Farrell Sharkey and Phil Edelstein
June 10, 2017 in Philadelphia.
Farrell was out with the girls celebrating one’s January 2014 birthday at L’Etage when the very-married-but-looking-out-for-those-who-weren’t Michele noticed Phil and his friend Rob dancing up a storm.
“They look fun. We should talk to them,” Michele told Farrell and company.
Farrell met Phil, and things in common were discovered: Both then lived in Old City. Both had dog fur kids. And though he grew up in Society Hill and she in Glenside, they knew a ton of the same people. They talked nonstop for an hour and a half. Phil, who is now 32, asked Farrell, now 33, for her phone number.
“Sure,” she said. “I could always use some friends in Old City.”
That lowered Phil’s expectations a notch.
Farrell winced at her own words. “I had recently moved to Old City, and I didn’t have a ton of friends there,” she said. “But that was not the vibe I meant to give off.”
The next day, Phil sent a trial text, reviving their coffee shop debate. “It was great to meet you, but you really have to try Cafe Ole.”
“It was great meeting you, too,” Farrell said.
Phil’s conclusion: She just wasn’t that into him.
Farrell’s lament: Why couldn’t she get out of her own way?
Two days later, she tried: “I hope you and Sophie are doing well,” she typed. “If you want to get together sometime, I’d be open to it.”
Farrell got points for asking about the dog of his heart, and they met for Friday cocktails at Fork.
A week later, Farrell met Sophie, the shepherd mix, and Phil met her little Cooper, the dachshund. A couple of months of dates later, he met her parents, Margery and Patrick, at the Continental. The next week, she met his, Fred and Karen, for a night at the opera.
“Phil is so warm and funny, and you just know from talking to him that he’s just this great person,” Farrell said. “One of the things I really fell in love with is Phil is just 100 percent himself. He is smart and accomplished and kind, and he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.”
Well, he always cared what Farrell was thinking. “She thinks about everyone around her, including me, almost to a fault,” he said. “She gives of herself so much. I found someone who I could inherently trust, and on top of that serious foundation, we just have so much fun together.”
Farrell, who will teach kindergarten at Penn Alexander School this fall, and Phil, an account director at New York agency Bouchez Page, planned their first big trip together – a week in Paris, a week in Florence – for December 2014.
A difficult year
The week before Christmas and their flight to France, Farrell’s mom learned the cancer she had battled had returned. Her parents encouraged the couple to take their trip — the doctors would know more by the time they returned.
The trip never happened. Farrell was walking to Jefferson Station to catch a Christmas Eve train to Glenside when her dad called. “My mom had suddenly passed away.”
Phil ran the blocks from his lunch spot to where Farrell still stood, sobbing.
She and her mom had spoken daily. Some of the best times were when she, her sisters, Kara and Casey, and their mom did anything at all together. Her mom’s absence felt like a black hole.
Farrell and Phil were confident they were heading toward marriage, but that progression paused when her heart and time became more focused on her family.
“I was so worried about my dad,” she said, “and I felt this pull toward my sisters.”
It was hard, but Phil understood: “She was a person pulled into two pieces,” he said. He gave her time to find equilibrium again.
How does forever sound?
As the anniversary of her mom’s death approached, Farrell had more good days than sad ones, but milestones remained tough. She was dreading her October 2015 birthday.
She returned from work that day to find the couple’s South Philadelphia apartment spotless. She was greeted by Cooper, wearing a tiny tuxedo, and Sophie, wearing a white dress that was so small on her it looked more like a scarf.
“Close your eyes,” Phil said. Then, after a few steps, “Open them.”
On the wall hung a portrait of Farrell’s mom, painted by Glenside artist Geri Mack — Phil’s elementary-school art teacher.
Farrell wept, but there was more.
Phil said he loved her so much, and much of what he loved could be traced to her mom. “I wanted [Margery] to be part of this very important moment,” he said. Phil knelt and asked Farrell to marry him.
At La Calaca Feliz, her sisters and closest friends, assembled by Phil, yelled “SURPRISE!” for her birthday.
“SURPRISE!” Farrell yelled back at them, flashing the ring on her hand.
It was so them
The couple’s wedding had a warm, personal, and informal vibe. Friend Oliver Johnston peppered the ceremony with their story. Best dogs Cooper and Sophie were escorted down the aisle by the groom’s nephews, Brice and Matias.
The mother of the bride was present in many ways: A seat was reserved for her spirit. She was mentioned by both bride and groom during their vows. The moment of silence in her honor might have been somber, except Cooper’s little yips made everyone laugh.
First dances and speeches were the semi-formal parts of the reception for 150. “After that, it was one big party,” Phil said. There were no assigned seats. Guests ate a wide variety of passed apps and tapas.
Phil’s family is Jewish, as was Farrell’s mom. A hora kicked off the fun. Then, everyone discovered where the groom got his affinity for the dance floor. “It’s the Edelstein Dancing Gene,” said Farrell, who thoroughly enjoyed seeing her husband, his dad, and his 4-year-old nephew tearing it up.
One thing did temporarily clear the dance floor: the announcement that Phil’s friends had parked their mobile business – Pitruco Pizza – outside.
On her way down the aisle, Farrell placed her bouquet on her mother’s empty chair. “I just burst into tears,” Phil said. “Her dad and I both started crying.” Phil doesn’t have a single name for the emotion he felt. There was sadness over Farrell’s loss, and his knowledge of how much she missed her mom on that day. There was gladness that he had known Margery, that he had been able to help Farrell through the toughest time in her life. There was joy that his relationship with Farrell was so strong, and happy, and that she was about to be his wife.
Just after the ceremony, Farrell was scheduled to report to the bridal suite for dress bustling. Instead, she and Phil sneaked out to the balcony overlooking the reception. “We were up there having our own moment together, watching the people who had come to be with us, and seeing the room look so beautiful,” she said. “It was the first moment we had to be alone together and to realize we were married.”
A bargain: For the same price as other caterers, Power Events provided many more appetizer, tapas, and dessert options.
The splurge: The covered chairs that came with the room were too fussy, so the bride rented white wooden folding chairs.
A week of hiking with the dogs near New Paltz, N.Y., to be followed by someplace tropical this winter.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: Oliver Johnston, friend of the groom (the couple used a self-uniting license).
Venue: Skybox, Philadelphia.
Food: Ashley Power, Power Events Catering, Philadelphia.
Music: The Bachelor Boys Band.
Photography: Kelly Giarrocco, Philadelphia.
Flowers: Leslie Kremp, Kremp Florist, Willow Grove.
Dress: Theia from Lovely Bride, Philadelphia.
Hair: Christina Kane with Up Your Do, Jenkintown.
Makeup: Kelly Quinlan with Face the Occasion, Collegeville.
Day-of Coordination: Caitlin Maloney, Clover Events, Manayunk.
Transportation: Yellowbird Bus Co., Philadelphia.