Sunday, May 20, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Couple steps out of photo booth and into married life

BRANDON

Friends gathered around the photo booth, waiting for their turns to capture the moment.

Not only had they come together at the Palmetto Club to celebrate the wedding of Matt Sokalski and Laura Welch, but they'd get to take a piece of March 3 home with them forever.

"My dad and his fraternity brothers, guys who've been friends for decades, hopped right in there and took some pictures," said Matt, 32, who teaches autistic children at Buckhorn Elementary.

The joy of the photo booth was something Matt and Laura wanted to share with their friends.

They'd started taking photo booth pictures on outings together since February 2010 — a few months after they began dating.

"We always do the same four poses," Matt laughed. "The third one is always a kiss."

Laura, 23, a supervisor with Geico, loved the wacky faces Matt made in the frames. The couple collected at least 15 of the photo booth prints, and they keep five on the fridge of their Brandon apartment.

"He is the most special person that I have ever met," Laura said. "I knew instantly that we had a connection."

She met Matt when they were both in a transition period in their lives. Laura was a student at the University of Tampa with an internship and a volunteer job teaching golf at Ybor City's Academy Prep.

Matt was teaching at Academy Prep, too; he was changing careers and took an AmeriCorps position at the school where his mother taught math for years.

"I first saw her at a study hall," Matt remembered. "And naturally I tried to impress her by being funny with the kids."

The jokes went over well, but his first date proposal didn't. Matt invited Laura to a faculty barbecue in Ybor. She declined, unsure if it was a date.

"I reached out to him on Facebook and sent him a message," Laura said. Her number was in it. Matt texted two days later.

Things moved quickly from there. In a month's time, they were meeting each other's families.

On July 14, 2010, Matt had the best laid plans. He took Laura to Victoria & Albert's, a Walt Disney World restaurant, dressed to the nines.

After dinner, he had planned to take her to the picture point in front of Cinderella's castle, drop to one knee and give a riveting speech.

"Did you know that the only time Disney does construction is at night?" Matt laughed.

The picture point was a no-go. So he opted for the bridge nearby, dropped to one knee and promptly forgot his speech.

It didn't matter. The answer was yes. And to help pay for the wedding the couple decided to have an extended engagement.

On March 3, more than 170 friends and family gathered at St. Andrew's United Methodist Church in Brandon to witness the inevitable.

"I knew on our first date that this was the woman I'm going to marry," Matt said.

And they enjoyed every moment of their big day.

They've got the pictures to prove it.

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or [email protected].com.

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