Lauren Sliwecki and Patrick Szenderowicz
June 28, 2019 in New York and April 9, 2022 in Philadelphia
Lauren and Pat had overlapping circles of friends at Cinnaminson High School, but they didn’t really know each other until the summer of 2007, her classmates’ graduation season.
“I graduated in 2006, but I had a lot of friends in his graduating class, so we bumped into each other quite a bit that summer,” Pat said. They started talking at one party, then searched for each other at the next and the next.
“I was talking to him,” Lauren said. “Our friends used to joke, ‘When did Pat and Lauren start dating all of a sudden?’ ”
Even they aren’t so sure. But in the fall, when Lauren was heading to Fordham University to study television and film production, they were serious enough to discuss the difficulties of distance. They called each other every day and saw each other every month. Most of the time, Lauren drove NJ Transit home, as Pat had a tougher schedule.
Pat studied business at Rutgers University in Camden, but pulled out when his father left in 2008 so he could work more hours as a restaurant server and help his mother pay the bills. It worked well for their family, but it was a difficult time then. Pat’s mother, Janet, has decided to leave their home. She stayed with her family for a while, and he with friends.
Pat got an apartment and worked his way up the restaurant ladder until he became the manager of an establishment in Philadelphia. He often worked more than 50 hours a week. When Pat wasn’t home enough to care for her dog, Lauren’s parents, Phyllis and Arthur, took in Davidson the dachshund to stay with them.
Through it all, Lauren “was just my rock,” Pat said. “If I had a late shift she would stay up so we could check in afterwards. I was able to decompress just by listening to it. We were always brainstorming together, and she was always encouraging me and asking me questions – “What is our goal and what can we do to get there?” ”
It was with her encouragement and an eye for common goals that he left the restaurant industry. In 2016 Pat joined Cherry Hill Wegmans, where he was recently promoted to Director of Health and Wellness.
Lauren graduated from Fordham in 2011. She loved the production work – a highlight was a three-month contract with the NBA. But the nomadic lifestyle did not fit well with his goals or those of the couple: a stable life between them and a few puppies, relatively close to their families. Pat’s two brothers and two sisters; his mother; her stepfather, Stan; and Lauren’s parents and brother all live in the area. Lauren returned to Cinnaminson in 2013 and in 2015 took on a logistics position for an automotive company.
Pat, now 34, and Lauren, now 33, have never had an apartment together; he lived with roommates and she lived with her parents so they could save money for a house. In November 2018, they found the right place, a 1958 Cherry Hill breeder with a fenced yard for dogs Bruno the Doberman and Gretta the German Shepherd.
The two decided to save again before celebrating their marriage, but they did not want to wait to get married. They married in June 2019 at New York City Hall. “It was like waiting with 100 people in a line and then we had a two-minute ceremony,” Pat said.
Pat wore her special occasion costume, Lauren’s mother’s cousin put together a bouquet that complemented her white floral dress and her parents were the only guests.
The couple planned to have a big wedding in early 2021, but two weeks after signing a venue contract, COVID-19 shut down Philadelphia. Since they were already married and wanted everyone to get together carefree, they postponed for a year.
A postponed wedding hasn’t been the biggest impact COVID has had on their lives. Pandemic-related supply chain issues have affected Lauren’s work and, ultimately, her health.
“I worked in customer service and customer retention, and I worked 50 hours a week,” Lauren said. “I’ve struggled with mental health issues since I was 11, and it wasn’t lasting. Sometimes your body makes a decision for you.
Lauren was hospitalized for a week with stress-induced gastritis. She then needed six months of sick leave to recuperate at home. Pat also took a few weeks off to care for her. “He spent all his time with me at Cooper, and then when I got home he said, ‘Focus on your recovery; I’ll take care of everything else,” Lauren recalled. This involved dealing with insurance and medical specialists, researching new medications, and taking their pup to obedience classes.
Lauren never wanted a white dress. She expected to find an evening dress, but there were none that she really liked. At her mother’s request, Lauren tried on wedding dresses and found one she liked, except for the color. “I just wish it was red,” Lauren said. The owner of Van Cleve Bridal & Evening Wear in Paoli heard her wish and said she knew the designer, and the dress could be made in any color she wanted.
On April 9, 2022, both of Lauren’s parents walked her down the aisle in this bright red dress at the Loews Hotel, where 80 family and friends gathered. Pastor Andy performed a non-denominational ceremony. The couple wrote their own vows. Lauren promised to do whatever it took to support Pat’s goals so she could see the smile on his face when he achieved them. Whenever Lauren asks Pat for anything, including her attention, he responds with “Yes, my love”. And so that phrase was peppered throughout his vows, as in, “Can I continue to keep the friendship we shared? Yes my love.”
The couple followed the advice of photographer Rebecca Barger to have all official photos taken before the ceremony. “It was an amazing suggestion that meant everyone could enjoy a cocktail,” Lauren said.
Lauren, who was adopted, has always embraced her Colombian heritage. A nod to that: The couple’s first salsa-inspired dance was Marc Anthony’s “Vivir Mi Vida.” “The lyrics pretty much say, ‘I’m going to live. I will laugh. I will live my life. That really spoke to me, and Pat was all for it.
Lauren also danced with her father and Pat danced with her mother. “It wasn’t really a dance, more of me hugging her as she cried with joy,” Pat said.
Even though Pat is dizzy, he accompanied Lauren to the roof for photos, which she appreciated.
Lauren’s positive experience with hospital staff during her illness inspired a career change. She plans to pursue a career in medicine, probably in radiology.
The couple plans to honeymoon in Japan in the fall of 2023. In the meantime, they will be saving money for the trip, continuing to work on their home, and spending time with their family and dogs.