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Tying the knot(s)

Reedsville native among couples married together in different states

Photo by RICHIE SMITH JR.
Reedsville native Carol McNitt, center, in blue dress, and Kelly Heflin, behind her, join another couple, Patricia Parent, right, and Philip Kuntz, third from right, in a double wedding ceremony that took place in two states.

CROWNSVILLE, Md. — For her pending nuptials, Carol McNitt would have settled for something simple. Either eloping with fiancé Kelly Heflin or having a small ceremony in the Maryland public garden where the two first met.

“We had a very low-profile engagement,” said the 54-year-old McNitt, a Reedsville native who now lives in Crownsville, Maryland. “He asked me in our garage. We said we wanted to elope or have a very small wedding with just immediate family. At that time, we would consider doing it in Mifflin County to be with my family.”

Those plans changed dramatically after the couple decided to have a double wedding ceremony with good friends Patricia Parent and Philip Kuntz.

“We had talked about marriage since the beginning of our relationship, but I was reluctant — not because of Kelly — but just the institution (of marriage), the need for it,” McNitt added. “We had been together for three years and when he officially proposed, it was lovely, no frills.”

McNitt and Heflin had been double dating with Parent and Kuntz for about a year when they hatched a plan to marry together on a bridge between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The June 3 wedding was so unique that it graced the front page of the “Vows” section of the New York Times on July 15. At Kuntz’s suggestion, McNitt and Heflin submitted an application to have their wedding covered by the newspaper and, when selected, had a reporter and two photographers join them for their ceremony.

“Phil suggested the bridge and getting married in different states,” said McNitt, who was insistent on being married in Pennsylvania. “At first, I was reluctant. I thought at the time that we could wait and see and decide.

“Then I saw pictures of the bridge and just decided to go with it,” she added. “The location was beautiful, but it wasn’t about the venue. It was about being with Kelly and Patti and Phil, and having fun.”

Meeting her special someone

McNitt, who graduated from Kishacoquillas High School in 1986, got engaged to Heflin, age 63, a director of business development for BAE Systems Inc., the United States arm of an international defense, aerospace and security company, in September 2021.

Meanwhile, McNitt, who left Mifflin County in 1992, is employed as a mental health clinician at the Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Maryland.

“Kelly was walking his two Border collies, and I was there to see the gardens and historical sites,” McNitt said. “He saw me reading a historical plaque and we ended up chatting for 15 minutes.”

The two developed a strong bond after meeting at the Historic London Town & Gardens in Edgewater, Maryland, in August 2018.

They failed to exchange contact information that day before parting ways, but that did not deter McNitt from tracking down Heflin on social media. Though she didn’t know Heflin’s last name, she pieced enough information together to find him on LinkedIn. At the time, Heflin worked as a program manager at AT&T’s office in Columbia, Maryland.

Heflin was “completely shocked by her reaching out in that fashion” — in a good way. “To get an invitation on LinkedIn from her was just incredible.”

“We probably sent each other 20 LinkedIn messages” before exchanging e-mail addresses,” he recalled. “Carol and I might be the only people who’ve romantic text-messaged in a flurry on LinkedIn.”

McNitt described their initial conversations as calm and easy. Plus, “I thought he was incredibly handsome,” she said.

The day after they traded e-mail addresses, Heflin asked McNitt on a first date, inviting her to an auto show in Edgewater where his 1967 Pontiac Firebird was on display. Afterward, they went for drinks and talked for hours.

Within two months, McNitt said she had fallen for Heflin; he claims to have fallen for her even sooner. In August 2019, a year after they met, the two moved in together, into her Crownsville home.

Initial wedding plans

When McNitt and Heflin got engaged, their first thought was to elope or do a five-minute wedding near the plaque in the garden where they met.

“I had envisioned getting married at that same place in a flash wedding,” she said. “Just showing up with about six family members and having one of them ordained to marry us.”

That was the plan until Kuntz floated another idea. He and Parent, who had moved into his Rumson, N.J., home earlier that year, were also engaged and planning their wedding. So why not do a double wedding?

By that time, the two couples had been talking on a weekly basis since their first virtual double date in the Summer of 2020, when McNitt and Heflin shared a screen in Maryland. Kuntz joined from New Jersey and Parent logged in from Michigan.

In July 2020, Parent flew to New Jersey to visit Kuntz, and the foursome met in person. She and McNitt quickly developed a close friendship of their own.

“Patti is very easy to like,” McNitt said.

Once Kuntz suggested the idea of marrying together at an intimate event, the four quickly embraced it. But figuring out where to tie a double knot took more time.

Kuntz and Parent, who became engaged in November 2021, and Heflin, who all graduated from Parsippany (New Jersey) High School, were on board for a small wedding near Kuntz’s house in New Jersey, but McNitt had hoped to marry in her home state.

“I advocated for somewhere in the middle, and because I knew New Hope (located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania) was lovely and almost in the middle, suggested that,” McNitt said. “I think inherently I liked the idea of being in my home state.

“So that plan was to get married at a local garden or even our bed and breakfast, which we had booked before the bridge idea was formed.”

Idea is born

When the four identified New Hope, which is just across the New Jersey border, as a possible location, Kuntz remembered a wedding he had attended in the area.

On that trip, he had come across the Lumberville-Raven Rock Bridge, a pedestrian walkway above the Delaware River with one end in Delaware Township, New Jersey, and the other in Lumberville, Pennsylvania. Staging a wedding on it meant the couples could marry together, but in different states.

Upon seeing a picture of the bridge, which opened in 1947, McNitt committed right away. “I was like, ‘this is perfect,'” she said.

The couples had to get permission from the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission to hold their weddings on the bridge. Commission officials signed off on the idea, asking only that the ceremony not prevent pedestrians from crossing.

When they arrived on June 3, the brides and grooms congregated at the bridge’s midpoint in their wedding attire.

Meeting in the middle

“We carefully counted the doohickeys holding the suspension cables to determine the exact middle, so Patti and I could get married on one side of that time and Kelly and Carol could stand on the other,” Kuntz told the reporter that day.

He and Heflin then played rock, paper, scissors to decide which couple would become newlyweds first. Heflin won, but they opted to let their friends wed first.

In keeping with their desire for a simple, intimate ceremony, no guests were invited. Instead, about a dozen passers-by watched and witnessed, waiting politely for the wedding to wrap before crossing the bridge.

McNitt and Heflin were married in a self-united Quaker ceremony presided over by Mark Baum Baicker, chairman of the Solebury Township Board of Supervisors.

Eternal bliss

The brides and grooms each recited hand-written vows before both couples were married in about 15 minutes and exited to the Pennsylvania side.

The couples walked to a nearby hotel in Lumberville for a post-wedding drink then went to a bar in New Hope. McNitt said the bartender poured each of the foursome a glass of champagne, then strapped on a guitar and serenaded the newlyweds with The Temptations’ hit, “My Girl.”

After spending the night in a bed-and-breakfast in New Hope, McNitt and Heflin joined Parent and Kuntz at their home, where they hosted a reception with 75 guests.

As for a honeymoon?

“We discussed going to Ireland — with Patti and Phil — next year,” McNitt said. “I don’t know if that still counts as a honeymoon.”

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