Wedding: Sara Hirschler and Jonathan Purtle

Sara Hirschler and Jonathan Purtle chose a place close to their hearts to get married-the front stoop where they shared their first kiss

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The couple: Sara Hirschler, 31, grew up in Bethesda and graduated from Montgomery Blair High School’s Communications Arts Program in Silver Spring. She is the marketing and membership manager at the Fairmount Park Conservancy in Philadelphia. Jonathan Purtle, 32, is a professor of public health at Drexel University. They live in Philadelphia with their 5-month-old son, Theo.

The wedding: Sara and Jonathan wanted a simple wedding with a small group of friends and family. On April 26, 2015, they were married in a noon ceremony in front of their apartment building in Philadelphia, which was followed by a reception in their 1,100-square-foot third-floor apartment.

How they met: The couple met in 2008 while both lived in the same eight-unit brownstone in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia. “We were on our way to the basement where they stored the recycling,” Sara says. They introduced themselves, and later hung out with other building tenants. “Pretty much everyone was young and into getting to know one another and socializing. We created this tradition of having beers out on the front stoop after work every week.” Sara and Jonathan became friends and later spent time at a local festival and at neighborhood kickball games. 

The First date: Later that year, Jonathan salvaged old windows that someone on their street had thrown away and invited Sara over to paint the windowpanes. A few months later, when they got home from a friend’s birthday party, they had their first kiss, on their building’s front stoop.

The proposal: In October 2014, the couple biked to one of Sara’s favorite places, Wissahickon Valley Park in Philly, to go for a hike. On a rock outpost that overlooks the creek, they sat down with thermoses of tea and soup. “He just casually removed this awesome ring from his pocket and proposed,” Sara says. “It was amazing.” 

Number of guests: 35

What made the event special: “The fact that we got to co-create it,” Sara says. The couple sat in a park a few weeks before the wedding date and planned out the details. “Having us be in charge and not having any kind of pressure or feeling of, oh we should do this. It was just, ‘How do we want this to look? What do we want?’ Everything was open to our interpretation,” she says.

Favorite moments: Sara and Jonathan got ready in separate rooms, then walked down the stairs of their apartment building together. “It was a magical moment to open the doors and walk out of our building, which was this pretty mundane activity that we’ve done every day since we’ve lived there. But here we are, we’re getting married and all of our closest friends and family are right there,” Sara says.

She also loved playing paddleball with Jonathan during the ceremony. “We’re both very playful and not ashamed that we both like to goof around and have fun, and the paddleball brought us both into that element of who we are,” she says. “The way we play, you win by going for as long as possible.” They got about 25 hits.

Favorite detail: At the beginning of the ceremony, their friend who officiated asked all the guests to introduce themselves and explain how they know Sara and Jonathan. “It brought everyone closer,” Sara says.

Cost-cutting tips: “Do it on your front stoop,” Sara says. “Think about the things that really matter. Spend on the things that you think are going to be special rather than on things that people feel obligated to incorporate.” Instead of buying fancy stationery, the couple sent an email to invite guests three weeks before the date. Sara did her own hair and makeup, and friends made her bouquet and flower crown. Jonathan wore a velvet suit he’d bought a few years earlier.

Something to laugh about: “When I was reading my vows, there was a bumblebee that flew pretty close to my face,” Sara says. “Jon blew on the bumblebee. He was stepping in and saving the day.”

Reception details: Sara’s mom and sister helped organize and move furniture around in the couple’s apartment. “It was definitely a tight squeeze,” Sara says. Her mom brought a one-layer dark-and-white chocolate mousse cake from Stella’s Bakery in Rockville and added a cake topper that resembled the couple. She also transported empanadas from Panas Gourmet Empanadas in Dupont Circle. Brunch foods from some of their favorite Philly spots—High Street on Market and Federal Donuts—were also served. A classical guitarist the couple had met in Rittenhouse Square played at both the ceremony and the reception.

The Gown: Sara bought two dresses from Anthropologie and one from Forever 21 the week before her wedding day. On the morning of the wedding, she settled on an Anthropologie knee-length fit-and-flare cotton dress that had a scalloped hem and a lace overlay with pineapples in the design. 

The honeymoon: The couple considered a trip they had taken a month before the wedding, to Olympic National Park in Washington, to be their honeymoon.

The photos: Albert Yee, a photographer who is a friend of Sara’s and Jonathan’s, took the photos of their wedding day. 

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