Lauren Potter and John Elicker
Jan. 14, 2017 in Philadelphia
They met at a mutual friend's November 2012 birthday party, introduced by Lauren's then-roommate and nursing school bestie, Cait, who has known John since they grew up in West Chester together.
"I made a couple of corny jokes, absolutely to flirt with Lauren," John said.
"I thought he was funny," said Lauren. "I gave him my number."
Lauren made it clear she could not be wooed through texts, and so a couple of days later, John called. They scheduled a date at a now-closed restaurant near Lauren's Queen Village apartment. John, a life sciences consultant with Accenture, arrived at her door directly from a New York business trip, rolling a suitcase behind him. Commence jokes about the speed he was taking things on their first date. But the conversation wasn't all jokey.
"She had a kind soul, I thought," John said. "It was clear that she took an interest in me, and in others -- she asked good questions and cares about connecting with other people."
Lauren found John a genuine person. "He wasn't trying to put on a show to impress me. He was who he was -- and I really liked him for who he was." He's the oldest of three, with a younger brother and sister. She's the youngest, with two older brothers. "We both care a lot about family, and he spent so much time with his parents and brother and sister," she said. "He is also active and smart. There were just a lot of things we could connect and agree on."
The date ended not when they would have liked, but when Lauren, a native of West Deptford, had to head to work at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where she works part-time. In August, she will graduate from Thomas Jefferson University's Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program.
Neither was looking for a relationship back then, but neither wanted to date anyone else after their first date, either.
By May 2015, this couple knew they were forever. They got a Queen Village apartment and John started ring shopping that summer. "I had to wait a little bit, because Lauren's middle brother proposed to his girlfriend, and it was very fresh for the family. I didn't want to push that aside."
By winter, Kevin and Jill were on to "tactical wedding planning" and John thought the Potter family was ready for another engagement to celebrate.
In January 2016, John, now 30, suggested their traditional long winter weekend in Ocean City. They lucked out with weather that didn't require much bundling, and they headed to the south end of the beach, where recent restoration meant lots of sand.
"I had a coffee in one hand and a water bottle in the other," Lauren, 28, said. "I wasn't thinking anything was going to happen until he started saying all these nice, serious things and asked me why I had two drinks."
They walked about two miles, and she had a free hand by the time he knelt on the sand.
"I was prepared with my answer, of course!" Lauren said.
She said yes and excitedly asked what they should do to celebrate. Lunch at the Deauville Inn was even more amazing when she realized it was not a spontaneous destination -- her parents, Tom and Lynne, and his, Jake and Julie, were waiting there, along with 11 other family members and friends John had assembled.
Both were raised Catholic, and, after the engagement, they began searching for a church in the city. St. John the Evangelist felt right from the beginning, and increasingly so as they went through the pre-Cana marriage classes with the Rev. Brian Stacy, the priest who married them.
"He made getting married, and getting married in the Catholic Church, the best experience ever for us," Lauren said. "We really formed a great relationship with him. He knew us."
Father Stacy made everything personal and comfortable, John said. "A wedding is a big deal and can feel very overwhelming in lots of ways, mostly with joy, but also in other ways. Father Stacey made it easy to focus on things that really mattered -- what we were there for that day," John said. He configured the altar with the bride and groom sitting on chairs off to one side. "Even though there were a lot of people at our wedding -- about 300 -- it made it feel like it was just the two of us."
Once the ceremony was complete, "It was a let-down-your-hair kind of moment" at the Ballroom at the Ben, John said. The two took a few dance lessons and used what they learned to design their own moves for Elvis' "Can't Help Falling in Love."
They tried to visit with every guest, but it got to be overwhelming. "I said to Lauren, 'Let's just have fun the rest of the night,' and we did, and it was great," John said.
The band kept everyone plenty entertained. "Neither of us really love being the center of attention, and they kept the party going so we didn't have to be," Lauren said.
Taking vows was an extraordinary experience, Lauren said. "It was such an exciting thing to make it official, to know that I found this great person I love so much and I want to spend my life with, and, holy moly, it's happening right now!"
John said, "The whole sequence of facing the altar with our backs to everyone, then saying our vows facing each other, and then turning around to face the church was wonderful. "In reality, it went quickly, but it felt much slower. I was trying to make it be slow, because that was the moment of making it official, the most special moment."
A bargain: The couple's florist, in Millville, N.J., recommended by a friend, did "a beautiful job at a price point that was awesome," Lauren said. It cost about 25 percent less than other florists they considered.
The splurge: This couple tries to be frugal but wanted a big, great-sounding band, and a photographer whose work was beautiful and who would do all the planning so they didn't have to think about photos at all. They got married in the offseason and watched pennies elsewhere to fit photographer Rebecca Barger and band Jellyroll into the budget.
A long weekend in the Florida Keys to be followed by two weeks in Thailand after Lauren passes the nurse practitioner boards.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: The Rev. Brian Stacy, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Philadelphia.
Food: Finley Catering.
Music: Jellyroll, BVT Live, Chadds Ford.
Photography: Rebecca Barger, Jenkintown.
Flowers: Pink Dahlia Vintage, Millville, N.J.