With nearly 50,000 students, the University of Florida has enrollment equivalent to the population of a decent-sized city. And as undergraduates in Gainesville, Lauren Davis and John Dicks had never met.
She was a religion major, and he majored in economics, staying in Gainesville to earn an MBA while in law school. She moved to Tallahassee to study law at Florida State University.
Both entered FSU's summer program in law at Oxford University in 2009. They happened to be on the same flight to London's Gatwick Airport, and they rode the same bus to campus. During the next few weeks, they became friends, and their relationship "progressed to what we now call our first date," Lauren said.
The program offered a daylong visit to the Inns of Court in London, and they made plans to return to Oxford later in the evening.
"We were in London for the day," Lauren said. "We saw Jude Law in Hamlet in a tiny theater there."
After that, they walked to Buckingham Palace, official residence of the British royal family, and shared their first kiss outside.
"It was a little cheesy," John said.
"It was horribly cheesy and romantic," Lauren said, "but really awesome at the same time."
The summer program is small, accepting about 25 people.
"As you get to know each other, you really get to know each other," John said. And the more he got to know Lauren, the more he liked her. "I don't know that there was one thing in particular. It was really just the way she is."
"You know, it's kind of hard to describe," Lauren said. "We have talked about this at length. It was sort of like, 'Well, this is my person.' I think we both knew pretty early on that it was something really special."
After the program ended, they parted ways; both had previously made other plans for the weeks before their fall classes started. John later was a visiting student at FSU's law school and then was Alex Sink's personal aide during her campaign for governor.
He is a litigator at Akerman, and Lauren practices employment law at Dias & Associates; both firms are in Tampa.
When they began planning their wedding after they became engaged in February 2013, both wanted to celebrate their Florida roots.
"I'm a seventh-generation Floridian," said John, 30, a Plant City native whose parents are Sharon and John Dicks; his father is a former Plant City mayor. "We love the state. We're proud of our heritage. . . . Traveling with (Sink) to every far-flung corner of the state caused me to love Florida even more."
Lauren, 29, the daughter of Deborah and Bill Davis, grew up in Orange Park, just south of Jacksonville, in a family that has also been in the state for several generations.
They married in Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church, which is three blocks from their 1925 bungalow.
"It was very emotional and personal to be at home and in our neighborhood," Lauren said. She and the rest of the women in the wedding party got ready there, and she and John had a "first look" together before going to the church.
"He was waiting in the front yard," she said. "For us, it ended up being really nice to have a few minutes together and to reflect upon the day."
Escort cards at the reception, held in the Tampa Yacht and Country Club, were vintage Florida postcards chosen for the guests' hometowns. Inside the place card envelopes were personal, handwritten notes. Dinner tables were designated by the names of Florida rivers, and the couple tried to seat guests by region. Lauren and John, for example, sat at the Hillsborough table, and many of her extended family members, from the Jacksonville area, were directed to St. Johns.
Guests received Florida-shaped sugar cookies as favors. The groom's cake was a replica of the city of Tampa flag, and John gave cuff links bearing the image of the Florida state flag to all but one of his groomsmen. (The other, a South Carolina native, got Palmetto State flag fasteners.)
Their wedding trip began in England, where they visited Oxford for a couple of days and kissed once more in front of London's Buckingham Palace.
"Of course, we had to re-enact it," Lauren said.