Love: Debbie Valsan & Georgee Thevervelil

June 16, 2012, in Philadelphia

Hello there

Debbie and Georgee met at Philadelphia's Central High School, and Debbie was soon nursing a crush.

"He was interesting to talk to, and it didn't hurt that he is really cute," Debbie said.

Georgee found Debbie attractive, but thought of her as his best friend. Sure, everyone was always telling him that Debbie liked him. Everyone was always telling Debbie that he liked her. "Neither of us believed anyone," Georgee said. They chalked it up to their friends' pushing the two Indian Americans to get together.

After graduating Central in 2002, Georgee majored in international relations and history at the University of Pennsylvania, and he and Debbie lost touch.

Debbie graduated from high school in 2003, and studied biology and English at Villanova University. Her sophomore year, she and Georgee ran into each other online and rekindled their friendship.

In the summer of 2005, the two spent a lot of time together, having dinner, seeing movies, or just hanging out.

By spring 2006, they still described their relationship as a friendship, but they didn't act like friends. Debbie and Georgee were constantly together, and would often hold hands.

The night before Georgee's May 15 graduation from Penn, Debbie's sister, Dawn, couldn't take it anymore. "I don't understand you two!" she said. "What are you doing?"

Debbie had to admit she didn't really know.

She attended Georgee's graduation. They both lived in Bustleton, and after returning from the ceremony, went for a walk through Pennypack Park.

Emboldened by her sister's question, Debbie turned to Georgee. "What are we?" she asked.

He shrugged. "I guess we're going out."


How does forever sound?

Despite that declaration, Debbie, who is now 26, and Georgee, now 27, found their new status a little awkward. "We were so used to being buds," Debbie said. "It took close to a year before we started using terms of endearment with each other," said Georgee.

It took a while to develop, but this was a relationship with staying power. After Penn, Georgee earned a law degree and a master's in business administration at the University of Pittsburgh. After Villanova, Debbie studied at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

By August 2011 they had been dating for five years, and there was no doubt that Georgee, who is now a second-year associate at Reed Smith, and Debbie, a resident at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, would marry.

But "I didn't know how to ask," Georgee said. Debbie kept sending him proposal videos from YouTube, and he was stressing about developing a good plan.

An idea came to him "in a moment of Zen," he said.

When they pulled in to Northeast Philadelphia Airport, nervous flier Debbie was terrified. She also strongly suspected Georgee was about to propose. "I was going to say, 'We don't have to do this, the answer is yes!' " Debbie remembered. "But I knew he must have worked hard on this."

So Debbie boarded the helicopter, and they began an aerial tour of important settings in the couple's story: Central High School, where they met. The Olive Garden at Grant and the Boulevard, where they had lunch after reconnecting in college. Pennypack Park, where they admitted they were dating. Their childhood homes. Penn and Villanova. Somewhere along the way, Debbie forgot she hated flying.

Hovering over the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Center City, Georgee asked her to marry him.


It was so them

The couple married at the Cathedral Basilica, in a mostly traditional Syro-Malankara Catholic Ceremony.

The Syro-Malankara Church is an Eastern Catholic church, and the couple's main officiant was Bishop Thomas Mar Eusebius, head of the church in the United States.

He was assisted by a team of other priests, including the Rev. Chanlis Chacko, the pastor at St. Jude, the couple's parish; and the Rev. Thomas Mathew, the groom's uncle.

Georgee was escorted to the front of the church by his parents, Varughese and Gracy, and his sister Joan. His sister Jennifer was a bridesmaid.

Debbie walked down the aisle with both of her parents, Valsan and Aleyamma. During the ceremony, Georgee gave her a manthragodi, a sari from his family that had been blessed by the church. The sari was folded into a 2-foot square, which he placed on Debbie's head to symbolize the roof of their home.

Georgee also tied a minna, a pendant with a cross on it, around Debbie's neck, with threads taken from the sari.

The bishop crowned Georgee and Debbie's heads with golden chains, to show they are the king and queen of their household.

Syro-Malankara ceremonies do not usually include vows. Weddings are seen as unions not just between two people, but between two people and God, Georgee explained. This is why it was the bishop who placed the rings on Debbie's and Georgee's fingers.

But Debbie "wanted a little bit of us" in the ceremony, she said. With the bishop's blessing, they wrote vows.

Debbie told Georgee she was amazed that God had brought them together, that someone like him would offer her so much love. She promised to always support him, and that their lives would be filled with love and laughter.

"It is easy to see why everyone calls you my better half," Georgee told Debbie, adding that he didn't deserve someone so wonderful. "I know with you at my right side, the best is yet to come," he said.

At the reception for 450, the bride and groom, bridal party, and some guests broke into a dance routine to the Indian pop song "Desi Girl," 'N Sync's "It's Gotta Be Me," and Cobra Starship's "You Make Me Feel."

"I always wanted to be in a flash mob," Debbie said.


This was unexpected

At the hotel the morning of the wedding, Debbie got a call from her mother: Debbie had left her wedding shoes in Georgee's car. Jarod, Georgee's cousin Aileen's husband, delivered them.

Mid-reception, Georgee was to change from his tux into a sherwani suit, and Debbie from her white wedding gown into the blessed sari.

On the way to the reception, Georgee realized he had left the sherwani at home. Jarod and Aileen came to the rescue again.



The day before the wedding, Georgee stopped by the florist's to pay the bill. The florist unexpectedly showed Georgee the white calla lily and blush rose bouquet that Debbie would carry the next day, and the sight gave Georgee an amazing feeling.

"Wow. I'm getting married tomorrow," he thought.

Leading up to the wedding, Debbie was worried about pleasing their families and guests, and balancing important traditions with personal touches. Her brain was constantly buzzing. But when she saw Georgee at the front of the church, all of that faded. "We're going to have the most amazing time now that we're finally going to be married," she thought.


Discretionary spending

A bargain: The couple chose a videographer whose prices were comparable to the others they considered, but included many more services. Among their favorites: a video summary of their love story that was shown before the bridal party's reception entrance (see it at

The splurge: Their favorite DJ cost about 25 percent more than others they considered.


The getaway

Debbie's residency prevented a post-wedding trip, but the couple, who live in the Art Museum neighborhood, plan to visit Brazil and Argentina in the fall.