They had known of each other since the sixth grade. Then in junior year at Upper Moreland High School, Ryan, out of nowhere, really wanted to know all about Caitlin.
He told his friend Dan, who was dating Caitlin's friend Colleen. Dan thought it could work, and so did their friends Jeff and Justine.
Justine approached Caitlin, suggesting that the two of them and Jeff and Ryan would all go together - no pressure! - to Friendly's on a February 2006 Friday night, after Ryan's basketball game.
"We had ice cream, and we didn't say a word to each other the whole time," Caitlin said.
"I kept trying!" said Ryan. He already knew she was smart. At Friendly's, he discovered she was also really funny. They laughed at all of each others' jokes. But whenever Ryan looked beside him to make eye contact or start a side conversation with Caitlin, she looked away, across the booth at their friends.
"At the end, I had no idea how it went, or how she thought it went," Ryan said. And then her text came: "I had a great time, and I would love to do something like that again."
It was just Caitlin's nerves that made her look away. "I think what I liked the most is he was really nice and really genuine," she said.
A snow day led to sledding behind the high school. Dan and Colleen didn't show. After a couple trips down the hill, Ryan and Caitlin sat in the snow and talked for hours.
Junior prom. Senior prom. Winter formals. Graduation in 2007. And then the couple who were always together went to college in different states: Ryan to earn an economics degree from West Virginia University; Caitlin, a communications degree from the University of Maryland. Freshman year, when neither had cars, was hardest.
"West Virginia was playing Maryland in football, and I took the fan bus so I could see her," Ryan said. They went to the game late, discovered their tickets were nowhere near each other, and left early.
"It was difficult, but I think it really laid a great foundation [for the relationship]," Caitlin said. "We had to trust one another or it wasn't going to work. And it gave us the freedom to have our own college experience, meet new friends, and do our own thing."
When most of your together time happens on the telephone, you learn how to communicate, Ryan said. "You have to actually describe your day, and how you're feeling, a lot more."
After college graduation in 2011, Caitlin and Ryan moved back to their parents' homes.
Caitlin, now a client services manager at Monetate, a marketing technology firm in Conshohocken, landed her first job in online marketing. Ryan, now an insurance agent with Miller & Cornell Insurance in Hatboro, found work in sales.
"It felt awesome to be so close to each other," Ryan said.
It eventually felt a little too retro, though, Caitlin said. "It was like we were in high school again, and we were craving our own space."
In January 2013, they moved together into the Manayunk apartment where they still live.
How does forever sound?
It was March 9, the anniversary of when Ryan asked Caitlin to be his girlfriend. Ryan had suggested they celebrate at Manayunk Brewery, and Caitlin stood fixing her hair and makeup at the bedroom mirror.
Ryan brought her the scrapbook she had given him right before they left for college, opened to the letter she wrote on the last page. "In honor of our anniversary. You should read what you wrote," he suggested.
Caitlin had forgotten all about the scrapbook! She couldn't take her eyes off the pictures of their high school memories. His heart beating hard against his chest, Ryan again asked her to read the letter. So she did.
"So we'll see what happens," she wrote almost at the end. And then came four words that confused her: "Will you marry me?"
Caitlin wondered what had possessed her 17-year-old self to write that! And then she realized she hadn't.
When she looked up, Ryan, who had photocopied the original page and carefully added the new sentence, was on one knee.
When they got to the brewery, their parents and friends were waiting to celebrate.
It was so them
The couple, both now 25, wed in a traditional Catholic ceremony at Old St. Joe's. Woven into Caitlin's bouquet was a rosary that had belonged to Ryan's late grandmother. Wrapped around the flower stems was the christening bonnet Caitlin's grandmother gave her.
The reception for 140 took place at the nearby Sheraton Society Hill.
Dancing with Caitlin, Ryan noticed the happy expressions on all the other dancing couples' faces. "Look at everybody!" he told her. They marveled over friends from high school and college, parents and aunts and uncles and cousins. "All these people were there for us," Ryan said.
Caitlin couldn't stop looking at Ryan's face as she walked down the aisle toward him. "I don't think I'll ever forget seeing him be so happy to see me," she said.
"It was a really good moment," Ryan said. "It made it seem like after all the work we had put into it . . . it was really happening now."
A bargain: Impressed by Gabrielle Elizabeth Photography's portfolio, the couple decided it didn't matter that she had less experience than other wedding photographers they considered. She charged about 50 percent less, and they are thrilled with the results.
The splurge: Upgrading their EBE Events & Entertainment package to include a live drummer. It cost about 50 percent more than a DJ alone, but added a live-music feel for much less than a full band, Ryan said.
Eleven days in Hawaii.
Love: BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: The Rev. Edward O'Donnell, Old St. Joseph's Church, Philadelphia.
Venues: Old St. Joseph's, Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill.
Photography: Gabrielle Elizabeth Photography, Philadelphia.
Dress: Designed by Maggie Sottero.
Music: EBE Events & Entertainment, Philadelphia.
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