Shared from the 2017-12-03 Philadelphia Inquirer - Philly Edition eEdition

KELLIE PATRICK GATES

Rochelle Laws & Nicholas Palmer

September 30, 2017, in Philadelphia

Picture

Rochelle Laws and Nicholas Palmer. RUSS HICKMAN

COMING WEDNESDAY

At first, they shunned birth mothers who had any previous drug use. But then intuition overrode their doubts. “The Parent Trip” in Life

BEHIND THE SCENES

Officiant: The Honorable C. Darnell Jones II, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Venue: National Constitution Center, Philadelphia.

Food: Brulee Catering, Philadelphia.

Harpist: Mindy Cutcher, Harp by Request, Oreland.

DJ: Eric Scott Gold, East Coast Event Group, Phoenixville.

Photography: Russ Hickman Photography, Philadelphia.

Flowers: Carl Alan Floral Design Ltd., Philadelphia.

Dress: Sottero & Midgley, purchased at Philly Bride, Philadelphia.

Hair/Makeup: Debbie Herder, Admirations Hair Itiz, Philadelphia; Blo/Out Blow Dry Bar, Philadelphia; Joelle Phillips, Joelle Phillips Artistry.

Planner: Susan Norcross, the Styled Bride, Philadelphia.

K

Do you have the date? E-mail us — at least six weeks before your ceremony — why we should feature your love story: weddings@phillynews.com. Unfortunately, we can’t respond individually to all submissions. If your story is chosen, you will be contacted.

Shelley and Nick met on a Philadelphia kickball field in 2011, when both played for the Feets of Fury.

The Feets were friendly and sometimes gathered for off-the-field get-togethers. In 2012, two such outings — the Red Bull Flugtag in Camden and Shelley’s Graduate Hospital neighborhood block party — dwindled to just Shelley and Nick.

Coincidence? Maybe. But by the time Shelley invited everyone to her Labor Day block party, Nick, now a PharmaLex consultant who is originally from West Bend, Wis., was already interested in her. “As we got to be friends, I just started recognizing the good qualities in her — what a genuinely good and caring and sincere person she was,” he said.

And by the end of that block party, Shelley, who grew up in Marlton and is now an in-house attorney for TD Bank, acknowledged her budding interest in him. “He helped set up chairs and tables and pretty much did anything I needed help with,” she said. “That shined a light on his ability to step in and pitch in. I was really impressed.”

In hindsight, Shelley said, she was probably interested in this handsome, nice man even before the party: “I did a wardrobe change — I knew he was coming, and I spruced up for Nick.”

The two soon went out — intentionally alone — to an Old City First Friday. Weeks later, they hung out at Stogie Joe’s Tavern and talked for hours. Nick, who is now 37 and had been previously married, invited Shelley, now 38, to supper at Supper — their first official date.

“He has a heart of someone I never met before,” Shelley said. “He is so genuine, funny, and supportive. He wasn’t intimidated with my career, and his core values and beliefs mirror mine.” Chief among them: The importance of respecting others.

Nick said he would use many of the same words to describe why he fell in love with Shelley, particularly genuine. Also, “Shelley is a very likable person, and, as a result, has a large network of friends,” he said. “She treats every one of them like he or she is her best friend.”

Shelley quickly got the endorsement of Bubba, a Boston terrier/French bulldog mix who came to the relationship with Nick.

Nick helped her through several sets of very difficult circumstances, professional and personal. He was her sounding board when she made the change from practicing at a law firm to becoming in-house counsel. He gave her endless support when her mom, Vivian, was diagnosed with breast cancer. (She has since beaten it.) And he was there again when John, a close family friend whom Shelley considered a surrogate father, died in 2014. (Her father, William, died when she was 4.)

“It just reassured all of the positive attributes about him that I liked — it made it resounding what kind of person he was,” Shelley said.

The Engagement

In June 2016, the couple attended the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Tchaikovsky Spectacular at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, which included fireworks.

“Afterward, I coerced her to go to the top of the hill to look at the city skyline,” Nick said. “I made small talk, waiting for the crowd to clear out.”

When it was finally semiprivate, Nick knelt and popped the big question.

“I burst into tears,” Shelley said.

Nick stayed on his knee, waiting for a reply. Shelley is sure she said yes at some point, but Nick never heard it. “After awhile, since she was crying and looked happy, Iassumed it was yes,” he said.

When she regained her composure a bit, Shelley admired the ruby-and-diamond ring on her finger and, even more, the thought that went into it.

“I had mentioned before we had ever talked about marriage that if I ever got engaged, I would want my ruby birthstone in the ring,” she said. The fact that Nick took note of a long-before, offhand comment and acted on it is further evidence of the kind of man he is, she said.

It was so them

The couple, who now live in Old City, wed at the National Constitution Center in a ceremony performed by District Judge C. Darnell Jones II.

A harpist played as the bride walked down the big staircase with her brother, Bill, then down the aisle with her mom. Then a ripple of laughter went through the room when Shelley, fresh down the aisle, used both hands to hike up her slipping, strapless dress.

Two aisle seats bore mementos in honor of loved ones who have passed: Shelley’s father’s flag from his days in the U.S. Army and her grandfather William’s Army jacket; Nick’s grandfather Henry’s sweater and his grandfather Robert’s Bible. Shelley’s cousin Alysha sang “Whenever You Call” by Mariah Carey in tribute to all of them. Nick’s nephews Mason and Xavier did a reading. His nephew Desmond and Shelley’s godson Enver were ring bearers. His niece Laney and nephew Cameron were flower girl and flower boy.

Shelley’s vision for the evening reception for 170 was classy and elegant, with a touch of fun.

It felt like just the two of them when she and Nick danced to “North and South” by Hey Marseilles, but Shelley loved seeing everyone having so much fun when guests crowded the dance floor to do the Wobble.

In lieu of a gift registry, the couple had a charity registry, selecting the American Heart Association in honor of Shelley’s father, and Action Wellness, an organization for which Shelley is a board member. In lieu of favors, the couple made donations to both organizations.

Shelley and Nick were surprised with a gift from an unknown guest who brought past and present together: A kickball autographed by their guests. Nick still plays for the Feets of Fury; Shelley has retired.

Awestruck

After Judge Jones pronounced them husband and wife, Nick took Shelley’s hand, and they walked back up the aisle together. “We walked outside, and at that moment, I realized, ‘I am married to my life partner, and my best friend,’ ” Shelley said.

During the reception, the couple’s photographer, Russ — a friend of the bride’s — pulled them outside for some nighttime shots on the Constitution Center lawn. “It was a long exposure for night, and Shelley and I were standing forehead to forehead while everything was going on around us,” Nick said. “It gave us some time to reflect on the meaning behind the whole celebration.”

The budget crunch

Best bargain: Photographer Russ gave the couple the friend discount. The dress Shelley fell in love with was part of a trunk show at Philly Bride the next week. She saved 20 percent.

The splurge: Month-of wedding planner Susan Norcross “assisted with contract review, organizing vendors, and handling everything the day of the wedding. It was seamless,” Shelley said.

Honeymooning

Twelve days in Lisbon, Portugal; Las Palmas, Canary Islands; and Marrakesh, Morocco.

See this article in the e-Edition Here