Mara Jefferies and Gus Hackett
November 3, 2018, in Westmont
One night at a cheap college bar in Bath, England, Mara’s stepbrother Jack introduced her to his best friend, Gus.
They had already sort of met on Facebook, where Mara, a nursing student at Rutgers University, had found him strikingly handsome and tried to get his attention with her witty posts. Gus was oblivious to those efforts, but on that night at the bar in 2012, both were full-on flirting. Alas, the cheap alcohol flowed a bit too freely, and Gus, a Bath Spa University music student, wound up asleep in a bathroom stall. Jack woke him, and they called it a night.
Mara and Gus talked more at a New Year’s Eve house party, and then, on the last night of Mara’s trip, they separated from the rest of their group and stayed up talking — and smooching — at Jack’s place until 6 a.m.
They texted when Mara, who grew up in Collingswood, got back to New Jersey. “I hope you meet someone really special,” she typed — a way to tell both Gus and herself that although they’d clicked, she knew it could never work.
Gus had no expectations, but he texted her back. Texting turned into playing Words with Friends, which gave way to Skype conversations — some of which were eight hours long. Soon, their long talks about school, family, and life in general ended with, “I love you.”
Mara canceled a spring break trip to Guatemala to go back to Bath, where Gus showed her the city’s abbey, shops, and Georgian and Victorian architecture.
That summer and fall, Gus maxed out his 90-day U.S. tourist visa visiting Mara, who took him down the Shore and to Philly, New York, and Miami. By then, they were sure. “If we could spend that much time together and not be sick of each other, it had to mean something,” Gus joked. “She got my terrible jokes, and she could put up with me. We’re both incredibly comfortable around each other — we have complementary personalities. And she’s gorgeous, of course.”
Mara really liked being around Gus. “Something I noticed right off the bat is that other people really like to be around him, too,” she said. That made her realize his kindness wasn’t just part of wooing her, but who he truly is.
Mara’s stepdad is a British Airways pilot, and the couple were so thankful for the discounted tickets he could provide. They saw each other every three months while Gus earned his degree and, after a cycling tour from France to Spain, began teaching guitar at two primary schools and one private boarding school. Mara graduated in 2016. She completed her nurse residency and is now a medical/surgical nurse at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del.
In January 2017, Gus took Mara for a relaxing afternoon at Bath’s Roman Baths and then, despite his great fear of heights, up to the roof of the abbey and a panoramic view of his native city. The summer before, he had given her a promise ring — a silver band with a small clear stone. When Mara turned from the view to her boyfriend, he took her right hand, removed the ring, and placed it on her left hand. “Will you marry me?” he asked. “Yes!” said a stunned Mara.
The couple, now both 25, held their ceremony and reception for 70 at Treno Pizza Bar in Westmont. “I really like it there, and there were no venue fees,” the bride said.
All guests who were able stood in two rows, creating an aisle between them. The two maids of honor and two groomsmen carried a chuppah down the aisle and held it over the couple in a nod to Mara’s Jewish heritage. The 15-minute secular ceremony was led by family friend Maureen, who became ordained online for the occasion.
The duo with their shared sense of humor chose green as their wedding color. The hue showed up in the dresses worn by the maids of honor, the groom’s and groomsmen’s ties, the floral arrangements, and the signature drink — all a cheeky nod to Gus’ wait for a green card. Until it arrives and he can work, he is teaching guitar as a volunteer at Montessori Seeds of Education in Merchantville.
The dinner reception featured “good Italian food and relaxed mingling with family members and friends,” Mara said. All in one room were Mara’s mom, Gail, and stepdad, Mike. Her dad, John, who came from Arizona, step-brothers Jack and Jim, who traveled from Bath, and cousin Lilly, from Colorado. Gus’ parents, Mark and Adrienne, and his siblings, Oscar and Ursula, and Ursula’s husband Chris, who came from England. And Mara’s Uncle Ray, Aunt Edie, Cousin Ben, and Ben’s wife, Inbal, and their daughters, who came from Israel.
Afterward, everyone headed to the bride’s mom and stepdad’s house, where people danced under string lights in the garage and enjoyed shots and s’mores around a bonfire until midnight.
Before the ceremony, everyone gathered for photographs. “Mara stepped out of the car. It was the first time I saw her in her dress, and she was beautiful,” Gus said. “It was an autumnal, bright and lovely day, and our family was together, having a good time and laughing. It was a very real, poignant moment for me.”
Pronounced husband and wife, Mara and Gus together walked back up the aisle, which ended at the bar. Two glasses of Champagne were waiting, Mara said. “We were looking at each other, and we clinked glasses, and I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is my husband! We actually did it, and he doesn’t have to go back [to England] after this.' ”
The couple now lives in Collingswood.
Best bargain: The couple saved by celebrating at Treno, where, because their event met a minimum spending requirement, they paid no venue fee.
The splurge: A generous booze budget, which included beer, wine, and that signature cocktail — Treno’s Italian lemonade with vodka and basil.
Three days in a cabin at Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, where they hiked and kayaked and Gus enjoyed a cigar in the hot tub.
Officiant: Maureen Mathias.
Venue and food: Treno Pizza Bar, Westmont.
Photography: Peg Schnyer Pics, Collingswood.
Flowers: Jen Griffith, Daisy Lady Florals, Haddon Heights.