Jenna McGivney and Daniel Garrison
March 17, 2018, in Philadelphia
They met at a November 2014 Friendsgiving in Fort Wayne, Ind. Dan thought Jenna was quite good-looking. Jenna thought Dan was a sarcastic jerk.
Over the next several group outings, however, Jenna began to realize that Dan was not a jerk, just a guy with the driest sense of humor she had ever encountered. Once she understood that, he was actually funny.
The first weekend of January 2015, the two and about 10 of their friends rented a place in Boyne Mountain, Mich. Dan, who grew up in Indianapolis, is an excellent skier. Jenna, who grew up near L.A., knows how to snowboard, but isn’t that good. “He held back when I would fall, to make sure I didn’t get left behind,” Jenna said. “Then we would ride the ski lift together.”
It was on the ski lift that Jenna, who is now 29, and Dan, now 31, had their first real conversation — one that continued back at the house. “We were laughing the whole time,” Jenna said. “We were having fun, and just giggling, all weekend.”
Dan was definitely interested in Jenna. “She laughed at my jokes, she got my humor, and she’s a cool chick,” he said. “She’s easy to hang out with, with no drama.”
By the end of the weekend, they were friends. From then on, they frequently took their dogs — Millie, his medium-size animal shelter special, and Spock, her big Lab/pointer mix — on play dates. At the end of March, the two humans went to the Tilted Kilt, described by Dan as “Scottish Hooters,” and he announced he was paying for dinner. “OK!” Jenna thought to herself happily. “This is now a date.”
By March, they began meeting each other’s family.
Ask Dan, a project engineer, why he loves Jenna, and his dry wit comes through. “She’s probably the first person I could stand to be around all of the time and not get sick of,” he said. Not only did he love being with her, “my family instantly loved her, and she got along with all of my friends.”
Jenna, a science teacher, fell for Dan’s brain, and also the way he likes her exactly as she is. “This was the first time that I was in a relationship and I didn’t feel the need to change anything about myself,” she said. “I didn’t have to be anything but 100 percent myself.”
When they began dating, Dan was tired of his job at an ice cream company and was going on interviews. Jenna told him she saw no point in pursuing a relationship if he was leaving right away, so he put his plan on hold to see what might be between them.
By September 2015, they were solid, and Jenna said he should resume his job search. She was willing to relocate with him. That February, he had two terrific offers, one in Virginia Beach, and one in Pennsylvania. Dan asked Jenna to pick, and because her grandma, aunts, and cousins live in New Jersey, she picked Pennsylvania.
Dan is a project engineer for the Boston Beer Co., maker of Sam Adams. Jenna teaches ninth-grade Earth science and 12th-grade environmental science at Perkiomen Valley High School. The couple and their pups live in Pottstown.
In summer 2016, a McGivney family reunion in New Jersey included a trip to a Yankees game. At Yankee Stadium, Dan pulled Jenna’s dad aside and got his blessing to ask Jenna to marry him.
That August, the couple was visiting her dad and some friends in California. The last night of their trip, Dan, Jenna, and Jenna’s dad and stepbrother had dinner at a fancy restaurant with a view of L.A. Jenna excused herself for a moment, and when she returned to the table, Dan got down on one knee.
“She started crying, and I asked her to marry me,” he said. “I don’t think she ever really answered, but since it was not a sad cry, I knew what she meant.” Dan gave Jenna the ring, in its box. She handed it back and asked him to place it on her finger.
It was so them
The couple used a self-uniting license. They explained this Pennsylvania phenomenon so their guests from the rest of the country understood the premise and why they chose it. “To us, marriage is a choice, a choice that we made, and we really liked the idea that the power was in our hands to marry each other,” Jenna said.
The ceremony was led by their Fort Wayne friend Scott, the person who brought Jenna into Dan’s friend group, and also her former roommate.
Jenna’s vows included a promise to support Dan’s obsession with Purdue University basketball. Dan promised her he’d always support her thrall with all things Harry Potter.
As a way to acknowledge the effort each of the 140 guests put into attending, Scott called out the names of the 11 states they had traveled from, and the appropriate guests cheered for each one.
The couple’s first dance was to Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey.” Jenna’s father gave a toast, and she danced with him. Dan danced with his mom. And that ended the typical parts of the reception.
The food was placed at stations. There were big, round tables, and also couches for lounging. And a dance floor.
“I was very concerned about just making it a party,” Dan said. “Guests got in there, grabbed a drink, grabbed an appetizer, and started partying.”
The couple’s desire to encourage a festive atmosphere – along with their shared Irish heritage – also led them to wed on St. Patrick’s Day.
“The moment of putting on those rings, to me, felt like the defining point, but the whole thing was pretty awesome,” Dan said.
After the ceremony, Jenna needed some help getting her veil out of her hair. Her new husband went with her to the bridal suite to assist. “That was the first moment we were by ourselves and alone, just me and him,” she said. “We were married, and I took a deep breath to absorb that. I could let my hair down, and just enjoy.”
The budget crunch
A bargain: The couple held both ceremony and reception at the Skybox Event Center. They paid for the catering package, and everything else, including the space, was included. “They had lights, vases, candles, drapes, you name it, and it was all free for us to use,” Jenna said. “It saved us a ton of money.” So did the fact that Dan’s employer gave the couple 25 cases of beer as a wedding gift.
The splurge: The couple provided transportation from the venue back to the hotels, and then out to the bars and back, for every guest.
This summer — after Jenna finishes the school year and her master’s degree in geoscience from West Chester University — they plan a week at some all-inclusive resort on a warm, tropical island.
Behind the scenes
Officiant: Scott Berns, friend of the bride and groom. The couple used a self-uniting license.
Venue: Skybox Event Center, Joia Room and Skybox Room, Philadelphia.
Music: DJ Jamie Grimble, Philadelphia.
Photography: Rebecca Barger, Jenkintown.
Flowers: Flowers by Jena Paige, Downingtown.
Dress: Martina Liana, purchased from Bijou Bridal in Ardmore.
Makeup: Cindy Singer from Dylan Michael Cosmetics, Jenkintown.
Hair: Bonnie Domico from Up Your Do by Jill Kozar, Jenkintown.