With Hurricane Irene aiming for the region in August 2011, Leah and her friend Stephanie thought they'd ride out the storm together at Leah's Arch Street apartment.
"I invited her to camp out in my building, the Phoenix, because I thought there was no way we would lose power," Leah remembered. But Irene found a way, and it made their adventure much more like actual camping than the women intended.
Stephanie wondered whether her building, the Sterling, had better luck.
Over on JFK Boulevard, Dan answered Stephanie's phone call. They had been childhood neighbors in Wynnewood until he moved away in the sixth grade, then, a month before the hurricane, they recognized each other in their building elevator - neighbors again! - and exchanged numbers.
"Yes, we still have power," Dan told her. "We're also having a big hurricane party, and you and your friend should come over."
Walking a block seemed a reasonable price for power and a party, said Leah, who grew up in Cherry Hill. Then they got outside. "We had to grab on to poles and things to not blow away."
"I like to say she had to fight her way through a hurricane in order to meet me," quips Dan, who is now an application development manager for Bank of America.
They eventually made it safe but soaked, and Stephanie introduced Leah to Dan. "He was loud and boisterous and charming," Leah said.
Leah crashed at Stephanie's. The next day, with the intense part of Irene over, Leah's thoughts turned to work. She was project manager in charge of a consulting trip the next day and needed to go back to her apartment to pack and touch base with everyone else going on the trip. That's when she realized her phone and keys were missing.
Stephanie called Dan to see whether Leah had left them at the party. She hadn't. As the friends retraced their steps, re-searched Stephanie's apartment, then gave up and found a replacement phone and keys, Dan kept checking in.
"He kept calling Stephanie to ask how I was doing, if I'd found my things," Leah said. "That's when I really took notice of him."
Dan is that nice a guy, but he also admits to a ulterior motive: "I thought she was very attractive," he said of Leah. He regretted not talking to her more at the party, and then fate handed him an excuse to get back in touch.
While Leah was out of town, Dan, his roommate, Andrew, and Stephanie planned a group outing.
At a now-defunct Center City bar, Dan and Leah got to know each other better. They had fun talking, which, with the help of a few drinks, led to their first kiss.
"He is really goofy, in the best way possible," said Leah, who is now strategic partnership manager for LearnQuest, her family's IT training company. "I tend to be really serious, but I let my guard down around him."
"At the beginning, before I knew her, I saw that she was beautiful, and has a nice smile, and I really liked her laugh," said Dan. "After I got to know her, it was 100 percent about her heart. She's the most caring, kind, and loving person I've ever met."
How does forever sound?
By 2014, Dan and Leah, now both 29, were sharing a place at the Phoenix. One Friday in late June, Dan told Leah he'd like to take her to dinner that night but they would have to go early. Leah had a ton of family coming in the next day for her mom's birthday, and she told Dan she'd rather stay home. He tried persuasion, and then simply told her dinner was nonnegotiable.
Leah immediately realized what was up. And Dan realized that she realized. Neither said anything.
She worked from home that day, and after her shower found a cup of coffee with a note: "I love you. I hope you have a great day."
"I think Dan's going to propose today," Leah texted to a friend.
At lunchtime came a surprise delivery of chicken noodle soup and Caesar salad from Devon and Blakely - her favorite. Flowers arrived later.
Dan walked in that afternoon much less talkative than usual and immediately poured himself a scotch. A cab took them to Fourth and Market - not to a restaurant, but to a horse-drawn carriage. Dan, who did a lot of logistics work ahead of time, greeted the horse by name. In the carriage, he produced champagne and two red Solo cups. They were touring Old City when the horse stopped. Dan knelt in the carriage and asked Leah to marry him. She said yes, and they continued around a corner, where her parents, Lucy and Yuri; his parents, Devany and Bob; and her best friend were waiting. The whole group, plus Dan's sister and her boyfriend, shared a celebratory dinner.
It was so them
The couple, who now live in Society Hill, wed in a Jewish ceremony at the Union League. Rabbi Eli Freedman told the story of a Jewish woman of Russian heritage and a Lutheran man whose family tree is rooted deep in North Dakota. He explained the significance of the signing of the ketubah - the Jewish marriage contract - and the chuppah - the canopy the couple stands under during the ceremony, which symbolizes home.
The reception for 170 followed at the same location. The couple's first dance started slow. "Then we got all Saturday Night Fever with it," Dan said. "That set the tone that we were there to party," added Leah.
After the reception, everyone headed to an after-party at the Ritz for drinks and cheesesteaks.
On their wedding day, Leah really did not want to see Dan until their ceremony. The photographer and videographer persuaded her that, logistically, there really was no other way. Because they'd had their first look at each other for those photos, Leah was surprised by how nervous she was waiting to walk down the aisle. "Are you OK?" her mom and dad took turns asking. And then Dan, already at the front of the room, lifted his head and looked right into her eyes. "He smiled as if to say, 'We got this,' as if he knew that I had been nervous. And I was immediately calm."
After the ceremony, while their guests enjoyed cocktails, the couple was whisked away for some alone time. "Up until that point, it was all of this activity: rehearsal dinner, getting ready with the groomsmen, then pictures, then the wedding," Dan said. "But then, boom! It was just the two of us. And that was when it hit me. This is what life's going to be. Coming to that realization and feeling so happy about it was awesome."
A bargain: Chick Invitations worked with Leah to get the look she wanted in the most affordable way possible.
The splurge: Nothing is so quintessentially old Philadelphia as the Union League, Leah said. "But we had sticker shock all over the place."
Ten days in Greece.
Love: BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: Rabbi Eli Freedman of Congregation Rodeph Shalom, Philadelphia.
Venue: The Union League, Philadelphia.
Catering: The Union League.
Photo: Susan Beard Design Photography, Philadelphia.
Flowers: Jamie Rothstein Floral Design, Philadelphia.
Music: The Jack Faulkner Orchestra, Philadelphia.
Dress: Designed by Berta Bridal, purchased at the Wedding Factor, Philadelphia,
Day-of coordinator: Stewart Mahan of the Union League.
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