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A serendipitous move to the Philadelphia area by both Kirsten McCormick and Steven Whalen, combined with their OKCupid accounts, beer, burritos and travel — and, the rest is history. Add in being heckled just before the proposal, and you’ve got a charming, unique and destined-for-happiness love story!

How did you meet? 

We’re an online dating success story! [Kirsten landed in Philadelphia in October 2017, and Steven, a Cherry Hill, New Jersey, native had just moved back to the area, arriving in Conshohocken for his new job right before meeting Kirsten. Talk about timing! Kirsten remembers that their first date was Nov. 15, 2017 — and forgives Steven for forgetting!]

We’d been talking online for a few weeks, and finally met at the Conshohocken Brewing Company. We quickly bonded over IPAs, burritos and a shared love for travel. Kirsten was a former flight attendant with United Airlines, and Steven had traveled all over the world as an auditor for his former employer. 

Photo courtesy of Steven Whalen and Kirsten McCormick


What things do you have in common (or, not!) that make it a fun, good fit?

We both share a love of travel. Steven traveled extensively for work and Kirsten is a former flight attendant with United Airlines. We bonded instantly over that shared interest. We also both love cooking. One of our most prized possessions is our Kamado Joe grill. Steven handles all of the grilling and smoking of meats, and Kirsten takes care of the day-to-day cooking and sides. We both love spending time in the kitchen together with music on in the background and a good beer or glass of wine. Steven loves gardening and Kirsten is a good helper. He does all of the actual gardening and she labels the bags and cups for the plants. We both enjoy going out, but are both also perfectly happy to be at home watching Netflix with our dog, Madeline.

We also balance each other really well personality-wise. We both have our own anxieties but, thankfully, over different types of situations. Kirsten likes to avoid confrontation, and Steven will always be her number one advocate in any situation.

When did you know this was serious?

We made an instant connection and have always — from day one — enjoyed each other’s company. We bought our house together in Phoenixville in October 2019, right before the pandemic hit. Kirsten was in P.A. school when it started, and Steven’s job transitioned to 100% work-from-home. We always joke that if we can go through quarantine with only each other for company and not get sick of each other, then it must be meant to be.

Steven would probably say that he knew on the night he broke his finger and I took him to the ER and proceeded to spend the whole night as a neurotic girlfriend making sure he was taken care of properly.

We also knew it was serious when we adopted our “baby,” Madeline Joy, a puppy born on March 11, 2020.

Photo by Douglas James Studios

Tell us about your engagement story!

We got engaged on Sept. 9, 2021. Steven’s proposal to Kirsten was more than what she could have ever imagined. A few months prior, we’d been discussing taking a trip to celebrate all of our life milestones after Kirsten graduated from physician assistant (P.A.) school in August. We’d dreamed of an island vacation where we could enjoy endless umbrella cocktails on the beach. One day in Spring 2021, Kirsten came home and learned that Steven had booked an all-inclusive trip to Beaches on Turks and Caicos, leaving on Labor Day. Kirsten suspected this might be “it,” but Steven did a wonderful job (sometimes not so nicely) of reassuring Kirsten that this wasn’t the “engagement trip.”

During the trip, on Sept. 9, Steven surprised Kirsten with a romantic dinner, including butler service on the beach. Dinner passed — no ring! — but they followed dinner with a rose and a romantic walk on the beach, accompanied by the butler. There was a sweetheart table inside a heart in the sand, and the suspense built. At sunset, Steven got down on one knee and proposed to Kirsten with his grandmother’s engagement ring. The moment and the sentiment were so special.

Didn’t something funny happen before the proposal?

Yes, as luck would have it, there were several intoxicated ladies floating in the ocean when we arrived at the heart-drawn spot. The moment they saw us they started yelling, “Are you proposing? She’ll say ‘yes’!” Fortunately, the waves moved them away rather quickly. What was nice was that post-proposal, we were gifted by the kindness of strangers. As we were finishing our first dessert as an engaged couple, another couple who had been dining down the beach approached them to let them know they had taken pictures of the proposal that they wanted to share. 

Photo by Douglas James Studios

When’s the wedding day? 

Our wedding is set for Sept. 30, 2022! The ceremony will be at the Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge and our reception will be held at the beautiful and historic Philander Chase Knox Estate in Valley Forge.

Why did you choose Robert Ryan Catering & Design? 

We live in Phoenixville and have driven past the Washington Memorial Chapel pretty much every day commuting to work. We love the chapel and the history that it represents. Even before being engaged, we knew that was where we wanted to have our ceremony.

Since we knew where we wanted to have our ceremony, it came down to selecting where to have the reception. Kirsten did a lot of research into various venues, but the moment she saw Philander Chase Knox Estate, which also is in Valley Forge with its own historical significance, she knew that it was the perfect place for us. Steven took one look at the pictures and instantly fell in love with the property.

One of the things that Kirsten loved most about that venue is Robert Ryan Catering & Design (RRC&D). She’s not a high-maintenance person so from the very beginning, the idea that our venue had its own catering, bar, decorating and day-of coordination services was an instant sell for us.

From the moment we contacted Amanda Frangoulis at RRC&D, we’ve had nothing but a positive and easy experience. Amanda is extremely responsive and always helpful in answering questions. We had no idea what to expect when picking a venue and in the very beginning Steven had joked with Amanda that he was nervous that she would be like a “car salesman.” The three of us still laugh about this as it has been nothing but a great experience. We toured only two places before making our decision.

Kirsten loves that there is a day-of wedding coordinator and feels very comfortable leaving our day in their hands. Something else that we were impressed by was the menu tasting. The food that we tasted was delicious and the signature drink, the Mexican Mule, is the signature drink we’ve decided to go with for our wedding. One thing we absolutely recommend is the Moroccan potato chips! We made sure to have that for our sweetheart table.

What do you like about working with your event planner? 

Amanda is amazing. She’s extremely responsive and knowledgeable. She’s organized and keeps us on track with the milestones and things that we need to complete, which is especially nice as we both work full time. It’s also great because she and our day-of coordinator will interact with our other vendors, which takes a lot of stress off of us for the day. We went into our food menu meeting having minimally scanned the options for the stations that we wanted. Amanda was patient and went through all of our questions and gave us amazing insight as to what would and might not be the best selections. Every meeting that we’ve had with Amanda has been smooth and extremely helpful and informative. We could not be happier with our choice!

Has the ongoing pandemic messed with your plans at all? 

We’ve been extremely fortunate that the pandemic has not had too much of an impact on our overall planning. One recommendation I would give to anyone currently planning that we have been making sure to do is to confirm that each vendor is flexible in the event that COVID becomes a problem again. All of our vendors are extremely willing to work with us in the event that something happens, which is quite a relief. We can’t wait for our big day!

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Robert Ryan Catering and Design plans and executes over 400 events each year, boasts a five-star rating on WeddingWire and has received WeddingWire’s Couple’s Choice/Bride’s Choice Award seven years in a row. Learn more about Robert Ryan Catering & Design and tour our venues. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for exclusive offers, up-to-date news and recipes from our executive chef.

Nina Malone

Featured photo by Douglas James Studios