Lauren Malczon and Michael Meacham
Nov. 19, 2016, in Aston
Frustrated by the string of unemployed/out-of-state/living-in-their-parents'-basements/commitment-phobic guys she'd been meeting, Lauren sought heavenly help from her Grammy Dot.
Lauren and her mom, Elaine, were visiting Grammy Dot's grave at Easter time in 2015, filling her in on family happenings, including the less-than-stellar suitors in Lauren's life, when Elaine officially made the request: "Mom, can't you do something to help Lauren find a nice, local guy from a good family?"
Early that May, Michael changed the zip code in his Plenty of Fish profile to 19061, as the house he had just bought was there. That made him pop up on Lauren's feed as a new match. "How do you like Boothwyn so far?" was her first question. Michael wrote back that he didn't know yet, as settlement wasn't for another month and he was still living in Havertown -- an address that was just a few miles out of Lauren's dating match range, as she lived in Linwood.
From the e-mails and phone calls that commenced, Michael, who is now 39, and Lauren, now 40, learned they had much that mattered in common with each other, such as close-knit families. His parents, John and Maureen, and hers, Elaine and Frank, have all been married more than 40 years. They shared a deep Catholic faith and a diehard loyalty to the Eagles and Phillies.
Due to his schedule, and her first-ever case of pinkeye, it took a month for their first date to happen. "We met at Tavola at Springfield Country Club for dinner and walked out four hours later," Lauren said.
"I walked her to her car and told her I'd like to see her again," added Michael.
Weekly dates became more frequent when Michael moved to his Boothwyn home -- in the same town Lauren's family had moved to, from Port Richmond, when she was 20. Before long, they met each other's families. Michael was an instant hit with the Malczons, and Lauren fit right in with the Meachams.
She'll never forget the first time she met them all, at the Shore in Sea Isle City. "He is one of four boys and the oldest, and it was something special to see how much he loves and respects his mother," said Lauren, an administrative assistant at Chemours in Wilmington. "I knew that's how he would treat me."
Both knew within six months of dating they would marry. One day, Lauren told Michael about the time she and her mom visited Grammy Dot and asked her to help Lauren find a good man. Michael told her his prayers often included conversations with his late grandparents, and he thought Grandma Helen might also have had a hand in their meeting.
In March 2016, Michael, who is now a sales representative for Aston's Keystone Digital Imaging, asked Lauren's dad for his blessing, and then asked him not to tell a soul -- not even her mom.
A couple of days later, he got home from work and went to cook in the kitchen, making lobster, filet mignon, and asparagus. He placed flowers on the table, and just before Lauren returned to the home in Boothwyn where they now live, he lit candles and set out a bottle of champagne.
"I walked in, and he was standing right in the doorway, blocking the kitchen," Lauren said. She had only a moment to puzzle over his odd behavior. Lauren was still removing her coat when Michael got on one knee.
"Will you spend the rest of your life with me, Lauren Elaine?" he asked.
She said yes, and he showed her what he'd been hiding in the kitchen.
"It was all on a random Tuesday," she said. All the better to avoid suspicion, he said.
Her dad had kept the secret, so Lauren had the joy of telling her mom the news. She and Michael drove the five minutes to their house, and her dad brought out balloons, flowers, and another bottle of champagne.
The couple made sure their families had important roles in their traditional Catholic ceremony, which was performed by a deacon who is such a close family friend that Lauren grew up calling him Cousin Dennis.
Lauren's sister-in-law, Laura, a cantor in her church, sang "Ave Maria" when Lauren placed a rose at the feet of the Virgin Mary statue. Her sister-in-law, Liz, did a reading. Her nieces, Caitlin and Abby, were among the bridesmaids, along with friends Alyssa and Lauren. Lifelong best friend Maggie was matron of honor.
Michael's godmother, Jane, did a reading. His sisters-in-law, Christine and Erica, read the Prayers of the Faithful. His brother Kevin was best man. His brothers Jim and Keith, and hers, Greg and Jeff, were groomsmen.
Michael chose tradition over ease of scheduling, and no pictures were taken before the ceremony. "I wanted the first time I saw her on our wedding day to be when she was walking down the aisle with her father," he said. The moment was as amazing as he had imagined.
When it was time for the couple to walk in to their reception for 155 at the Concordville Inn, the DJ played the Monday Night Football theme and Merrill Reese's familiar voice boomed over the speakers. "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome for the first time in public Mr. and Mrs. Michael Meacham!" he said in a recording. The crowd went nuts. The groom was pretty psyched himself. "Babe! How did you do that?" he asked Lauren. She said she'd simply asked.
Getting a new last name without needing to change her monogram also felt like fate to Lauren, as the Malczon crew tends to marry other M's: Her mom's maiden name is Markisz. One sister-in-law was a Malaquias, another a Murphy.
And get this: Michael's mom's maiden name is Manns and her mom was previously a McElhinney.
The letter M was prominently featured on the wedding invitations. Another served as cake topper, and a 40-by-42-inch wooden, light-up M graced the dance floor.
Still a Port Richmond girl at heart, Lauren hired six Mummers to perform. The night ended with a joyous hat tip to the Phillies: Harry Kalas singing "High Hopes."
Before anyone else got to the reception, the couple went in to see the room in the company of their photographer. "He told us to just look at each other as we took the moment in," Mike remembered. "It was this immediate feeling of warmth, of joy, of everything that had happened so far that day, and Lauren being with me, and her smile."
The couple's first dance was to Firehouse's "Love of a Lifetime." But their real-life, day-to-day song guaranteed to make them groove wherever they are is Walk the Moon's "Shut Up and Dance." Just after the introductions by Merrill Reese, the DJ played it. "I looked around, and everyone was chanting, cheering, clapping, and dancing," Lauren said. "Everyone was there for us -- people were celebrating our love."
A bargain: The Concordville Inn. "We looked at five or six other places, but it was by far the best bang for our buck," Michael said.
The splurge: The couple considered saving the expense of a videographer before deciding one was essential. "We want these memories 15, 20 years from now," Lauren said.
A week in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
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