Chip O’Connell and Elizabeth Convery
January 5, 2019, in Philadelphia
Chip was thrilled with the Navy’s 2016 decision to ship him to Philadelphia — a native of Moorestown, Burlington County, he was coming back home to his family and friends. He needed a home base, and his best friend came through with his real estate agent’s phone number.
“Hi. I’m best friends with Mark Condoluci,” he said when Elizabeth, owner of VERY Real Estate, answered. “I’m being relocated from San Diego to Philadelphia. I need a place, and I heard you’re the best.”
Just before Thanksgiving, Chip and Elizabeth met for coffee on the University of Pennsylvania campus, where Chip, a surface warfare officer, is a lieutenant and navigation instructor in Penn’s Naval ROTC unit. They spent two days touring options. It was fun, and not just because Chip liked the apartments.
“We just kept talking and talking and talking,” he said. Elizabeth knew she needed to leave soon to meet the young woman she mentors for lunch, but it was hard to say goodbye to Chip. “He was so interested in Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and said he’d like to become a Big Brother,” Elizabeth said. She wound up practically sprinting up 24th Street.
In early December, Elizabeth walked into FARMiCiA to meet a girlfriend for wine. Mark and Keri, his wife, were also there. Her former clients had become her friends, and when Keri saw Elizabeth, she ran up to her.
“You have got to date Chip O’Connell!” Keri said “He and Mark have been best friends since kindergarten, and we both can see you together. You’re great, Chip is great, and you deserve him!”
“I appreciate that so much,” said a flattered Elizabeth, “but I would never date a client.”
Soon after moving into a Rittenhouse apartment, Chip called Elizabeth again. “Now that I’m not you’re client, can I take you on a date?”
His confidence made her swoon.
Chip invited her to drinks at the Franklin Bar. “We had two old-fashioneds over four hours, and we talked and talked and talked,” Elizabeth said. They walked out into a snowfall that would have been perfectly magical if Chip, who had been away from winter for five years, had anything close to appropriate cold-weather attire. “He took an Uber the three blocks to his apartment, and I teased him incessantly,” said Elizabeth, who then lived in Old City.
From then on, they marveled at how easy it was to be together.
“It felt like he was always there,” Elizabeth said. “I had just met him, but at the same time I knew him forever.”
“We both say we were always in love with each other, we just had to find each other,” Chip agrees.
Soon, Chip was matched with a Little Brother. He and Elizabeth remain heavily involved in the organization and Elizabeth is a regional board member.
In September 2017, they found an apartment for the two of them, also in Rittenhouse, and Elizabeth found tenants for her condo.
The two felt early on that they were headed toward marriage but did not want to rush things. “I have always heard you should date someone for at least four seasons,” Elizabeth said when they discussed it one day. “Five seasons,” quipped Chip. “You really need to see me during football season.”
Elizabeth loves the Eagles, too, but Chip takes watching the game to a whole new focused, analytical, and intense level. “I had all the Eagles games on my calendar to know that I could not talk to him during those times,” Elizabeth said.
Later in the season, as the couple’s friend Brett at Milner Jewelers worked on a ring, Chip took Elizabeth’s parents, Joe and Joan, to dinner and received their enthusiastic blessing. Similar responses came from her brother Kevin; her best friend since they were 4, Nicole; Chip’s mom, Peg; and his sisters Kelly, Devin, and Samantha.
And so on Feb. 2 — the Friday night before the Super Bowl — they had old-fashioneds at the Franklin Bar, just like their first date, and dinner at Urban Farmers in the Logan Hotel, site of their first kiss. Heading for drinks at the Rittenhouse, their Uber took an unexpected turn.
They got out at 19th and Addison and walked beneath strings of white lights to the front of the apartment that Elizabeth had found for Chip. He knelt in the street.
“Elizabeth Maria Convery, will you marry me?”
She nearly fell into him and wound up sitting on his knee. “Yes!” she said, her tears smearing his camel topcoat with black mascara.
The celebrations continued with a joyous Super Bowl gathering and the Birds’ big win. That Monday, the couple made their social-media engagement announcement: “The Eagles weren’t the only ones to get a ring this weekend.”
The couple wed at the National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia, a tribute to Elizabeth’s late grandmother Rita. The ceremony was performed by Father Swope, president of St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, where Chip went to high school. Elizabeth’s friend Paul sang “The Prayer of St. Francis” in honor of Chip’s late dad. In Chip’s mom’s wrist corsage, the couple included yellow roses, the flower her husband always gave her. After the vows, Chip’s Navy and Marine Corps colleagues held their swords in an arch for the newlyweds to walk under.
Their 237 guests celebrated with a black-tie reception at the Rittenhouse Hotel. “It’s such a special place for us, and they have really good food,” Chip said. “For the guests, it was a feeling of having their own dinner party with the people who were seated at their table,” Elizabeth said.
The night before the wedding, Chip walked Elizabeth from their Union League rehearsal dinner to their home. He kissed her goodnight, then went to his room at the Rittenhouse. They didn’t even exchange texts until the wedding. “It was the longest time since our first date that we had not spoken,” Chip said.
It was hard but worth it when he saw Elizabeth in her gown, walking toward him down the aisle. “She just looked beautiful, and she was surrounded by all of our friends and family. Everyone’s eyes were on her,” he said. “It gave me goosebumps.”
Elizabeth’s pre-wedding joke with Chip was that her whole bridal look was designed to make him cry, but she didn’t really expect it to happen. “When I got to him, tears were streaming down,” she said. “Through the ceremony, we were holding hands, but at one point I had to let go to wipe his face.”
Seated next to her new husband at the reception, Elizabeth looked out at their guests, who had come from all over the region and the world. “It was every person I love in the whole world in one place,” she said. “That was really special.”
A bargain: There were no real bargains, but day-of coordinator Candice Moore was a terrific value, the couple say. “She took away worry about all the tiny little details that can cause you to go nuts,” Elizabeth said.
The splurge: Chip and Elizabeth both returned to their favorite jeweler to get each other wedding gifts. She gave him a 1968 Rolex inscribed with the words “Yours until the end of time.” He gave her a diamond tennis bracelet.
The couple, who recently bought a home in Bella Vista, spent 12 days in Cape Town, South Africa. The trip featured sightings of giraffes, rhinos, elephants, lions, and more gorgeous animals on safari, an unforgettable wine tasting at the Warwick Estate, and pampering at their resort, One&Only.
Officiant: The Rev. John W. Swope, SJ, president, St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, Philadelphia.
Ceremony: The National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia, Philadelphia.
Reception: The Rittenhouse Hotel, Philadelphia.
Music: EBE Entertainment, Matt Ostroff, Philadelphia.
Photography: Lauren Bulbin Photography, Baltimore.
Flowers: Petit Jardin en Ville, Philadelphia.
(Flowers were later donated to Forget Me Knot, Haddonfield.)
Hair/Makeup: Hayley Jeanne, Philadelphia.
Groom’s ceremony attire: United States Navy dinner dress blue uniform.
Groom’s reception attire: Tom Ford Tuxedo.
Planner: Candice Moore, Details Made Simple, Philadelphia.