Their waitressing shifts over, Nicole and her friend Beth took seats at the bar of Ott's on the Green. Beth's boyfriend, Brian, the bartender at the restaurant in Washington Township, Gloucester County, poured their beverages.
It didn't take Beth long to start prodding Nicole about when she was going to start dating again, in the "You're so great! I can't believe you're single!" style. Beth was always trying to play matchmaker. But Nicole, who was working on her master's degree in mental health counseling at Rowan University, had recently emerged from a six-year relationship and was enjoying being single for the first time since high school.
Nicole quickly switched topics, launching into a story about her poor sister, Kim, who had just had her wisdom teeth removed and was suffering through the painful, puffy aftermath.
Beth smiled at the mention of teeth. "I know a really hot dentist!" she said. "He's Brian's good friend, Shawn." Beth called her boyfriend over. "Brian, what do you think about introducing Nicole and Shawn?"
Brian walked away without answering, but returned moments later with some news: "I just called Shawn, and he's on his way over."
Nicole couldn't help wishing she was wearing something more flattering than a huge black T-shirt. There wasn't even time to put on a little makeup or fix her hair; the dentist was on premises, saying hello to his pal the bartender.
Nicole immediately agreed with Beth's "hot" assessment. But now she was nervous. And it didn't help that a regular customer who overheard what was happening loaded the jukebox with the cheesiest possible assortment of love songs.
Shawn sat next to Nicole and Beth at the bar. "What is it with this music?" he asked. "It's horrible!"
Before long, Nicole turned her stool and her attention toward Shawn. "See you guys later," said Beth, pleased with her work.
Shawn and Nicole discovered that each had studied abroad in Australia, he in 2000, she in 2005. Just as remarkable to them: Shawn had grown up in Newtown Square, but his condo was just five minutes from the Washington Township house where Nicole still lived with her parents, Candy and Keith. And, being so tight with Brian, Shawn was a frequent visitor to Ott's, where Nicole had been working for about two years. How was it that they had never met before?
They talked until the place closed.
The next day, a Friday, Nicole, who is now 27, had to work again. Shawn, now 30, walked in with Brian. Shawn had to go out of town for business all of the following week, he told Nicole. Could she possibly join him for dinner on Sunday, before he left?
They went for sushi in Voorhees. "I was just laughing the whole time," Nicole said.
Hot, and funny.
Shawn and Nicole planned a getaway to Punta Cana over Mother's Day weekend, 2009. Shawn told her he would drop a large suitcase off at her parents' place, with his stuff in it, so she could add her things and they could take a single bag. He brought the suitcase, but Shawn's real intent was to get a little time alone with Nicole's parents, to get their blessing.
In Punta Cana, on the way to dinner their last night at the resort, Shawn suggested getting a few last pictures on the beach - he knew Nicole, an avid photographer, couldn't resist. Nicole was snapping away when Shawn said it would be nice to get some photos of the two of them together. Could she set her camera's timer?
Nicole stacked up some beach chairs to bring the camera to the right height, then hurried back to Shawn before the shutter clicked. "Make sure it came out OK," he suggested. She reported that it looked great. Shawn suggested they take another, just in case.
Nicole set the timer again. When she got back to Shawn, he got down on one knee. Nicole was confused. Why was Shawn on the ground when they were trying to take a picture?
"Will you marry me?" Shawn asked.
"Really?" Nicole, who was in shock, asked. But the look on his face answered her question. "Yes, of course!"
The camera snapped one of Nicole's all-time favorite photos.
Shawn, who recently opened his own dentistry practice in Ridley Park, and Nicole, who works as a mental health counselor at a partial-care facility in Sewell, were married in front of the gazebo at Greate Bay Country Club in Somers Point.
David and Tony, college friends of Nicole's parents, played acoustic guitar as the guests were seated. Selections included John Lennon's "Oh My Love" and Elton John's "Love Song" - songs the men had also played at the McDermotts' wedding in 1981.
Beth and Brian - the friends who introduced Shawn and Nicole - carried containers of sand down the aisle to the bride and groom. Each poured their sand into a vase to symbolize the combining of two lives into one.
For the reception, photo lover Nicole had black-and-white photographs of the couple throughout their relationship fashioned into table numbers. Their 170 guests could also take photos of themselves in a photo booth.
Shawn and his mom, Pattie, danced to John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy," a song Pattie sang to her son from the time she and his father, Fran, brought him home from the hospital.
Halfway through the reception, the DJ asked everyone to leave the dance floor to make way for a special surprise from the bride to the groom.
In walked a bagpiper, playing Irish songs in honor of Shawn's heritage. The groom loved it.
For as long as she can remember, Nicole had imagined walking down the aisle with her father on her wedding day. Still, she was not prepared for the strong wave of emotions that overtook her as she got closer and closer to Shawn. Shawn can be heard on their wedding video trying to help her keep it together, but it didn't really work. "I can't look at you or I'll cry," she told him.
A bargain: The bride bought her shoes on clearance at Sears for $20. She got jewelry for her bridesmaids, and several other items, from artisans on etsy.com. Not only did she get custom-made items, but Nicole estimates she saved 20 percent over store prices.
The splurge: The couple spent eight days and seven nights at a resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico. A lot was included in the price of their package deal, Nicole said, but she and Shawn added about 50 percent to the cost by swimming with dolphins and sea lions, trips to the Mayan ruins, zip lining and other excursions.
The Rev. Rich LaLena,
Greate Bay Country Club, Somers Point, N.J.
Kalen Foley Photography, Newark, Del.
Productions, Glassboro, N.J.
Jimmy Collins, Steve & Co., Berlin
Primrose Florist &
Finer Things, Somers Point, N.J.
Invitation Consultants, www.invitationconsultants.com.EndText