By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Though they were tucked at a table in a corner of a ballroom filled with young women teeming with excitement, Phyllis Merola and Dennis Evanchik were the standouts.
At 50 and 60 years old, respectively, they could have been the parents of just about any of the prospective brides sipping coffee and chatting at a soft roar in the Molly Pitcher Inn Saturday. And the story of how the two ended up at the Molly, to plan a May 7 wedding at the Shadowbrook in Shrewsbury, is one ripped from the pages of a Hollywood script.
They were friends for 30 years and had their own families. But within about a year of each other, the two went through divorces and, some time after, Evanchik made a proposition to Merola.
“He said, ‘if you can date a perfect stranger, why not date me?’ ” Merola said.
In November, another proposition: Will you marry me?
And so on Saturday, when 10 o’clock hit, the couple followed the procession out of the riverside hotel and headed for downtown Red Bank for the borough’s third Wedding Walk, ready to spend a full day tying up loose ends for their springtime nuptials just like many of the 200 others who registered for the event.
Merola and Evanchik, who live in Eatontown and will retire soon after they’re married, were prepared to spend a lot of time and money in the borough to line up the particulars of their wedding.
“We love Red Bank. That’s our favorite place to be,” Merola said. “Just walking around with Starbucks coffee, watching people go by. I think we’ve been to every restaurant in town. It’s so close and everybody here is just so attentive.”
Saturday, though, was not about people watching or kicking their feet back. Armed with a map of businesses participating in the walk, the couple hit the circuit with clear goals in mind: flower arrangements, dresses, shoes and maybe jewelry for family members in the wedding.
Not long after 10, the credit card was out. On the first stop of the trip, at Frame To Please in the Galleria, the couple became enamored with a “guest book” picture frame, in which signatures are engraved in the metal matte.
“It’s our first purchase! I’m so excited,” Merola said. “You can’t find these kinds of things, and that’s what I love about Red Bank.”
The couple continued through the Galleria, inquiring about prices for flowers, perusing a salon and checking out space at one of their favorite places, Taste, for a small pre-wedding dinner.
Of course, they had to take a break and sip a free mimosa.
“Coffee time’s over,” Evanchik said.
By 11, they’d already been through a half-dozen locations and still had four hours to burn.
This was going to be an hours-long adventure for the couple.
“We’re going to spend all day here in Red Bank,” Merola said.
After the visit to Tiffany, they headed north on Broad Street, deep into the action where groups concentrated and tour guides did their best to direct them to side streets where other businesses were ready to take them in.
Hitting just about every retailer was not going to be an issue for Merola and Evanchik. Actually, if they didn’t get to them all, they said they would eventually consider the Wedding Walk again. After all, they’re going to have plenty of time on their hands after they walk down the aisle.
“Who knows,” Evanchik said, “maybe when we renew our vows we’ll come back.”