For 21/2 years, Jonathan Strawbridge paid attention.
"Wouldn't it be neat to get married on a stage?"
"Do you think we could find ballroom dancers to set the mood?"
"What if our wedding was more like a show than a traditional ceremony?"
His girlfriend's spontaneous musings might have seemed like they went in one ear and out the other. But they never did. Strawbridge "may have even had them documented," he said recently, almost embarrassed by his thoughtfulness.
The plan: Strawbridge, 35, asked Cindy Hardy to marry him on a Sunday morning last September. A day later, he presented Hardy with 20 pages of her own ideas, organized into a fully developed wedding -- for lack of a better word -- proposal.
The plan, Strawbridge said, "has now turned into a ..."
"Production," Hardy chimed in, finishing her
fiance's sentence and beaming ear to ear on the sofa across from him.
The York City couple will marry Sunday at the Sight & Sound Millennium Theatre in Lancaster -- the first time the Christian venue has ever hosted a wedding. It'll be the realization of a dream Hardy, 30, didn't fully realize she had until her fiance wrote it down and handed it to her a year ago.
Meticulously scripted and choreographed, the wedding is designed to blow away 500 lucky guests. Details are being kept under wraps -- "We can't give away anything" -- but the couple has no trouble sharing their story. It began on a Sunday morning in a York City church.
The romance: That day, Hardy was serving as an usher at Abundant Life Ministries when a 6-foot-5-inch man dressed in a three-piece suit walked in and found a seat. He was handsome. And he was the only white person in a predominantly black church.
"You couldn't help but notice him," she said.
Hardy began asking around. Who is this sharply dressed guy?
Word eventually got back to Strawbridge that he'd been noticed. A week later, the two met for their first date.
The chemistry was immediate. Hardy, a black woman who grew up in New York City, and Strawbridge, a white man who spent his youth in the York County countryside, talked about "everything under the sun."
"The one thing we had in common was God," Hardy said. "I think it was all ordained. It was meant to be."
The couple also credits God for giving them the opportunity to hold their wedding ceremony at Sight & Sound.
Knowing the theater is not marketed as a wedding venue, Hardy and Strawbridge figured it was a long shot to ask. But when the theater's managers said they'd entertain a pitch, the couple quickly crafted a theatrical, scripted wedding and submitted it.
In February -- or was it June? Hardy wondered -- they got the official OK.
It was February, Strawbridge said as he pulled out a folder of emails, contracts and everything else wedding-related.
"What if you didn't have me?" he teased Hardy. "You'd be in trouble."
-- Erin James may also be reached at ejame firstname.lastname@example.org.