Stephanie Yeager and Robert Fratoni
January 20, 2018, in Philadelphia
After 46 hours of marathon dancing at THON 2009, Stephanie stood still and stunned. Her roommates had just left the childhood cancer fund-raiser to get the car, and she was supposed to meet them outside.
"I was holding my bag, and just not understanding what I needed to do."
Rob's fraternity, Acacia, had partnered with her sorority, Gamma Phi Beta, to raise money. "I saw someone with Greek letters on her shirt who needed help," he remembered. He took her phone, called her friends, carried her bag, and walked her to the waiting car.
They friended each other on Facebook, and would talk a bit during outings with mutual friends, but that was it — until summer 2011 at a Sea Isle City bar.
Rob, who grew up in King of Prussia, returned to Southeast Pennsylvania to go into business with his dad at the company that was the precursor to Radnor's One Green Apple education technology firm, where he is now product manager. He went down the Shore with a friend to see a fraternity brother's band play a beach bar.
Stephanie, who grew up in State College, Pa., is now director of sales and marketing for Catelli Duo Restaurant Group in Westville, N.J. A job for a different restaurant group brought her to Manayunk after college. She and her friend knew the same guy in the band.
As they caught up with each other, they also caught each other's eye. They texted later, but by the time Rob caught up with Stephanie, she had already had enough fun. He walked her back to the house where she and her friends were staying.
Back down the Shore several weekends later, he blew off the bar tour with the guys to hang out with Stephanie and her friends. That night, Rob made sure that he and the guys hit the same bar Stephanie and the girls were going to. Afterward, Stephanie and Rob sat alone on the beach until 5 a.m., talking about nothing and everything.
The following Friday, an impromptu lunch in Manayunk lasted three hours. From then on, they were together all the time.
"She was just always smiling, always laughing, and always willing to have fun," Rob said. "I was more on the shy side then, and doing these fun things and being social with her was fun for me. But then we could also just hang out and sit on the couch. I felt so comfortable with her."
"He's just so nice. He always thinks of everyone else first," Stephanie said. "Nothing gets him frazzled or upset, and for me, someone who is always frazzled, he is so calming. Nothing fazes or upsets him. There's always a solution."
Rob's King of Prussia lease expired nine months later. What was supposed to be a two-week stay with Stephanie never ended. Six years and counting later, they live in Point Breeze.
Stephanie inherited the engagement ring her grandfather gave her grandmother. They were married more than 50 years, she loved them both — it was the only diamond she wanted. In February 2016, Rob suggested she make an appointment to choose a new setting for the stone. February became March and no appointment happened.
"Should I be worried that you haven't gone to get the ring?" he asked.
"You're my person forever," she assured him. "I'm not in any rush."
As winter turned to spring, Rob realized he was in a bit of a rush. They had a happy hour to attend two blocks away from Safian & Rudolph, the same store where Stephanie's grandfather had purchased the ring many years earlier. Stephanie picked out a new setting. The jeweler said it would take six to eight weeks.
Stephanie didn't know that Rob later returned, solo.
The couple, now both 30, were in Paris for Rob's cousin's wedding less than a month later. After climbing what seemed like a million stairs at the Eiffel Tower, Rob asked Stephanie to take some photos – a diversion tactic.
"As I'm unzipping my bag, I hear Stephanie start to shriek, 'Oh, my gosh! I'm seeing an engagement!' and then the guy next to me got down on one knee and started proposing to his girlfriend."
Stephanie snapped pictures and excitedly promised to text them to the couple. "She's really happy, and I'm annoyed," Rob remembered.
They walked down one level to another quiet corner. "I told her how much I loved her and asked her to marry me," Rob said. "And all she kept saying was, 'Are you sure? Oh, my God, are you sure you want to do this?' "
Rob assured her he was very, very sure. "You have to say yes so I can give you the ring."
"YesYesYesYesYesYes!" Stephanie said.
She remembers absolutely none of this.
"I was in shock," she explained. "The ring wasn't supposed to be ready. And this is Rob — Rob can't keep something like this secret! I have never received a wrapped gift from him, because he gets too excited and hands it to me as soon as the box is delivered."
What she does remember: Crying. A lot. "I could not stop," she said. Rob left for a few moments to find a tissue, a napkin, anything to help his new fiancée. "Tourists were either giving me a wide berth, or giving me these sad eyes — they must have thought I had just been broken up with!" she said.
The groom and his crew spent the morning of the wedding playing hockey at the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Area at the University of Pennsylvania – a gift from the bride.
The couple wed that afternoon in a traditional Catholic ceremony, with full Mass, at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.
Their reception for 196 guests at the Ritz-Carlton was partly inspired by the French reception they attended the week of their engagement. "We always loved how in France, wedding receptions are non-stop parties from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next day," Rob said. Their's wasn't that long, but it was a great big party. The tone was set with their first dance, not to a slow number, but to Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love." "Everybody was already up and dancing in a big circle," Stephanie said. "We danced in the center for a few minutes, and then everyone else came in."
The Ritz made sure everyone always had something to eat and drink and fulfilled two other special requests: They duplicated Rob's famous-in-their-circle Champagne-rita – a margarita with a champagne floater. And they made dessert-loving Rob a Funfetti wedding cake and a gingerbread cake, too — each guest got two slices.
Once Rob was dressed for the ceremony, he could not sit down. "I couldn't believe it was finally happening. I couldn't wait, and I couldn't sit down, I was so anxious. At the altar, I was shuffling back and forth," he said. "Then I see her come in, and I just stop. A calm came over me, and I was tearing up, and at the same time, I was just beaming. I was definitely awestruck."
Stephanie has never felt anything quite like she did when the couple began their first dance, surrounded by their family and friends. "I have the perfect person for me, and we're both blessed with such great family and friends, and they were all there to support us and be with us that day," she said.
A bargain: The couple printed signs, menus, and other day-of items themselves using Shutterfly.
The splurge: Other than Stephanie as his bride, live music was Rob's only wedding day "must." Big Ric Rising kept everyone on the dance floor, throwing in fun touches, like making Rob serenade Stephanie with "My Girl."
A series of long weekends away, including four days in Cuba.
Officiant: The Rev. Kenneth Brabazon, Parochial Vicar, Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia.
Ceremony: Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.
Reception: The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia.
Music: Big Ric Rising, Chadds Ford.
Photography: Ashlee Mintz Photography, Philadelphia.
Videography: Well Spun Weddings, Philadelphia.
Flowers: Vito Ruso at Carl Alan Floral Designs, Philadelphia.
Dress: BHLDN, Philadelphia.