I'm really not into long-distance relationships, but I have an amazing life in San Francisco," he said. "Please respond."
"I'm really into you," Meredith said. "And I'm willing to make the move, if we can make it work."
They left their first real date as a couple, with a goal that Meredith would move to California by Jan. 1.
After a week of constant togetherness, Aaron returned home. They spoke by phone daily and saw each other on one coast or the other four times, including when Meredith flew out for a job interview in October. The first week of January 2015, she moved to San Francisco. The following October, she moved in to Aaron's Western Edition home, where they still live.
Once they stopped trying to talk themselves out of what they felt, the couple's love grew quickly, Meredith said.
"He's got that big magnetic smile that makes you want to see what he's up to," she said. "He likes to have a good time, but he's also caring and sensitive. And manly. He's dreamy."
Aaron said Meredith is a fantastic partner. "She prioritizes us, and she's fiercely loyal. She's an excellent dancer. She's smart and tough – she's the package," he said. "She's what I was looking for."
In July 2016, the couple took a friend up on an offer to stay at his home in Lake Tahoe, Calif. The Squaw Valley Ski Resort keeps a lift running even in summer, with a pool and hot tub at the top. It was on the ride that Aaron found out Meredith is very much not into heights. " 'Look at these views! Look at the lake!' I said. She was looking at her shoes, white-knuckling it, and breathing deeply."
Uh-oh, Aaron thought. But they proceeded. Off the gondola, he suggested a climb to the top of an outcropping of boulders so they could have some privacy. "No," Meredith said. His expression persuaded her to try, but her nerves made her an awkward hiker. Aaron found himself in outdoor education teacher mode, suggesting she lower her center of gravity. That did not make her happy, so Aaron stopped with the hints she wasn't finding so helpful.
Once at the top, Aaron wanted to make sure his breath was fresh for the celebratory kisses he hoped were soon coming. He took an apple out of his backpack. "Want to share an apple with me?" he asked.
As Meredith chewed, she wondered what, exactly, was happening. She had reluctantly climbed because she knew Aaron wanted to, but she could not wait to get back down.
Aaron could tell she was ready to go. "Hang on a minute, I have a question to ask you," he said. "Will you marry me?"
Meredith was shocked, then excited. "It's always been you!" she exclaimed.
"Thank you," Aaron said. "Answer my question."
"Oh yes! Yes!" she said. And then she had a question for him: "How do I get down?"
It was so them
The couple opted to wed at San Francisco City Hall on the Mayor's Balcony — an ornate space overlooking the grand staircase and rotunda.
The ceremony was led by their friend David, who became ordained online to do the honors. Including the couple, 16 people were present. Most were family, including Aaron's parents, Lynn and Charlie, and Meredith's mom, Sondra, dad, Alan, and stepmom, Cindy. Stepdad Frank couldn't attend, but he texted and called with good wishes.
Aaron's niece Sophie and nephew Ben performed a piece about love from Calvin and Hobbes. The couple's parents did readings.
During their vows, Aaron told Meredith: "You always say, 'If you want something, ask for it.' Well, I want this." Meredith promised to always keep the kid in him alive.
Two months later, the couple held a local reception they could celebrate with many more friends and family members in Philadelphia – 180 of them. "My mom picked the venue – she looked for a place that would be exactly what we wanted," Meredith said. She and Aaron agree Stotesbury Mansion was perfect. The first floor provided space quiet enough for conversation and a dance floor. The second held the bar and photo booth. The third had two billiards tables and a cigar lounge.
They had first heard the California Honeydrops play in San Francisco, at officiant David's 50th birthday party, and they brought them to Philly.
Meredith and Aaron loved the Honeydrops' versatility with soul, funk, and New Orleans Second Line. "We wanted a band we loved, that was musically great and would also please the crowd," Aaron said. People danced all night.
The couple greeted their guests for the first half-hour of the reception, then retreated for a few private moments together in the ballroom. "I was bursting with joy," Meredith said. "It was, 'It's here, and it's happening.' It was so overwhelming and exciting and everything I wanted."
Aaron felt that way, too. In the middle of the reception, his dad pulled him aside. "He asked me, 'Would you change anything?' And I couldn't think of a single thing," Aaron said. "It was just perfect."
The budget crunch
A bargain: The couple didn't want to spend a lot on invitations. Thanks to friend Leah, who works at Shutterfly, they didn't need to. Leah helped with design, and also told them when sales and coupons were available.
The splurge: Their budget began with the band. They made everything else fit around it.
Two weeks in Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Hong Kong in summer 2018.
Behind the scenes
Officiant: David Cherner, friend of the couple.
Ceremony venue: San Francisco City Hall, Mayor's Balcony.
Reception venue: Stotesbury Mansion, Philadelphia.
Catering: Feastivities Events, Philadelphia.
Music: California Honeydrops.
Photography: Hoffer Photography, Downingtown.
Dress: Designed by Anna Maier. Purchased at Nordstrom.
Hair/Makeup: Maria at Rescue Spa, Philadelphia.
Artwork: Brian Steely designed a logo featuring a Brill fish, the Liberty Bell, the Golden Gate Bridge, and other images from the couple's life.