Sunday, June 24, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

From This Day: Emily Consolino and Justin Hall

Emily Consolino teared up more than once just recalling how, on the happiest day of her life, her big sister Sara wasn't there.

Sara, 29, who has cerebral palsy, fell ill a week before the March 1 ceremony and was taken to the emergency room. Justin Hall could only look on at his fiancée Emily's distress as her sister remained hooked up to breathing machines. Once Sara stabilized later in the week, the couple decided to go on with their wedding at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Tarpon Springs. It was a beautiful day for the nearly 200 guests, and Emily smiled often and brightly for the hundreds of photos snapped.

Still, photographer Catherine Capo noticed something off.

"She saw how emotional I would get when I talked about my sister, so she offered to do a reshoot of our wedding photos once Sara was better," Emily said.

One month and one honeymoon cruise later, Emily, 27, of Palm Harbor, a restaurant manager at Carmel Café and Wine Bar, donned her wedding dress once again to take photos with her new husband, Justin, 28, a server at TGI Friday's and Chili's — and with Sara.

"I knew it was really important to her," Justin said. "I wanted her to be happy."

It's what he's always strived for, from the first time they met while working together at Cody's Original Roadhouse in Tampa.

"She's loving, caring, loyal, a great companion, smart, funny and a little clueless at times," Justin explained. "She's like a princess in those Disney movies."

It's a fairy tale ending that almost didn't happen for Justin because Emily had her own prejudices. She had been down this road before, and she told herself there was no way she'd be opening up her heart to a co-worker again.

"It did not go well after that breakup," Emily said.

Luckily for her, Justin didn't care about what happened before they met. "When I want something, I'm relentless," he admitted.

Five years ago, Justin and a couple of friends decided to change their scenery from their hometown of Joplin, Mo., to the sunnier climes of Florida and drifted from city to city before landing in Tampa. He took on several service jobs before being hired at Cody's, where Emily worked.

"He would smile at me and flirt," Emily said. "He just made me laugh at everything he said. I was comfortable around him, and I felt like with him I didn't have to be fake. I could be myself and smile."

So much so she found herself reconsidering the self-made edict against workplace dating. Unable to ignore the chemistry, Emily said yes when Justin asked her out, and from there things took their course.

Along the way, the couple bought Arnie, a Maltese and poodle mix they affectionately call Arn-dog. "She would always come over to my place and play with Arn-dog, and he became a part of our relationship," Justin said.

It was one night when she came to spend time with Justin and Arnie that she got the surprise of her life.

She'd told Justin she wanted to be proposed to at Walt Disney World in Orlando because she and Sara love all things Disney and even held season passes to the theme park. Justin took Emily to Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival in November 2012 and then suggested they swing by the Magic Kingdom.

"I sort of knew it was going to happen," she said. "He said, 'Let's go to the Magic Kingdom' and my reaction was 'Uh huuuuh' (raised eyebrow)."

After a spin through the Magic Kingdom, Justin suggested they go home.

"I was ready to do it there," he said. "I had the ring and everything. If she wouldn't have said anything, I probably would have done it."

Weeks later on Dec. 3, 2012, Emily was at Justin's to make dinner when she noticed him acting fidgety.

"I told her to go love on Arn-dog to get her out of the living room," he said.

The sight she saw when she returned was Justin kneeling in front of his new 52-inch TV with a picture of Cinderella's castle on the screen.

Emily took the reins in wedding planning and scheduled their nuptials for their three-year anniversary.

"It was really all her," Justin said. "Every time she asked me my opinion it got shot down."

"He's handsome, charming, romantic, down to earth and he brings the real picture when I sometimes get out of hand," Emily said. "He makes me smile all the time."

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