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As newlyweds encounter Occupy Tampa throng, it's a 99% awesome moment

Julie and Mark Berlick kiss amid the motley crew of Occupy Tampa protesters outside Sacred Heart Catholic Church in downtown Tampa. The crowd cheered the surprised couple as a photography teacher captured the moment.

Photo courtesy of Robert Lawson

Julie and Mark Berlick kiss amid the motley crew of Occupy Tampa protesters outside Sacred Heart Catholic Church in downtown Tampa. The crowd cheered the surprised couple as a photography teacher captured the moment.

TAMPA

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They spent a year and a half planning the day, eyeing perfection.

She had dozens of bridal magazines and a binder to organize the clippings. There would be a big church and purple flowers. Bridesmaid dresses in teal chiffon. Her own gown, strapless with a sweetheart neck.

They were the same, Julie and Mark Berlick, 26 and 32. Both lawyers, politically moderate, loved sports, hated fighting. They liked to plan, plan, plan. They analyzed restaurant reviews before going out to eat. Mark liked numbers and spreadsheets. When he proposed, he packed Julie's makeup because he knew she'd want it for photos.

The couple picked Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tampa, and traditional readings. Love is patient, love is kind. . . . Love does not brag and is not arrogant.

Julie woke at 6 a.m. Oct. 15, unable to sleep. She sipped coffee and envisioned her day, watching rowboats glide down the river from the hotel window. She spent the next seven hours getting ready. She fixed a sheer blusher veil over her face.

The downtown streets were empty when the limo arrived on time. Julie stood at the church entrance, panicked. She desperately didn't want to cry.

Mark stood at the altar. He wasn't nervous, not until the last bridesmaid came through and the music stopped and there was a pause, a really, really long pause.

Julie started walking.

• • •

Hundreds of Occupy Tampa protesters had snaked through downtown Tampa for hours that day. They wore bandanas and toted dogs in knapsacks. They had orange Mohawks and exposed bellies. They carried signs that said "Occupy Your Brain."

Robert Lawson was there on a field trip with his University of South Florida photography class. Lawson, 69, shot photos and followed the crowd. About 3 p.m., the group reached Sacred Heart. Members passed around a megaphone.

"The banks got bailed out!" they chanted. "And we got sold out!"

The protesters heard something in the church.

"Shhh," someone said. "There's a wedding."

The street got quiet.

• • •

The couple opened the doors and stared, stunned.

Julie and Mark didn't know much about the Occupy protesters, what they were trying to accomplish or why they were standing en masse outside the church. But after getting married, they didn't care. They felt relieved. Ecstatic.

Maybe this disruption made sense. Maybe Julie and Mark weren't actually perfect, when they thought about it. Maybe reality was more interesting.

They had met in a bar over a bottle of wine. After the second bottle, they had made plans to skip work and go to Sea World. She was bad with numbers. His house was messy.

They didn't have a full Catholic Mass, just the short version. They left out the most traditional vows, the word "obey." And Julie did cry during the wedding, but so did Mark.

The protesters offered to move.

Julie and Mark grinned. They made their way into the crowd, laughing, wrapped in the energy. "Congratulations," the protesters said now. "Good luck!" They clapped and whooped and cheered, and the teacher Robert Lawson shot photos of the couple from his hip. He captured a moment.

Next to a trash can on a piece of cracked pavement, Julie and Mark leaned in for a kiss.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8857.

As newlyweds encounter Occupy Tampa throng, it's a 99% awesome moment 01/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, January 20, 2012 11:53am]
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