Kiera Murasko-Blank and Mark Shimrock
November 18, 2017, in Philadelphia
From her spot on the dance floor at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, Kiera saw the face of a tall stranger bobbing above the crowd. This cute guy looked like he was having as much fun as she was.
"I want that one," she told her friend that September night in 2012. She danced in his direction. He smiled.
"We danced for a couple of songs, and then we started talking," Mark said.
Taking their getting-to-know-you questions off the dance floor, they soon discovered a web of friends in common, stretching back to his days at Germantown Academy and hers at Penn Charter. He played baseball. She played tennis, squash, and lacrosse. Both became friends with their competitors from the rival squads.
"Even though we didn't know each other, a lot of people we both know were there that night," Mark said. With a level of comfort added to their mutual attraction, the two headed back to the dance floor. "I made him lift me up, Dirty Dancing-style. I would run and jump up, and he would lift," Kiera said, laughing at the memory.
"Kiera has a really great laugh," noted Mark, who grew up in Lansdale. "We were absolutely having fun together."
At the end of the night, they exchanged numbers. Mark, a banker who works with technology and life sciences companies at Silicon Valley Bank in West Conshohocken, headed back to his Conshocken apartment. Kiera, who is now supervisor of support services for the president of Drexel University, then worked as a business development consultant and lived in Washington.
They texted that night, while she was still at her parents' home in East Falls. Then late the following evening, her phone pinged again. "I thought I should text you once before midnight," Mark said. His arms were sore from all those lifts, he reported. "Let me know the next time you're home from Washington."
"I'll be home next weekend," she wrote back, filled with optimism. But she didn't hear from Mark again that week.
All of this was the prime topic of conversation when Kiera was back in town and with her best friend on Friday.
Figuring she had nothing to lose, Kiera took out her phone. "I guess only one text before midnight was enough?" she wrote.
"She really got my attention with that sass," Mark remembered. Were she not so brave, would he have reached out eventually? Maybe. "Her being in D.C. was the curve ball, and the cause of my delay. Her text was a good jolt, and a really good insight into her personality."
On Saturday afternoon, as halftime of the Notre Dame football game approached, Mark suggested they meet up in a couple of hours. When Kiera said she was also watching the game, he invited her over to watch together. Fortuitously, her company transferred her to the Philadelphia office that December, allowing them to be together nearly every weekend.
Mark, who is now 31, fell in love with Kiera's positivity, her social fearlessness, and her ability to connect with everyone. He once watched with awe as she coaxed his friend's 90-year-old grandma to boogie with her at said friend's wedding. "At a party, she'll talk to parents, grandparents, young kids, and every stranger," he said. "Kiera is always authentically Kiera."
"Mark is really caring," Kiera, now 28, said. "His sister was a freshman playing basketball for Ursinus when I met him, and he would not miss one of her games," she remembered. The kindness he showed her touched her deeply. From the start, Mark cared about everything that happened to her, every day. "It sounds so corny," Kiera said. "But he literally makes me feel like I can do anything, and like I'm the only person in the room."
A respectful few months after Kiera's sister's wedding, Mark asked her parents for their blessing. Mark's dad joined him for moral support as he selected a round solitaire and an eight-prong setting to hold it steady no matter what Kiera was up to.
Chestnut Hill has always been a special place for the couple — a place where they could have fun without a detailed plan. On March 20, 2016, Mark had a very detailed plan, however. He invited her to Chestnut Hill ostensibly to watch some of the NCAA games and pick up some fancy cheese to take to his parents' house that night.
They were crossing the street at the corner of Highland and Ardleigh when Mark began talking about how much he loves Kiera, and how she's his best friend.
She was listening, but also a bit distracted by the For Sale sign on the corner. "I thought we were going to go look at that house," she said. Kiera also didn't notice the discreet woman with the camera – photographer Rebecca Barger.
Mark sure got his girlfriend's attention when he knelt in the middle of the intersection.
"Will you marry me?" he asked.
She punctuated her yes with a huge hug and kiss. "I was so shocked and happy!" she said.
A man waiting in his car at the stop sign was first to congratulate them, but soon after, they were greeted at El Poquito by shouts of joy from their families: her parents, Ken and Donna, her sister, Francesca, and brother-in-law, Brian. His parents, Mark and Terri, his brother, Andrew, and sister, Caroline.
The couple wed at St. Bridget Parish in East Falls, Kiera's family church. The ceremony included a full Mass and songs the groom's brother, a church organist, helped them select.
Their parents, the groom's Gram Karen, and the entire bridal party joined them at the altar as the couple said their vows. Kiera's yellow gold wedding band is flanked by two thin white gold bands, each with two diamonds from the ring her great-aunt Flo left to her father.
Their reception was held in the same Loews ballroom where they met. They extended their cocktail hour by half an hour so they had time to greet each of their 210 guests before the dancing started. "We both wanted the focus to be on the dance floor, and we broke the dance floor," Kiera said. The boards of the floating floor snap together, and two and a half hours of dancing to band Pop Philly pulled them apart.
Most of their wedding day was about celebrating with family and friends, Mark said. But then Brett Eldredge's "Mean to Me" started to play, and the couple who danced the day they met were dancing for the first time as husband and wife. "It was only about me and Kiera," Mark said. "It was everything I thought it would be, and it was amazing."
The last song they and all their guests danced to that night was The Beatles' "Hey Jude." "Mark and I were over in the corner of the dance floor, looking out at our family and friends. Everybody was so into it," Kiera said. She looked at everyone, and then back at her new husband. "It was the perfect end of our day, just to have Mark there, and to know that he'll be there forever," she said. "We could not have started our life together on a better note."
A bargain: Getting married the weekend before Thanksgiving and booking far in advance yielded significant discounts from the venue and band.
The splurge: A big room required lots of flowers. "I kind of went overboard with them, but they were so pretty," Kiera said.
The bride wanted someplace cold, the groom wanted someplace warm, so the couple, who now live in Dresher, spent five November days golfing and exploring in Bermuda, and six February days skiing and spa-ing at Banff.
Officiant: The Rev. Robert Feeney, St. Bridget Roman Catholic Church, Philadelphia/
Ceremony: St. Bridget.
Reception: Loews Philadelphia Hotel.
Music: Pop Philly, EBE Entertainment, Philadelphia.
Photography: Rebecca Barger.
Flowers: Carl Alan Floral Designs, Philadelphia.
Dress: Pronovias, purchased at Van Cleve Bridal, Paoli.
Hair/Makeup: Artur Kirsch Salon, Philadelphia.
Groom's attire: Ventresca, Doylestown.