Lauren Miller and James Morse

May 26, 2018, in Philadelphia

James Morse and Lauren Miller during their first dance as husband and wife.
Rebecca Barger Photography
James Morse and Lauren Miller during their first dance as husband and wife.

Hello there

Lauren and James met in 2008 through mutual friends at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.  They became friends, and then close friends.

In 2009, Lauren finished her undergrad classes and began the graduate school part of her five-year communication sciences program. James graduated with his management, marketing, and economics degree but stayed in Cleveland.

By day, James worked in project management.  By night, he often brought refreshment to his favorite starving graduate student.

"He would come and hang out to support me as I did my work," Lauren said.

"I was low-key trying to date her," James said.

Lauren didn't realize at first that the sandwiches and Starbucks were edible Valentines. Then James began giving her literal greeting cards — ones he made to encourage her in challenging academic times, such as graduate practicum placement.

"They were nothing elaborate; from the outside, it looked kind of like a kindergartner had made them," Lauren said. "Inside were sweet messages like: 'I hope you have a wonderful day. You're the best.' "

Their closeness made it possible to talk openly about their feelings. It also made Lauren a little hesitant:  "If we dated and things went awry, I would be losing a big part of my life."

James didn't push the issue, but if anything, they spent more time together. "We went out and did things all the time, and went to dinner all the time," he said.

"His perseverance is pretty remarkable," Lauren said, appreciatively. "I became more and more comfortable until I realized that the greater loss would be not trying."

One night in July 2010, they kissed. And then they fell in love.

"She's very pretty, extremely intelligent, funny, and laid-back," James said.

James is whole-heartedly enthusiastic, Lauren said. "He's unbelievably caring and supportive, and he always puts me first — it's a pretty remarkable thing."

A partnership formed quickly, in one sense, James said, but then again, not really so quickly. "We had been on many, many dates before we were actually dating."

James Morse and Lauren Miller inside the Free Library of Philadelphia, where their wedding ceremony and reception were held.
Rebecca Barger Photography
James Morse and Lauren Miller inside the Free Library of Philadelphia, where their wedding ceremony and reception were held.

The engagement

From the time they planned their lives together, they had planned to move to Philadelphia.

In January 2016, Lauren, who is now 30, became a speech therapist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania  and moved back home. James remained in Cleveland, but they saw each other at least once a month. Because James, now a senior sales engineer for BrandMuscle in Chicago, works remotely, he could stay for weeks at a time. He did so that July.

James picked Lauren up at work and they drove to her parents' home.  "I have a surprise for you — just something small," he told her. Everyone was going on the annual Miller trip to Long Beach Island the next week, so Lauren suspected a boogie board.

James asked her to close her eyes as they walked through the house, across the patio, and out into the backyard.  "OK. Open your eyes," he said.

She did, and she found him kneeling in front of her.

James told her he loved her and their life together and asked if she would marry him. She said yes, and her parents and sister appeared from their hiding places. "Then he said I had an hour to get ready, because we had friends coming over to celebrate," Lauren said. "It was wonderful."

In July 2017, James and Lauren moved into their Fairmount home.

James Morse enjoys his surprise from bride Lauren Miller: a ranch dressing fountain.
Rebecca Barger Photography
James Morse enjoys his surprise from bride Lauren Miller: a ranch dressing fountain.

It was so them

The fun began at the couple's apartment, where they, their parents, and the entire bridal party got ready. "I remember sitting on the couch and seeing that everyone was there in some stage of hair and makeup, wearing gym shorts and eating, drinking, and just having a great time," Lauren said.

The wedding and celebration for 70 were held at the Free Library of Philadelphia. The nine-minute, secular ceremony was led by the couple's friend Brad, who told a bit of the couple's story before they took the vows they'd written for each other.

"I vow to care for you, stand beside you, and share with you all of life's adversities and all of its joys, from this day forward, and all of the days of my life," James promised Lauren.

"Above all, I vow to remain faithful to our friendship and partnership, putting us and our team first," Lauren promised James.

At the cocktail hour, Lauren had a surprise for  her new husband. Realizing that his "groom's fountain" flowed with ranch dressing was pure joy, he said. "I had never seen anything like it. I didn't know it was possible!  I may have dreamed such a thing, and there it was."

He spent most of the hour drinking a cocktail and dipping carrots, red peppers, cheese, and crackers,  and texting his ranch-loving buddies to come see what his wife had done for him.

The groom did not double-dip.

The reception featured many desserts and much dancing, including the couple's first dance as married people — the rumba they'd learned at Society Hill Dance Company to an instrumental version of Peter Gabriel's "The Book of Love" — the same song that played as Lauren walked down the aisle.

James Morse and Lauren Miller outside the Free Library.
Rebecca Barger Photography
James Morse and Lauren Miller outside the Free Library.

Awestruck

After the last dance, the couple, still in wedding dress and suit and carrying the top tier of their cake, walked home.  "Did you guys just get married?" a man smoking a cigar called from his stoop. "Congratulations!" Well wishes followed them the whole way up 20th. "It was a lot of fun," James said.

Between such greetings, it was just the two of them for the first time that day. "My heart felt really full — to have the love and support of all the people who came to our wedding, and now to have this moment to enjoy together and reflect on it all, was a special thing," Lauren said.

James Morse and Lauren Miller practice their first dance steps.
Rebecca Barger Photography
James Morse and Lauren Miller practice their first dance steps.

The budget crunch

A bargain: Nancy, owner of Wisot Designs, charged the couple roughly half the amount quoted by other florists they considered. She  used many flowers she grew in her own nursery and was wonderful to work with, Lauren said. "It was quite the deal!"

The splurge:  Photography was the couple's top priority. Once they saw Rebecca Barger's work, they knew she was the one they should hire. "She's not cheap, and rightfully so," James said. "She's worth every penny."

James Morse and Lauren Miller.
Rebecca Barger Photography
James Morse and Lauren Miller.

Honeymooning

Two weeks in Italy, including a lesson in Italian family cooking, followed by a feast, through a small company called LovexFood. "It was one of the coolest things we've ever done," James said.

Behind the scenes

Officiant: Brad Collins, friend of couple, who was ordained online.

Food: Brûlée Catering, Philadelphia.

Music: Matt Spitko.

Photography: Rebecca Barger Photography, Jenkintown.

Flowers: Wisot Designs, Cochranville.

Dress: Nicole Bridal and Formal Shoppe, Jenkintown.

Hair: Up Your Do by Jill Kosar, Jenkintown.

Makeup: Dylan Michael Cosmetics, Jenkintown.

Groom's attire: Brooks Bros.