Love: Laura O'Donnell & Gregory Heitmann

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August wedding of Laura O'Donnell and Gregory Heitmann.

Hello there

After graduating from Lehigh in 2009, Laura, who's from Roslyn, took an accounting job in North Jersey and moved to Hoboken, where her brother and two college friends lived.

Laura ran cross-country and track in college, and played basketball, soccer, and softball growing up. She and her friends fielded a two-hand touch-football team for adult league competition. In summer 2010, Greg, a friend of a friend, joined them. And there he was again that fall on their softball team.

"Laura eventually got up the courage to ask me to play catch," said Greg, who grew up in Haworth, Bergen County. She was hoping to catch him, Greg likes to say. Laura isn't so sure about that.

She declined a ride home he offered a few weeks later, but the next Saturday night out at a bar with their friends, she couldn't take her eyes off Greg.

"She was staring at me, so I smiled at her," he said. "I bought her a beer. Then we danced. The mood was right, so I gave her a kiss."

"Once I started talking to him, I realized how comfortable I was and how much fun we had together," Laura said. "She was easy to talk to," said Greg, "and she was good at sports, so that was intriguing." Greg is also athletic, having played football and basketball in high school and rugby in college.

There's one thing the duo definitely do not have in common: Greg's a loyal Lafayette alum. But their schools' rivalry works well for this competitive pair. They and their friends traveled from Jersey to Pennsylvania to watch that year's football game. There in the stands, Greg asked Laura on their first real date: dinner at a Mexican restaurant with a New York skyline view.

Over some months of playing on the same teams and just-the-two of them dates, love sneaked up on them.

"She's a lot of fun to be around. She's always laughing. She makes my life easier - I'm very grateful for that," said Greg.

"He made me feel special, and I knew he was someone who would always support me, always have my back," said Laura. "On a bad day, he'll surprise me with ice cream or something just to cheer me up."

In 2011, Greg, a civil engineer with AECOM, moved to Hoboken. In 2013, he and Laura, an internal auditor at Prudential, got a place together nearby.

How does forever sound?

Fourth of July is Laura's favorite holiday. That weekend in 2014, she joined Greg and his family at their beach house in Lavallette, N.J.

On July 3, Greg, who is now 29, texted Laura, now 28, about what they should do for the next day's workout. She was busy at work, trying to leave early. "Why are you asking me this now?" she texted back. They agreed on a run. "Where?" he wanted to know. "I don't care, Greg," she wrote, a wee bit frustrated. The boardwalk, he said.

The next morning was dark and windy - Hurricane Arthur was slated to come by. Laura said they should get that clearly important run in ASAP. She thought it odd that he wanted to drive to the boardwalk rather than run that half-mile, but whatever.

"We park at the boardwalk, and Greg walks up to the gazebo, so I follow him," Laura remembers. "Come on, let's go," she said during her final stretches. "He starts rubbing my shoulders, so I turn around."

Greg knelt and began saying very sweet things.

"No! Oh, my God. No, my God!" Laura said.

"Will you marry me?" Greg asked.

"Yes!" she said.

They kissed.

"Why were you saying no? I almost stopped," said Greg.

Laura's nos were an expression of disbelief, as in, "This amazing thing can't be happening!" She assured Greg she was thrilled that it had.

Just then, the clouds let go of a torrent.

"Do you still want to go for a run?" Greg asked.

"No!" said Laura. This time he knew what she meant. When they got back to the beach house, Laura's parents were there to celebrate.

It was so them

Their ceremony at Bay Head's Sacred Heart Church featured a full Catholic Mass.

She carried a bouquet wrapped in her two grandmothers' rosaries. The couple's moms lighted candles that Laura and Greg used to light a single large candle in a unity ceremony. The big candle was the same one Laura's parents had used 34 years ago. Greg's parents have also been married 34 years. Greg wore American flag socks as a nod to his July Fourth proposal.

The Spring Lake Golf Club reception for 225 featured a nautical theme, bean bag toss during the cocktail hour, and a lot of dancing. The couple sat with their siblings - she's one of four, he's one of five.

Laura's grandpa couldn't make the party, so Greg danced with her 87-year-old grandma. "She's very light on her feet," he said.

Despite Laura's prewedding pleadings that he shouldn't, Greg smooshed the cake in her face. She smooshed right back. He licked icing off her nose.

The last song of the night was "Piano Man." The couple and all their friends and family formed a swaying circle while the couple danced in the middle. Everyone belted out the lyrics together.

Awestruck

Laura was prepared to tear up walking down the aisle with her dad. She was not prepared to be "completely overwhelmed with emotion," she said. "I had to stop and take a breath because tears were coming down my face as I saw all of the people who came to share that day with us, and Greg smiling at the end of the aisle."

Greg will always treasure their just-married trip back up the aisle together. "It was so nice to know that I had someone who would be by my side forever. I was really happy, just walking out with her, holding her hand. I was feeling like I got very lucky."

Discretionary spending

A bargain: Their photographer traveled from Philadelphia to do the engagement shoot and the wedding. She charged less than Hoboken photographers for more services, one of which was keeping everyone on schedule. "She was almost like a wedding planner for the day," Greg said.

The splurge: The couple thought wedding videos were kind of lame, but then the bride read a blog whose author said that not having one was her biggest regret. They added a new line to the budget to get one and are delighted they did - they got to watch so many moments they didn't see live.

The getaway

Twelve days in Fiji.

The Annual Pilgrimage

Later this month, the couple will head to Pennsylvania for Lafayette vs. Lehigh. The losing team's supporter must make or buy the winner's dinner.


Love: BEHIND THE SCENES

Officiant: The Rev. Michael J. O'Connor, Sacred Heart Church,

Bay Head, N.J.

Venue: Spring Lake Golf Club,

Spring Lake Heights, N.J.

Catering: Spring Lake Golf Club.

Photography: Caroline Morris Photography, Philadelphia.

Flowers: Flowers by Melinda, Lavallette, N.J.

Dress: Kitty Chen, from Hearts for You Bridal, Manalapan Township, N.J.

Music: Face 2 Face Band,

East Rutherford, N.J.

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