Kasia Kordas and Christopher Roithmayr
June 17, 2017 in Chicago
The first fireworks between them were small and literal. Standing on a Yunnan Province street with a group of American college students, Chris tossed Pop-Its he'd bought from a street vendor at Kasia's feet, hoping the tiny white noisemakers would catch her attention.
Chris, a Paoli/Malvern native, studied sports and event management and business administration at Elon University in North Carolina. Kasia, who's from Chicago, studied economics and Chinese at Loyola University. Both were part of the same Beijing study-abroad program in January 2011. Days before he showered her with Pop-Its, Chris had noticed Kasia step off her bus and was wowed.
Kasia realized someone was flirting with someone but wasn't sure Chris was flirting with her. That March, they and a dozen other study-abroad students took a spring break side trip to Chengdu. Chris walked into an Irish bar and ordered a plate of nachos, which looked darned divine to Kasia.
"Could I have some?" she asked hopefully. "Yes," he said. "But if you have some, it counts as our first date."
Kasia heard nothing beyond "yes." "I was excited about the nachos," she admits. "Hey, it counted for me!" Chris said.
A guy who shares his nachos is a good guy, and, back in Beijing, Kasia accepted Chris' invitation for dinner at an Italian place called Annie's. Then they binge-watched the entire Dexter series together.
"It was so easy to talk to each other. And Kasia got my sense of humor," which tends toward dad-joke corny, Chris said.
"He was really fun to hang out with, and such a nice person," Kasia said. She knew she was falling for him when she was willing to get up at 7 a.m. China time to watch the Sixers and Flyers.
Kasia and Chris acknowledged they were in big-time like but agreed distance would part them when he returned to Pennsylvania, then North Carolina, and she to Chicago, then back to Beijing.
That was the theory.
After a family vacation, Kasia sent Chris a 3 a.m. text saying she had landed safely in Chicago. Chris was up, so he called her. "We are talking all the time, and we like each other a lot," he said. "Let's just try to make this work."
They visited each other that summer, then turned to Skype when she went back to China.
After graduating in 2012, Chris found a noncareer job that paid the rent on a West Chester apartment. Kasia was a paralegal in Chicago but applied to Villanova University's law school. She and her Great Dane, Noah, moved to Havertown in summer 2013. The next year, Chris enrolled in Villanova to earn his master's in analytics. The two delighted in their proximity, and all was joyous until Noah got sick and died in August 2015. Kasia was so sad Chris didn't want to leave her alone. In January, he brought his things over.
In January 2016, the couple, now both 27, and their Norfolk terrier, Henry, moved to Center City. Chris, now a data analyst at Independence Blue Cross, was off to his internship. Kasia, now an international tax associate at KPMG, was still a student, but she had arranged the move for a day when she didn't have class so she could manage the movers.
A month earlier, Chris had picked out a ring with the help of a special consultant: his mom, Alison. Kasia and her mom, Maria, are so close that Chris didn't seek Maria's blessing until his lunch hour on asking day. "You can talk to her about this tonight," he said. "I promise!"
Kasia noticed he hadn't changed out of his suit and tie after work, and then that his hands were shaking. "He took my hands, and said we were officially starting our life together in a new apartment, and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me."
Chris asked her to marry him.
She sobbed for several moments.
"I may have accidentally said no at first," Kasia said. She did, but in the "I'm not entirely sure if this is really happening," sense.
Chris understood. "The way she put her hand down so I could put the ring on it, I was hoping it was a yes," he said.
They called Maria and Kasia's stepdad, Bogdan. They called Alison and Chris's dad, Peter. And then they enjoyed dinner at Chima, a celebration Kasia had been looking forward to even when she thought it was just about their new apartment.
In March 2017, the couple bought a home in Rittenhouse.
Chris and Kasia married in Chicago at St. Mary of the Angels, a gift to Kasia's late and beloved grandma also named Kasia.
In the 1970s, Babcia Kasia opened Kasia's Deli — a business her family still runs. Babcia Kasia knew Chicago's Polish community well. Just before she died in June 2016, she made a request of her granddaughter and grandson-in-law to be: "She said she really wanted us to get married in a church, and St. Mary of the Angels is the most beautiful Polish Catholic church in Chicago," Kasia said.
The reception for 240 was catered by her deli. There was a bounty of pierogies, stuffed cabbage, pork cutlets, and other Polish delights. The dessert table included baseball-shaped cookies adorned with the Phillies logo.
The Harold Washington Library reception space has so much glass and greenery some of the photos look as though they were taken outside. Guests received shot glasses embossed with the Chinese character for double happiness. The couples' moms' wedding dresses were displayed on mannequins. Bridesmaid Allison, a musical theater actress, sang the couple's first dance song, "Where You Lead," the theme from Gilmore Girls, another show the couple watched together.
The ceremony began at 3 p.m. Chris had never been so nervous. "We were engaged for a year and a half, and it was finally happening, and all I could do was hope everything went well and worry about what would happen if it didn't," he said.
Finally, Kasia was walking toward him. "As soon as she got up to the altar, and we could sit together, and be together, I didn't feel nervous anymore — I just felt so happy," he said. "It was an amazing feeling to be in the church, in front of all these people, and yet it felt like just the two of us. I knew everything would definitely be OK, and our day would be just how we hoped it would be."
When it was time for the mother-son dance, "I was sitting there eating my pierogi, and watching Chris and his mom, and looking around the room at everyone who was there for us," Kasia said. "I knew a moment like that would never happen again, and I really realized, 'This is our wedding day.' "
A bargain: When your family owns the deli, the food is free.
The splurge: Kasia's mom, Maria, paid for her daughter's dress. "I fell absolutely in love with the cheapest dress I tried on, which was way under-budget. So she bought me a pair of Louboutins."
Two weeks in China, including dinner at the Beijing Italian restaurant that was the scene of either their first or second date, depending on whether you count sharing nachos.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: The Rev. Richard Milek, friend of the bride's late grandmother.
Ceremony venue: St. Mary of the Angels, Chicago.
Reception venue: Harold Washington Library, Chicago.
Music: DJ Chicago, Chicago.
Photography: Peter Gubernat Photography, Chicago.
Videography: LEAP Weddings, Chicago.
Flowers: 7 Red Roses, Des Plaines, Ill.
Hair/Makeup: Tamara Makeup + Hair Artistry, Oak Brook, Ill.
Groom's attire: The Black Tux.
Planner: Shannon Gail, Chicago.
Transportation: Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co., Chicago.