After the "Pomp and Circumstance" part of North Penn High School's 2005 graduation ceremony, Francis felt a tap on his shoulder.
"Can I take a picture with you?" asked Angela, whom Francis hadn't seen in at least a year.
"She had on this beautiful dress and was all done up for graduation. She took me by surprise," he said.
His one-word answer: "Absolutely!"
Angela's camera recorded their smiles, then she walked back into the crowd.
"Who was that?" asked Francis' mom, Marie, and dad, Pat, simultaneously.
"That was Angela," he said. "We had English together sophomore year. It's no big deal."
Maybe not for him.
Angela had tried to laugh meaningfully at his class-clown material but never had the nerve to really talk to Francis.
"I had a crush on him," she said, "and he had no idea."
Francis' parents didn't know, either, but they admired Angela's moxie.
"You should ask her out right now," his dad said.
"Now, why would I do that?" Francis asked. "She has no interest in me."
From then on, whenever Francis had relationship issues, or lack-of- relationship issues, his parents would, mostly jokingly, suggest: "Maybe you should give Angela a call."
Francis studied English at Temple; Angela studied architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. After graduating during the recession, he moved back to North Wales with his parents and she to Lansdale with her dad, Joe.
"I had been trying to find jobs in architecture all over the country, all over the world, and I ended up waitressing back home at Iron Hill Brewery," Angela said. Her dad picked her up after one shift in summer 2010 because her car wouldn't start. "We stopped at Wawa for coffee, and I turned around and saw Francis."
"She flat-out asked me out," Francis said, still sounding a little surprised.
Francis told his parents the moment he got home. "They lost their minds!" he said.
A movie and drinks led to two months of dating. Francis was happy, Angela uncertain. "I stopped returning his calls," she said.
She moved to New Zealand, worked at a winery, then cooked for the workers at a fruit-and-vegetable vendor in exchange for room and board. She missed Francis. "It became apparent that I had made a mistake," she said.
In February 2012, Angela posted on Facebook that she was back in town.
Francis was then a therapeutic staff-support person at boardinghomes for disabled young men and was working toward his teaching certificate at Delaware Valley College. He reasoned optimistically that her disappearance was better than outright rejection, and he asked whether they could catch up. They met at Via Marconi, and this time, it felt equally right to both of them.
Francis fell hard for her independence, perseverance, and encyclopedic knowledge of wine and beer. Angela was smitten by the way he looked at her and soon realized "any time I wasn't with him became more and more difficult."
Francis began teaching English at Truebright Science Academy in North Philadelphia. Six months after they resumed dating, Angela landed her dream job in architecture - at Method Design in Manhattan.
For three years, they spent alternate weekends in Brooklyn and Fishtown.
How does forever sound?
"I can't do this every weekend for another year," Angela, who is now 29, told Francis in January 2015.
Francis wanted to be engaged before they lived together, and he knew she wanted the same.
Despite being swamped with work and studying for architect exams, Angela made time to train for a May half-marathon in Maine. That gave Francis an idea.
They were at a Portland jazz club when his sister, Julia, texted that she and her boyfriend of less than six months were talking marriage. "Isn't that great, Angela?" Francis asked.
Angela loves Julia, but she glared at Francis, whom she had been dating for three years. Was this half-year couple going to get engaged first?
Francis had the ring in his pocket. "It took every bit of energy and self-control not to take it out of my pocket and ram it on the table," he said, "but I weathered the storm."
The next morning, as they walked along the shore, Francis slowed his steps, then stopped. "Oh, my God!" thought Angela. He handed her a medal from the Broad Street Run.
Angela, crestfallen, tried to listen to Francis' story about how, although he was never a runner, he had trained for and run the Broad Street Run because running was important to her. She caught something about his appreciation of her willingness to take big steps for him, too.
Then Francis knelt and pulled out the engagement ring.
Soon after, Francis moved to Brooklyn, where the couple still live, and began teaching fifth grade at Achievement First East New York Middle School.
It was so them
The couple wed at one of their favorite Philadelphia spaces: the Water Works.
Francis wrote the ceremony and refined it with his dad, who performed it.
The couple wrote their own vows. Angela, whose admiration for aging action stars is well-known, quipped that she would grow only more attracted to Francis as he aged into her very own Rocky Balboa. "I spoke about how loving and supportive he is, and that everyone that was with us that day, myself included, had always been comforted or supported by him."
Francis told Angela he had never felt as loved or as content as when he was with her. "She makes me the best version of myself," he said.
The best man read a letter about love from John Steinbeck to his son. Francis' mom had sent it to him after he and Angela first exchanged I-love-yous.
Their reception for 148 was a whirlwind of traveling from hug to hug. "In a lot of ways, we experienced it through what other people said afterward," Francis said. An exceptional moment: After stepping out for a few photos, the couple returned to their reception. "It was just such a bright, lively room, with so many people talking and laughing and immersed in having a good time," Angela said.
The night ended with Scotch and cigars on the veranda.
Listening to the vows Francis wrote for her was an amazing experience, Angela said. "To have somebody say anything remotely as kind and as sweet as he did, in front of a pavilion full of people, was incredible," she said. "Then we exchanged rings, and it was official, and it was so exciting to be in that moment of knowing that we were husband and wife."
After the ceremony, the couple spent a few moments alone in the bridal suite to absorb what had just happened. "I just broke down in pure joy," Francis said. "For one solid moment, I just hugged the holy hell out of her."
The budget crunch
A bargain: The couple booked the Water Works before the Cescaphe Event Group took over. Cescaphe honored their original contract price but provided a Cescaphe package, which meant an extra hour and much more food, Francis said.
The splurge: Angela flew to San Jose - twice - to shop for a dress with her mom, Ellen. Francis says he's "not a paradigm of male fashion" but wanted a well-tailored suit for the big day. "I have not ever felt more elegant than I did the day of the wedding," he said.
Seven days in Costa Rica.
Love: BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: Pasquale "Pat" Francis Rocchi, father of the groom, who became ordained to perform the ceremony.
Venue: Water Works, Philadelphia.
Food: Cescaphe Event Group, Philadelphia.
Photography: Sean Marshall Lin, Philadelphia.
Flowers: Beautiful Blooms, Alicia Martino, Philadelphia.
Dress: Designed by Sottero & Midgley, purchased at Trudy's Brides, Campbell, Calif.
Music: DJ Dave Beck of No Macarena DJ & Custom Music Service, Philadelphia.
Day-of planner: Renee Ziegler of Cescaphe.
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