On a March morning in 2010, Monica unenthusiastically appeared at the Delaware County Courthouse, prepared to serve as a juror, if she had to.
When she moved to a courtroom for jury selection, she noticed a familiar-looking sheriff's deputy. Could that be Vince, her high school sweetheart?
All of a sudden, she was hoping to be chosen, just to satisfy her curiosity.
Monica and Vince had been an item in 1997, when she was a junior and he a sophomore at Upper Darby High. Their romance began in the spring, but Monica ended it that fall. She liked Vince. A lot. But she wasn't sure how to balance the time demands of a serious relationship with her dedication to the marketing club. Not able to think of a solution, she broke up with him.
They remained best friends through high school. Two years after their breakup, she was his date for senior prom, and they later carpooled to Delaware County Community College.
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, motivated Vince to leave college for the Army. He served in Korea in 2002 and 2003. Later that year, he deployed to Iraq with the Fourth Infantry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas. Monica transferred to Temple University, where she earned an education degree.
They lost touch until fall 2006, when Monica saw Vince at Granite Run Mall, where he was security supervisor. Monica was with her parents, Bill and Phyllis. "I had seen this guy walking toward us in uniform, and thought, 'He's cute!' He got closer, and I saw it was Vince," Monica remembers.
As they caught up on each other's lives, Monica dropped a huge hint: She told Vince she had been engaged, but called it off, and was currently completely single.
"Oh," Vince said, awkwardly. "I'm engaged."
Phyllis doesn't remember this, but Monica swears her mom said: "Things can happen."
Monica wished hard that the floor would open up and swallow her.
She was thinking about all of this at the courthouse, when the deputy caught her eye, and gave her a little nod. It was indeed Vince.
Monica, who is now 31, served her jury duty. When the trial ended, Vince, now 32, sent her a Facebook friend request. His engagement hadn't worked out, and he was single. Was she single?
She was not. But they rekindled their friendship.
That June, Monica and her parents, both of whom are cancer survivors, were at a survivors celebration at Delaware County Memorial Hospital. Her father was a speaker. She turned around, and there was Vince, with his parents, Mike and Nancy, who also are both cancer survivors.
Monica couldn't believe how excited she was to see him.
Her relationship ended that October. It wasn't long after that she and Vince were dating again. And it wasn't long after that when Vince began looking at engagement rings.
How does forever sound?
Vince still is a Delaware County sheriff's deputy, now working in the warrants division, and a sergeant in the Army Reserves. Monica worked as a teacher's assistant at Upper Darby High School for a while, but then decided to change careers. She is currently working on a degree and certificate in paralegal studies at Delaware County Community College, and works part time for William E. Sockwell Associates, her parents' medical equipment consulting firm.
On Easter weekend 2011, the couple took a trip to Cape May, and sat on the same bench where they had decided to become boyfriend and girlfriend six months earlier.
Vince gave Monica a stuffed brown bunny and a romantic card. When she looked up to say thank you, he was down on one knee. "Monica Marie Sockwell, will you marry me?" he asked.
It was so them
Monica and Vince were married on what would have been her maternal grandparents' 72d anniversary. Both Phil and Vi have passed away, but their photos were on a memorial table, along with a bouquet of white carnations - the same flowers Vi carried down the aisle.
The new couple were introduced at their reception as Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" played. The song was in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, a movie the couple saw back in high school. Vince was working at a theater then, and he gave Monica the promotional poster. It now hangs in the hallway at their Drexel Hill apartment.
Their first dance was a waltz to Trisha Yearwood's "How Do I Live."
This didn't happen at rehearsal
Vince is a big Eagles fan, so Monica hired the Philadelphia Eagles Pep Band to surprise him at the reception. Vince laughs remembering it. "When they walked in, I thought they were in the wrong place. Then they started playing, and my heart stopped. It was awesome." Everyone else loved it, too. "I was quite proud of myself," Monica said.
"When I first saw her coming down the aisle, I cried like a big baby," Vince said. "I was just so happy, and she was so beautiful. My emotions just got the best of me."
For Monica, that was an amazing moment. She had seen Vince tear up before, but never like that. And she knew it was because he was happy. "All I could think was, 'This is everything I have ever really wanted, since I was 16.' "
Vince said looking into Monica's eyes when they said their vows was "the best moment of my life."
A bargain: The bridesmaids, maid of honor, and mother-of-the-bride dresses were all handmade by a seamstress, Ronnie Henderson. Monica got her contact information from the JoAnn Fabrics in Marple Crossroads Shopping Center. Each dress was made of quality fabric, tailored to each woman, and cost no more than a typical bridal-store dress, Monica said.
The splurge: The pep band. "It was worth it just to see his face," Monica said.
A week in Las Vegas.
Behind the Scenes
The Rev. Jeri E. Williams, Drexel Hill Baptist Church
Ceremony: The Williamsburg Chapel at Arlington Cemetery, Drexel Hill
Reception: Drexelbrook catering and banquet facility, Drexel Hill
David M. Branson Photography Inc., Garnet Valley
Marianne Burger of “I Do” Videos Inc., West Grove
Just You and Me D.J., Aston
Belvedere Flowers, Havertown