Just days after leaving her parents' Cherry Hill home for a Parc Rittenhouse apartment, pediatric nurse Mia went to her first residents' party.
Just days after leaving New York for an oral-surgery residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Mike went to the same June 2013 party. He had moved into the Parc Rittenhouse that weekend, and had noticed a cute woman showing her family around the gym the day before. There she was, conveniently standing with a bunch of other twentysomething residents.
"Hi, I'm Mike," he told the group. "I'm Mia," said the cute woman, and the two of them talked almost exclusively to each other for the rest of the evening.
He had grown up in Long Grove, outside Chicago, and had just finished dental school at NYU. She had earned her nursing degree at Drexel and worked at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in the pediatric ICU. After discovering they both loved to run, they exchanged numbers and agreed to meet in the lobby the next morning. Once at the Schuylkill River Trail, Mia, who thought this actually was about running, put on her headphones.
"I didn't bring headphones," Mike said. "Every time I asked her something, she'd take the headphones off to answer, then put them back on."
But there was time for talking off the trail. The run was followed by lunch at the Ninth Street Italian Market, and daily togetherness thereafter. Mike's residency didn't start for two weeks, and Mia worked nights. "We would go for a run, hang out by the pool, and then go do something," Mia said. "I was his tour guide of Philly."
Despite their mutual attraction, neither wanted a relationship. "It was ill timing. I was starting school in a couple of months," said Mia, who is now just months from finishing Drexel's nurse anesthesia program.
"I wanted to focus on work," Mike said, "and on being in a new city."
Then one evening, after Mike had started his residency, they went out for a few drinks. They kissed.
Two weeks later, at the WXPN music festival, Mike asked Mia to be his girlfriend.
"It was just so easy," Mia said. "It was having a best friend - we connected on so many different things: We're both in the medicine world. We both enjoy exercising, traveling, going out to find good restaurants, we like all the same music," she said. "I had never found that in another person before."
Mike loves their similarities, too, but also admires what's different about Mia. "She is some things that I'm not but aspire to be," he said. "She's always really bubbly and excited about everything. She's an easygoing, go-with-the-flow person," he said. "We never get sick of each other - we love spending time together."
In August 2014, Mike left his studio and moved three floors up to her one-bedroom, where they still live.
How does forever sound?
The couple, now both 29, headed to Boston for a friend's 2015 Labor Day weekend wedding, in which Mike was a groomsman. After, he and Mia drove farther north for a week in Kennebunkport, Maine. He had big plans.
"We left early in the morning, and I took all of our luggage to the lobby," Mike said. He was most focused on his duffel bag, which contained a little box from a Chicago jewelry store that would play a key role in Kennebunkport.
Thirty minutes outside Boston, another groomsman sent a group text. "Oh, man. I forgot my suit."
Mike and Mia laughed. "What an idiot," Mike said, soon followed by, "Oh, my God!" He pulled over, threw open the trunk, and found it devoid of the garment bag containing his suit and Mia's dress.
"We spent the afternoon in the mall turbo-shopping," said Mike. He found a similar navy blue suit and was able to later return his original, unworn purchase. Mia found a suitable dress.
They had had a great time at the wedding. As soon as they arrived in Kennebunkport, "I just wanted to propose," Mike said. They took a bike ride to a path that led down a cliff to the ocean. Mike forgot all the things he planned to say, and went with, "Will you marry me?"
Mia said she would.
They hiked back up the cliff and asked a couple sitting on a bench at the top to take a just-engaged picture. Turned out the couple had gotten engaged at the same spot years before. When Mike and Mia went to dinner that night, there they were again, at the same restaurant. "They sent us champagne," Mia said.
It was so them
The couple held their Jewish ceremony and the reception for 170 at the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia. Finding a rabbi available for their date was a bit challenging, and Mike and Mia are grateful they did. The search led them to the rabbi who had officiated for his sister two years before in Chicago. He's a Philadelphia native. "He was so excited to do our wedding," Mia said, "and to come to visit family."
Other than the couple, the stars of the bridal party were the Best Baby (nephew Eli, carried by his mom, Mike's sister, Jennifer) and Best Dog (the couple's long-haired dachshund, Alfie). Both wore tiny tuxes.
The reception was a giant party, Mike said. The couple and their families sat at a long head table together. There were blush and pale-green flowers everywhere. And the band Dreamtime kept everyone on the dance floor all night.
Just before the cocktail hour, the wedding planners invited the couple to see the reception space before anyone else. The couple walked in with Mike's mom, Sindee, and Mia's parents, Marcy and Ira. Then their song - Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" - began to play. "We got to dance on the dance floor all by ourselves," Mia said. "It was kind of surreal, like, 'Wow, this is really all for us, and it is happening.' "
That time on the dance floor got to Mike, too. "I really did feel like it was the best day of our lives," he said. "It was amazing to be marrying the ideal woman for me and then, on top of that, to be spending the day surrounded by friends and family."
The budget crunch
A bargain: Mia made some signs for the reception.
The splurge: Just about everything else. "Maybe we could have cut some corners in some areas, but at the same time," Mia said, "everything we wanted to happen happened."
Almost a week in Big Sur and Napa.