REDINGTON SHORES — The women pulled into the parking lot in a rented minivan, waves from the swollen Intracoastal Waterway lapping at the tires.
It was the day before Jessica Sundeen, 35, and Lisa Grissman, 31, would exchange wedding vows, and Hurricane Hermine was bearing down on the beach they had chosen months ago for the ceremony. The Minnesota women surveyed the rising waters.
"We got this," Lisa said.
They met two years ago when a mutual friend brought Lisa to Jessica's housewarming party. They bonded over Guitar Hero and a board game. A year later, under Fourth of July fireworks, Jessica knew she was falling in love. She blurted out, "Why aren't we dating?"
Their adventure began that night with a kiss.
It continued at a river park after they forgot their bathing suits, and Jessica decided they should swim in their clothes.
It continued at the hospital, where Jessica underwent treatments for Lyme disease, and always awoke to Lisa at her side.
Lisa held her when her mother died of blood cancer last September, and in the past year has helped Jessica cook meals for her father and deliver them to the widower 31/2 hours away.
They became a family, Lisa, Jessica and Jessica's three children, ages 17, 14 and 11. Lisa even involved them in the proposal.
On Valentine's Day, she and the kids pretended to pose for a photo on a snow-covered hike to Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. As Jessica aimed her camera, they revealed four wooden signs: WILL YOU MARRY ME? Lisa carried the ring down the frozen waterfall, where months earlier, toasting s'mores and playing cards in the sand, she realized she was in love.
They wanted a nature wedding, so after hours of online searches and phone calls, they picked the beach in front of the Anglers Cove condominium.
News of the potential storm came last week. The anxiety set in for Jessica, who morphed into a "total bridezilla," said her 17-year-old, Hailyanna.
But together, Lisa and Jessica sent an email to their guests that the wedding, planned for sunset Friday, was still on. If the storms continued, they would move their condo's furniture into the bedrooms and marry in the living room overlooking the water.
"We're here to have a good time," Lisa said, "and nothing's going to stop us."
Not even a storm brewing off the coast while the couple took a dip in the gulf.
It was Lisa's first time in the ocean, and they held each other in the stormy waves.
Contact Kathryn Varn at [email protected] or (727) 893-8913. Follow @kathrynvarn.