Love: Joanna Lopinto & John Johnson

September 28, 2012, in Philadelphia

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Joanna Lopinto & John Johnson

Hello there

Joanna's August 2010 job interview at a South Philadelphia doctor's office included a question she didn't expect: "Are you married or are you single?"

"Single," the nurse-practitioner told the man she would work with for the next couple of years.

"We'll get you married," he told her.

Four months later, Joanna was sweeping through the three exam rooms, hunting for the one office thermometer. She walked in on a fully clothed, and, she couldn't help but notice, very good-looking patient.

"Oh, excuse me!" Joanna said.

"That's OK," he said as she ducked out of the room.

John, a food and beverage controller for Morton's Steakhouse in Philadelphia, had been a patient at the office for 15 years, but it had been a long time since his last physical, which was what brought him in that day.

When the doctor came in, he had a lot more questions than usual, and some were unusual, "in the direction of, 'Are you happy with your job? Are you single?' " John remembered. "I answered all those questions, and then he asked me what I was doing Saturday night."

The doctor excused himself and found Joanna. "Write down your phone number," he said.

"What are you doing?" Joanna asked.

Said the doctor: "I'm giving you plans for Saturday night."

Joanna had a strong hunch her number was going to the cute guy, so she wrote it down.

On his way out, John looked at the women working there. Was Joanna this medical assistant? That one? The secretary?

But he didn't see Joanna.

"I saw him coming out of the room and I jumped and hid behind the filing cabinet," she said.

After a bout of bad luck with dates he had met on the Internet, John had vowed to be open to different ways of meeting people.

So with that pledge in mind, he called the number his doctor gave him that same evening. But it didn't work.

John says Joanna wrote down the wrong number.

Joanna says there is no way she did, but maybe he couldn't read her handwriting.

"I felt bad, because she was expecting my call," John said.

He called her at work the next day, wrote down her number, and tried again when she was home that night.

Their conversation lasted two hours and two glasses of wine.

Saturday night, John, who lived in South Philadelphia, drove the mile to Joanna's place. They walked together to Paradiso on Passyunk Avenue.

Her house became their house that April.

 

How does forever sound?

In August 2011, Joanna, 34, and John, 41, took a camping and hiking trip in the Catskills, near Woodstock.

Friday night brought a hard rain, so the two opened a pop-up plastic canopy over their chairs near the campfire. They opened a bottle of wine and talked in the firelight, taking turns jumping into the rain to put on another log.

John's heart swelled as he looked at his happy girlfriend, whose spirits were not dampened by a little bad weather. The couple had discussed marriage, and John was feeling very lucky to have such a partner. It was time, he thought, to make this happen.

After a hike the next day, John suggested they find an arboretum, or something like that. Joanna's phone told her there actually was an arboretum fairly close by.

"I have to get something out of the trunk," John told her when they arrived. She didn't see him remove a small box from the spare-tire storage space. John had been hiding the box for more than a month, waiting for the right time to give it to her.

They walked around the arboretum to a lovely grove of trees.

"John got down on both knees - not just one - and asked me to marry him," Joanna said.

He took the box out of his pocket, and opened it so Joanna could see the ring he had designed for her.

She hugged him tight and said yes.

 

It was so them

Engaged at one arboretum, the couple married at another: Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill.

One of their favorite features is the arboretum's Out on a Limb - think of an elevated boardwalk in the tree canopy. Before the wedding, they held a wine tasting with friends to select the New Zealand sauvignon blanc and Italian Chianti that were served among the leaves.

"The whole vibe of the wedding was wildflowers, and sort of rustic," Joanna said. "People literally said, 'This is exactly Joanna and John.' "

Despite the forecast of an 80 percent chance of rain, the skies stayed dry.

The couple were married by their friend Emily, who happens to be a pastor, in a nondenominational ceremony before 95 guests.

After Joanna's mother and father walked her to John's side, her father looked at her and whispered, "Anything you need."

Joanna and John wrote their own vows. She had been teary since her father's pledge to always be there for her, but really lost it when John told her, "You are my best friend."

As they placed the wedding rings on each other's fingers, Joanna and John were supposed to say, "With this ring I wed you."

During their at-home practices, sometimes silly John said, "With this ring, I be wed."

It apparently got stuck in his brain.

"With this ring, I be wed you," he said at the ceremony, and Joanna's tears were replaced by laughter that was nearly uncontrollable - especially since her groom was laughing, too.

 

Awestruck

"It's a well-established fact that I can't dance," John said. "So we took dance lessons together, for five weeks. I really wanted her to be proud."

To John's delight, when the Beatles' "I Will" began to play, he wasn't nervous at all, and enjoyed himself. "I just felt so in love with her," he said. "The dance ended, and I was sad that it wasn't a longer song."

Joanna, who recently started a new job at Thomas Jefferson Neurosurgery at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, felt a similar rush of love while sitting with John at their table for two. She looked over at her new husband, and out at their guests, including her 96-year-old grandmother who made the trip from Florida. "It was the best feeling," she said. "That's when it was really real."

 

Discretionary spending

A bargain: The videographer. The couple hired a Penn anthropology professor who does video on the side. Not only did she charge less than half compared with other videographers they considered, but her videos were more documentary style, with no "goofy special effects," said John.

The splurge: The couple planned to hire a school bus to take guests from Center City to the arboretum, but were persuaded by family to hire a charter bus instead. It cost nearly four times as much.

 

The getaway

Two weeks in Thailand and Cambodia.

BEHIND THE SCENES

Officiant

The Rev. Emily Wilmarth, The Presbyterian Church, Westfield, N.J.

Venue

Morris Arboretum, Philadelphia

Food

Joshua's Catering, Jenkintown

Music

Ceremony and cocktail hour, Christopher Bohn, www.christopherbohn.com; Reception: No Macarena, Philadelphia

Photography

Lindsay Docherty Photography, Philadelphia

Videography

The Good Life Films, Philadelphia

Flowers

Papertini, Philadelphia

Dress

Wtoo, purchased at the Bridal Garden, Marlton

Invitations

Very Special Devices, Philadelphia

Day-Of Coordinator

Laurie Buckman of Schleppers Concierge, Philadelphia