Updated: Thursday, October 5, 2017, 3:01 AM
Rebecca Gustafson and David Raulfs Jr.
May 28, 2017, in New Hope
Dave was trying to fit in a workout between the summer 2010 classes he needed to graduate from Lock Haven University but his roommate kept sending interrupting texts. Couldn’t he take a break to help some people move?
Dave, who grew up in Chalfont, knew the pain of moving all too well. He told his friend he’d be there in 15 minutes. Dave thought he knew everyone on the relatively small campus, but he didn’t know these girls. And the one with the nice smile? He sure wished he knew her.
Becca, a rising junior from Quakertown, was happy for reinforcements to help her and her roommates get the bulky couch they’d just purchased from Goodwill into her friend’s truck. She was intrigued that a guy they didn’t know would help them. “I kept looking at him, thinking, ‘Who is he, and why is he here?’ ” she said. “If you think of someone awkward, well, that’s me. I wanted to talk to him, but I was too afraid.”
The short conversation they finally had when the furniture was in place had them both more intrigued — they were both from Bucks County. They found each other on Facebook and saw each other on campus. Then one June weekend when both were home in Bucks, Becca texted an invitation to join her and her friends at Tony’s Place in Ivyland.
“It was so much fun,” she said. “Saying goodbye, we gave each other a hug — we had never hugged before. After that, back at school, we started talking regularly.” Becca, now 28, and Dave, now 29, were then freshly 21, and they and their friends spent plenty of time in college bars. “I wanted to get to know Becca a little better, and so, for our first real date, I took her fishing,” he said.
Dave’s an avid fisherman. She was a little terrified but game for their outing on the Sinnemahoning Creek, where she caught her first smallmouth bass. After a day of catch-and-release, they hit the Sportsman’s Hotel in Renovo for “the best pizza in the world” and a few beers.
They’ve never gone a day without talking since.
“He’s such a genuine person,” Becca said. “He’s super-happy, and he made me feel very comfortable, even though I’m not a comfortable person.”
For Dave, it was a combination of things. “Her personality really meshed well with mine,” he said. “She’s so easygoing. Everything just fell into place.” Dave also enjoyed Becca’s unique sense of style. “She was free-spirited, and didn’t care too much about what other people were thinking.”
He earned his degree in criminal justice and came home for a job in loss prevention at the King of Prussia Mall before becoming a child-care counselor at KidsPeace in Orefield, and then a corrections officer at Lehigh County Prison. After finishing her psychology degree in 2011, Becca became a child-care counselor at KidsPeace — she was actually there first. She later worked in retail management for Hollister and Abercrombie.
In July 2015, Dave began the training necessary to fulfill his lifelong dream to become a Fish and Boat Commission conservation officer. In May 2016, he told Becca he’d landed a job, but they needed to move from Allentown to the Pittsburgh area, putting an entire state between them and their families.
Dave is now a waterways conservation officer for the commission, and Becca is a training coordinator for MedExpress urgent-care centers. They live in Canonsburg, south of Pittsburgh, with their 5-year-old boxer, Jack.
How does forever sound?
Just before leaving for conservation officer training, Dave suggested they take in the Independence Day fireworks in Quakertown, where they had first had an apartment together.
“Dave was nervous, and I kind of had a feeling about why,” Becca said. “He laid out a blanket and had wine for us. Then he said he had to go to the car really quick to get a tissue for his allergies.”
Dave actually went to retrieve a small box from the glove compartment. He knelt on the blanket and opened the box, which had a little light inside that made the ring sparkle. “I started to cry, so I don’t think I answered him for 30 seconds,” Becca said.
She said yes, and the sky lit up.
In the car on their way home, Becca lit up her cellphone. They called her mom, Linda, and her stepfather, Glenn; her dad, Mike, and stepmother, Laura; Dave’s mom, Aleen, and her wife, Trish; and his dad, Dave Sr., and his partner, Kathy.
It was so them
The couple were married in a secular but spiritual ceremony held outdoors at the Hotel du Village in New Hope. Their officiant, Lauren Nappen, is a friend of Dave’s mother. In the wine ceremony, white represented the bride; red represented the groom. They poured both into a single glass and sipped.
Both felt jittery happiness during the ceremony; joyful, but a bit nervous in the spotlight. “After the ceremony, the second they announced us as husband and wife, we felt amazing,” Becca said.
Their 135-guest reception featured centerpieces of flowers grown and assembled as a gift from Becca’s stepsister, farmer Noelle Jeffreys of Moon Gate Farms.
The couple first danced to “You Are the Best Thing,” by Ray LaMontagne. Then, the Temptation’s “My Girl” and Ester Dean’s “Drop It Low” — a song Becca and her friends loved in college — got everyone out of their seats.
From the nervous excitement of the ceremony to the all-out bash that was the reception, it was an over-the-top, emotional day, Becca said.
“It was easily the biggest experience of my life,” Dave agreed. “It was the most important, the most feels I ever got out of something, and the most fun I ever had.”
Sitting at the head of the room with Dave, seeing everyone they love before them, and hearing some loved ones give beautiful speeches supporting them and their marriage was one of Becca’s favorite moments. “Everything was so perfect,” she said.
Late in the reception, their photographer rushed the couple outside to get some impromptu shots. Dave looked through the window at their guests dancing and having fun inside, and then at Becca. “There was this beautiful summer rain falling, and the lights from the reception, and the status that I now had a wife just sort of struck me — wow.”
The budget crunch
Best bargain: DJ Johnny V. from East Coast Events was fabulous and could have charged way more, said the couple.
The splurge: There were two. The venue, chosen for the great menu and outdoor space, was “beyond what we could ever expect — a wedding attendant waited on us the whole time,” Dave said. Photographer Rebecca Barger was “worth every penny,” Becca said. “We loved working with her, and her photos are amazing.”
Ten days in Vermont, which of course included fishing.
Behind the scenes
Officiant: Spiritual counselor Lauren Nappen, Mechanicsville.
Venue and food: Hotel Du Village, New Hope.
Music: DJ Johnny V., East Coast Event Group, Langhorne and Warminster.
Photography: Rebecca Barger Photography, Jenkintown.
Videography: Andrew Johnson, East Coast Event Group’s East Coast Video.
Bridal bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, and flowers for the cake: Bucks County Roses, Holland.
Table centerpieces: Noelle Jeffreys, Moon Gate Farms, Perkasie.
Dress: Allure, Bridals By Sandra, Nazareth, Pa.
Hair and makeup: Daneene Jensen & Associates, Doylestown.
Read full story: He didn't know her, but he helped her move a couch