After Karen Lynch and Rick Hayward went on their first date as high school students, Lynch was excited about how well things had gone. So imagine her confusion when Hayward never called again. They both grew up and moved on with their lives. But then, 33 years later, Lynch learned the painful truth about why Hayward had never followed up for a second date.
It was the late 1970s when Pennsylvania high school students Lynch and Hayward went on their first date. They went to the local bowling alley in Willow Grove, where Lynch thought they had an instant connection. Excited about how the date went, Lynch waited for Hayward to call.
Lynch, however, would be waiting a long time. Hayward’s call never came. Naturally, Lynch was a little surprised and no doubt disappointed. Time passed, weeks turned into months, and months turned into years. Indeed, decades went by, during which time both people moved on with their lives.
During the ensuing years, both Lynch and Hayward married different people and had kids. Coincidentally, however, both would also eventually end up getting divorced. And in 2010 fate would start to intervene in both their lives.
Seven years ago, the pair ended up reconnecting on Facebook. It was a chance encounter that would change their lives forever. It was also an opportunity for Lynch to discover why the date that she thought had gone so well in the 1970s didn’t immediately lead anywhere.
As soon as Lynch and Hayward reconnected on social media, both began to think about what might have been had they followed up on their initial dalliance. It took a whopping 33 years, but Hayward finally summoned the courage to pick up the phone and ask Lynch out for a second date.
“When I saw Karen on Facebook again I started thinking of maybe what could have been,” Hayward admitted to the Rachael Ray Show in February 2017. “I finally got up the courage to ask her out on a second date 33 years later.”
As they started dating again, Lynch would come to realize why Hayward hadn’t called her all those years ago. It’s not that he hadn’t wanted to. In fact, he had wanted to. However, he was shy and had lost his nerve every time he’d picked up the phone to call her.
Hayward said, “I wanted to go out with her again, but I was very shy in high school. Every time I went to pick the phone up I chickened out. Weeks went by…” Eventually, so much time passed that he resigned himself to the fact that he had missed his opportunity.
“I finally said, ‘I can’t call her now. It’s been far too long since that date and she’s gonna be mad at me for not calling her.’ So, I gave up,” he recalled. It seemed at the time that their budding romance just wasn’t meant to be. But after their second date a whole 33 years on, it didn’t take long for love to blossom.
“I knew I wanted to marry Karen,” Hayward admitted on the Rachael Ray Show. So he set up a dramatic proposal. “I took Karen to the jewelry store to do some ‘ring shopping.’” While Lynch was trying on some merchandise, the shop assistant handed Hayward a ring.
“She says, ‘Here, why don’t you take a look at this one,’ and hands it to me. And I stuck it on Karen’s finger and said, ‘Will you marry me?’” It didn’t take long for Lynch to make up her mind: as soon as she saw the ring she knew her answer would be yes.
Lynch said, “Rick is an incredible person. He’s a gentleman. Best of all, he’s my best friend. He just is everything that I was looking for and some of the things I didn’t even know I was looking for.” It’s a love that filled a void in Hayward’s life, too.
Hayward explained, “Karen brought love back into my life and made me feel whole again. I don’t think I really knew what ‘your other half’ meant until now.” So he took Lynch to New York for what she thought would be a spot of wedding-dress choosing. Little could she know, however, that he had another surprise up his sleeve.
As the couple climbed into a limo, Hayward pulled out an iPad. On it was a message from Rachael Ray herself. The talk-show host made an announcement that Lynch was certainly not prepared for. Having heard their story, Ray hadn’t wanted them to wait another day longer for the wedding – so it would happen the very next day, on her show.
The next 24 hours was a whirlwind of marriage licenses, shopping for the perfect wedding dress and making other wedding preparations. Lynch’s mom and soon-to-be-mother-in-law were on hand for the dress fitting at Kleinfeld. But the surprises didn’t end there for Lynch.
Lynch couldn’t possibly have a wedding without her best pal, Dorie Perdie, who appeared from out of the blue at Kleinfeld. There seem to have been a whole host of people who were in on Lynch’s surprise wedding, but all of them managed to keep it a total secret from her.
With their family and friends present, a small ceremony took place in the television studio of the Rachael Ray Show. The couple exchanged vows in front of an emotional audience and TV host on none other than Valentine’s Day. But the surprises just kept on coming for Lynch.
Not only did the show provide a wedding cake, but it also laid on a luxury honeymoon. After the surprise ceremony, the newlyweds jetted off to a resort in Mexico where they enjoyed a private beach, a golf course, fine dining and all-day room service.
The couple believe that fate had a part to play in their eventual union. Perhaps the time wasn’t right three decades ago, and they both needed their own life experiences before joining on the path to true love. Lynch tearfully admitted to the Rachael Ray Show, “We didn’t expect to find this at 50, especially when it was somebody that you knew all your life.