Kate Goldenberg and Rich Hackett
May 6, 2017, in Philadelphia
They met online in March 2012, each attracted to the other's snarkiness and commitment not to commit.
"Please don't answer this if you're not witty and interesting," Rich wrote in his Plenty of Fish profile.
Rich's plea stemmed from too many dates with women who, like him, were divorced, but unlike him, were either not over their old marriages or were overly eager to get into a new one. He sought something much lighter.
"I guess the pressure's on for me to be clever," Kate, a Scully Co. property manager who is now 49, wrote him. "If you're interested, a bunch of us will all be at Christy's Bar this afternoon."
Checking Kate's profile, Rich learned she was also divorced. "I'm very busy," it read, "and when I have a night or two free when I don't have my son, I want to have fun."
Rich, a network installer for Local 400 IBEW who is now 51, lived in Tuckerton, Ocean County, but he planned to be in Egg Harbor Township, Atlantic County – home of both Kate and Christy's, to fetch patio furniture cushions on sale at a Big Lots store.
Rich spied Kate and her 10 coworkers, gathered to cheer their friend John, who had received some difficult health news. When one of the guys approached the bar, Rich asked him to tell Kate that Mr. MoJo Rising — his Plenty of Fish screen name — said hello.
"What did you do?" someone asked Kate. "I may have told a complete stranger where I would be tonight," she said.
Rich fit right in, joking with her friends and impressing Kate. Rich liked her, too – this lady knew how to have fun. They exchanged numbers, and the next weekend, at Rich's suggestion, hit the grand opening of South Philadelphia's Xfinty Live! Listening to the band Mr. Greengenes, Rich leaned down to deliver what he dubbed her first Plenty of Fish kiss.
They kept things casual for a couple of years, seeing each other Friday or Saturday night only. One reason: Both have kids. Kate's son Logan is now 11. Rich's son David is now 24.
Life sometimes got serious.
Both of their families included old dogs. Kate's pug, named Captain Morgan Pirate Pug, a.k.a. Morgan, was 13. Rich's black Lab, Rosco, was 15. Seven months after they met, Rosco was dying. Rich wanted to help his canine friend but couldn't bear to do it, so Kate took Rosco on his final trip to the vet.
When Morgan needed to make his final vet trip a year later, Rich went with Kate.
Rich said Kate saw right through his snarky exterior to his caring core. "I've had my moments when I've been a hell-raiser and a screw-up, but that was never who I was," he said. "I am a hard worker, I'm responsible, I have strong family ties, and she picked out all of the good in me. She makes me feel good about myself, and she makes me want to try to do better."
Kate adored how self-sufficient and independent Rich was, and how he never tried to smother or control her. "He also has a crazy sense of humor, is positive, upbeat, and fun. You know that saying, 'Work hard, play hard'? He really does that."
Together, the couple adopted puggles: Schmidty, named after Mike Schmidt, and Molly, named after Molly Ringwald.
Rich showed up at Kate's door in September 2015 bearing a bouquet of flowers adorned with Ring Pops. She was arguing with Google Play about a $15 charge.
"You need to get off the phone," he told her, pointing to the posies.
She saw the candy. "Oh! Ring Pops!"
He put a pop on her finger, hoping she'd get the hint. She didn't.
"We found the discrepancy," said the voice on her phone. "It will just be a minute."
"She has to go now," Rich told the voice. "She's getting engaged"
"Congrats!" the voice said before hanging up.
Kate was completely baffled until Rich asked, "Do you want to trade these in for a big-girl ring?"
Rich whisked her off to the Hilton Garden Inn in Center City, where she showed everyone the soon-to-be-replaced pop on her finger. They hit Jewelers' Row before the first store opened. Back at the suite many hours later, Rich knelt and put the real deal on her finger.
Xfinity Live! became a go-to place for the couple. Once, when the Phillies were rained out, the two walked around the complex — and inspiration struck. "Do you think we could get married here?" Kate asked a security guard. "I don't see why not," he said.
The couple's wedding was the first ever held there. Planning began with Kate's mission statement: No chicken dinner, no Chicken Dance, no throwing bouquets, no matching tablecloths. Yes to fun. Yes to music. Yes to their Irish heritage.
The ceremony took place on the patio of 1100 Social in front of a huge image of Rich's family crest. The groom wore a kilt. The couple's hands were bound together in an Irish handfasting ceremony as a sign of their union. The 75 guests all received ribbons they blessed with their good thoughts, then added them to the original elaborate knot, which remained on Kate's arm throughout the night. It has a place of honor in the couple's living room in Tuckerton.
There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen in the 22-person bridal party, a.k.a. the Inner Circle.
The sound of bagpipes signaled it was time for everyone to move to the next destination, and the couple and guests followed the piper to the outdoor fire pits for a cocktail hour, then to Broad Street Bullies Pub for a toast.
Whenever the couple visit Xfinity Live!, they head to a certain balcony spot overlooking the NBC Sports Arena for a selfie. This time, their photographer snapped a photo in the same spot, capturing their guests on the lower level behind them.
Also at the lounge, the couple and all the friends who were there the night they met huddled up for a toast to John, who had since died.
Everything was open to the public at Xfinity Live! – guests had armbands to identify them – but the Sports Arena TVs were silenced so the couple could dance their first dance to Michael Buble's "Hold On."
Other bagpiper-led wedding walk stops included Chickie's & Pete's for crab fries, Victory Beer Hall for wedding cake pops, and PBR Bar & Grill for soft pretzels and, yes, mechanical bull rides.
Rich and the half-dozen men who have been his closest friends for more than 20 years have a pact: When one of them gets married, another pulls him aside to ask: "Are you sure?" If groom has any doubts, the friend will put him on a plane to Vegas. No one has ever taken the Vegas flight, but everyone had been asked, until now. "Nobody asked me," Rich said. "Nobody needed to."
When the couple began their first dance, they were surrounded by friends and hundreds of strangers, many of whom also were taking photos and videos. "People I didn't know kept coming up to me to say, 'Congratulations' or, 'I'm so happy for you.' Kate said. "I felt like we had the most romantic and fun wedding ever, and the whole world picked up on it."
A bargain: The bride paid $75 for her thrift-shop-find dress.
The splurge: An open bar.
Seven days, seven castles, and seven pubs in Ireland.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: Friend of the bride Lela Tutka, who happens to be ordained.
Venue: Xfinity Live!, Philadelphia.
Food: Xfinity Live! Cakepop cake by Monika's Cookie Jar.
Music: Bagpiper John Ginty, a member of the Philadelphia Police and Fire Pipes and Drums band.
Photography: Michael Duncan, Mantua, N.J.
Videography: Xfinity Live!
Dress: Lighthouse Alliance Thrift Shop, Tuckerton, N.J.
Groom's attire: Kilt Rental USA.
Planners: Erin Soper and Maureen Tan of Xfinity Live!