This Northern Liberties couple met just before the pandemic. Lockdown made their love stronger.


May 7, 2022, in Philadelphia

They met at a bar the night before their first date.

Greg, an emergency room physician at Nazareth Hospital, and Sean, a recruiter for Envista, a dental company, had spent two weeks in February 2020 liking everything they learned about each other through a dating app and texts. Work demands delayed their first meeting, but finally, a leap day lunch at the Center City Marathon Grill was all set.

They were texting the night before their date when Sean mentioned that he and some friends were at a Gayborhood bar just blocks from Greg’s house. Greg also had plans with friends that night. Suddenly he had a very strong opinion about what they should do: “We’re going to TABU!” he announced.

Greg texted that he was on the way.

“I was a little bit nervous, but excited as well,” said Sean, 34, who grew up in Laytonsville, Md., and moved to Philadelphia in January 2017. “I already knew he was easy to talk to, and I had a few drinks in me, so that liquid courage made it easier, too.”

After briefly introducing each other to their friends, Greg and Sean went to a different part of the room to have their first in-person conversation in private.

“He was just as easy to talk to in person, and very genuine,” said Greg, now 36, who is originally from Jacksonville, Fla., and had just recently moved to Philadelphia.

After talking for 30 minutes, the two figured they should probably return to the friends they came with. Both sets of friends could tell the chat had gone well and demanded details.

“My friends wanted to know all about our plans for the next day, but I wouldn’t say where we were going,” said Sean. “I didn’t want them to show up!”

Lunch the next day was comfortable and fun, ending only because Greg had an appointment. They walked together until their paths diverged. “I didn’t know what to do — a hug or a kiss,” said Sean. “I went for the hug, but he went for the kiss, and so we ended up kissing.”

The little dog in Greg’s Hinge dating profile: Shoshanna the pug, had been among their earliest topics of conversation. Later the same day, Greg invited Sean to come over and meet Shoshanna, Lannister the cat, and have a glass of wine. Everyone liked everyone.

Sean and Greg saw each other two or three times the following week and the week after that. Greg’s hospital had already been preparing for a new illness called COVID-19. On March 23, the first stay-at-home order was issued, so less than a month after they met, “We had to make a decision … to see each other and isolate together or to stop seeing each other,” Greg said.

“I didn’t want to stop something so good,” said Sean. “We came to the decision to keep going.”

Since Greg was an essential worker with an intense schedule while Sean, who worked from home even before the pandemic, had more flexibility, they mostly stayed at Greg’s place. “I was so used to living alone, just me and my pets, but I was never sick of his presence and I always enjoyed our conversations,” said Greg. “It felt good to have him around.”

They hiked. They signed up for a meal ingredient delivery service and cooked together. They had socially distanced picnics with friends. But mostly, they just hung out together.

“By July, I realized he was someone I could see myself marrying and being with for the rest of my life,” said Greg.

In November 2020, Greg and Sean had a dinner date at Vernick Fish. Greg brought the ring, but there were too many people. He subtly led them on an indirect route home through Rittenhouse Park, but the beautiful night had brought many people there, too. Greg thought of the rooftop deck on his building, generally a popular place. “I told myself that if it’s fairly empty and it feels right, I would take it as a sign,” he remembered. “We were the only ones up there, so I mustered up all of my courage.”

The look on Sean’s face when he said, “I have a question to ask you” told Greg that he had figured out what was about to happen, so Greg skipped his speech, dropped to one knee and asked “Will you marry me?”

“Yes, of course!” said Sean.

It wasn’t Greg’s words that revealed his plan, it was his refrigerator. “Greg had some fancy bottles of champagne in his cupboard, and that morning, I saw that they were in the fridge,” Sean said. Knowing it was happening, but not how or when, only made the whole day more exciting, he said.

Greg loves the way Sean makes him feel. “My job is very loud and demanding and there’s always something happening, and my brain is always on,” he said. “But every day from the very beginning, he has been there to listen when I’m talking about my crazy day. He gives me peace.”

Sean loves the ways Greg shows his love. “He’s surprised me with flowers for no reason. When I broke my wrist, he insisted on accompanying me to the hospital even after he had just finished a long shift. And he was really helpful in doing even the simplest tasks — I couldn’t even tie my own shoe.”

In April 2021, the couple bought their home in Northern Liberties, where they live with Shoshanna, Lannister, and Chloe the French bulldog, their most recent addition.

The couple wed and celebrated with 95 guests at the Hotel Monaco. Greg’s dad, Donald, and Sean’s dad, Rick, were already seated when Greg’s mom, Tina, accompanied him down the aisle, and Sean’s mom, Lynn, accompanied him, all while the Philadelphia String Quartet played instrumental versions of Taylor Swift songs.

Celebrant Alisa Tongg shared the couple’s story. She reminded everyone that it wasn’t just Greg and Sean who were joining their lives together, their families were as well. “Do you accept Greg as a new member of your family?” she asked Sean’s parents. “Do you accept Sean as a new member of your family?” she asked Greg’s. All four replied, “We do.”

The couple took their vows and shared a cup of wine to symbolize the sharing of their lives.

“I was fighting back from crying, and everyone enjoyed seeing me on the verge,” Greg said with a laugh.

Comic relief came when first Sean, then Greg, tried to place their wedding rings on the wrong hand.

After a rooftop cocktail hour, the couple entered the reception and immediately began their first dance to Taylor Swift’s “Lover.” Everyone danced before and after dinner, and then returned to the rooftop for an after party.

The couple got ready for their wedding together. “I will never forget putting on our tuxes and ties,” said Sean. “It was such an exciting moment and it felt so right. And then up on the altar in front of all of our family and friends, I could see how happy Greg was.”

“Right before reciting the vows, Alisa told us to look at each other’s hands, because these were the hands that we would hold for the rest of our lives and that we would watch grow old,” Greg said. “Whenever I look at Sean’s hands, I think about that moment.”

The next day was Mother’s Day and before heading to their honeymoon in the Maldives, Sean and Greg hosted a family brunch honoring their moms.

Greg and Sean plan to continue their house renovations, travel to all of the places they previously couldn’t due to the pandemic, and, in the coming years, hope to adopt children.

Love isn’t just about marriage and love stories don’t stop at the wedding: we’re looking for stories about all kinds of love from parents and children, best friends, siblings, newlyweds and to-be-weds, and couples with experience. To be featured in an upcoming Love column, please send an email to [email protected] with your names, a few sentences about your story and the best way to reach you. Please include your email address.

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