He first saw her waiting on a table at a pizza place on Hilton Head Island. She's pretty, he thought.
She saw him at the bar where he worked next door a few hours later. He was mixing a drink.
She got her friend to pass him a note. My friend thinks you're cute.
Five years later, Amanda Streicher and Al Gerber had moved to Brandon and were visiting the Mirror Lake Lyceum in St. Petersburg with their wedding planner. They took in the dark purple curtains, the opalescent stained-glass windows, the carved white plaster above the oak stage.
This is where I want to get married, she told him.
Their wedding planner pulled up available dates. There was a Friday in May.
"Are you okay," wedding planner Tammy Waterman asked, "with Friday the 13th?"
• • •
Al and Amanda are not deeply superstitious. But Amanda, 24, won't pick up a penny if she sees it heads down. And if Al, 30, played a really good soccer game in college in a certain pair of socks, he'd wear them the next game.
So the Friday the 13th date was something they had to think about, to be sure.
Amanda wanted the weekend since she would be on break from the University of South Florida, where she is getting a master's in mental health counseling. Al, Internet director for Murphy Auto Group in Winter Haven, was fine with it.
Their wedding planner noted they would have their pick of florists, caterers and photographers since most brides don't get married on Friday the 13th. The venue was cheaper, too.
Al and Amanda decided to try to embrace the day, make it positive, give it a different meaning.
• • •
The wedding planner pinned roses onto the groomsmen.
The florist filled cylindrical vases with larkspur.
The groom handed out scary silver Friday the 13th masks.
The photographer herded him and his groomsmen outside to the front steps for photos. Just then, the stretch limo arrived with the bride.
"She's not supposed to be seeing me," Al said, ducking.
Inside the limo, the bridesmaids screamed for Amanda to not look. It's bad luck.
She saw him anyway, admired his tux, his dark good looks.
A little later, inside a small room with plaster walls painted a mustard color, the bride stood in her white satin gown, one crystal beaded strap over her shoulder. The mothers and the grandmothers and the bridesmaids and the flower girls shuffled in and out, in and out. Amanda grew tense. At one point she locked the door. Too much going on.
The bouquets arrived. Somehow they were one short.
"Every little quirk is a memory," one of the bridesmaids said. "It doesn't matter."
"At least the kids seem to be behaving," Amanda said.
"You just jinxed it," another bridesmaid said. "Knock on wood."
The girls in floor-length dark purple gowns found wood.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Moments later, the flower girls burst in, pointing fingers at each other. "She did it." A bridesmaid ushered them out.
Amanda's mother, Natalie Streicher, handed her a cross and a thick gold wedding band on a chain, and Amanda wrapped them around her white rose bouquet. The cross held her father's ashes. The ring had belonged to Al's late father.
"Tissues! FAST!" one of the bridesmaids said.
"Amanda, the only little thing that's going to matter when you walk down the aisle is when Al sees you," said his mother, Janet Horn-Gerber. "That's all that matters."
Moments later, Amanda walked with her grandfather toward Al in front of more than 100 guests, and Al teared up, and they said their vows and nothing bad happened. At all.