ST. PETERSBURG — As students at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, Jeff Ellis and Lisa Morelli enjoyed the occasional free visit to the Salvador Dalí Museum.
"I've always been a big fan of his work," says Jeff, 34, who is a screen printer by profession in Ellis Graphics, a family business.
Last fall, he asked Lisa to name her favorite of the artist's paintings. She mentioned one in the Dalí museum in Figueres, Spain.
Her favorite in the St. Petersburg venue, then?
Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea Which at Twenty Meters Becomes a Portrait of Abraham Lincoln.
On Oct. 13, the date of the museum's Sueños de Dalí gala, Jeff made a sign marking the spot where he would propose, right in front of that signature work. Lisa's mother, Jody, is active in the museum's guild, and he knew that the galleries would be open that evening.
He had the engagement ring. "It was tough to hold onto it," he says now. "It was a big box in my back pocket."
At the museum, he ran up the stairs to the space where the art is displayed. Lisa followed behind him. And she said yes.
Their wedding at St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, which is within sight of the current Dalí Museum, took place on May 11, which would have been the artist's 109th birthday. It was a conventional service.
"We didn't want to overshadow the tradition," Lisa says.
The reception afterward took place in the museum, with lips and mustache party favors hand-crafted by Lisa and her maid of honor; groomsmen's gifts were mustache flasks.
The couple met in college about 14 years ago, where both earned degrees in criminology. They have many friends in common. Sorting through photographs recently, Lisa says, she came to a realization: "He's been to all my big events in life: graduation, birthdays, so many."
They began to get serious in October 2011.
"We were spending a lot of time together and began realizing we had the same values," says Lisa, 33, who recently completed training as a paralegal and works at Hessinger & Kilfin and Neiser & Neiser.
After a honeymoon in Hawaii, they will be back in St. Petersburg's Pinellas Point neighborhood, living in the "Pink Streets" house in which Jeff grew up.