ST. PETERSBURG — A wedding party of 20 looked on as Michael Moses and Sara Hernandez shared their first kiss as husband and wife. It was a long time in the making.
"When you've been together for 14 years and met people at different stages in your relationship who have been a part of your lives together, you want to include them," said Michael, 28, of Tampa, a marketing coordinator for U.S. AmeriBank.
So they did. Sara, 28, an eighth-grade teacher at Pinellas Prep Academy, had bridesmaids who were friends from middle school, high school and college and relatives who had seen her and Michael grow up together.
"I had to make more friends just to keep up with her," he joked.
More than 170 people celebrated the couple at their April 12 ceremony in the garden of the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg.
The two first met when they were just 14.
Walking into her first day of confirmation class at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Largo, Sara spotted a new target almost immediately.
"I was the typical boy-crazy eighth-grade girl," she said. "I saw Michael walking up and told my mom, 'Look, there's a cute boy.' "
He held the door for her as she entered the building, and that was their last contact for nine months.
"I was too shy to talk to him," she said. "On the very last day, after our confirmations, I begged my ride to wait so I could stay later."
That worked in Michael's favor. He had heard from a mutual friend that Sara liked him, but spent so much time away from classes with baseball that he didn't really know her.
"I thought I'd better not miss this chance to get to know her," he joked. "I'm an equal opportunity lover."
After asking the friend to make introductions, Michael asked for Sara's phone number and found out she lived a quarter mile away in their Largo neighborhood.
The first date was like most when you're that age. It was off to a rocky start when a friend spilled cologne on the ride over, dousing both of them. On the double date, the teen foursome played miniature golf at Smuggler's Cove in Madeira Beach, then ate a meal at Frenchy's Saltwater Cafe.
"He was sweating to death because it was the style at the time to wear a long-sleeved shirt under a short-sleeved one," Sara said. "Michael takes pride in his appearance."
Even with the mishaps, the teens could see this was the start of something. They became steadies — even though they went to different high schools — and stayed together through it all.
"When we were younger, there was some concern on our parents' part because we were so enamored with each other," Sara said. "Now our moms are best friends."
Meeting your soulmate at 14 isn't an easy gig, Michael said.
"We tell people all the time we wouldn't recommend it," Sara said.
After attending Florida State University together and studying abroad for a semester in Spain together, the couple came home and started working toward their careers.
In the meantime, they moved in together for the first time, then bought their first home together, then bought their first pet, a Brittany spaniel named Huxley.
"We did it in reverse," Michael said. "I wasn't in any rush to get married. I had already felt like we were married, so the ceremony felt like more of a confirmation."
Still, it had to be done. The pressure was mounting from family and friends who had seen the duo spend over a decade in love.
Sara was also dropping hints. YouTube videos of fantastic proposals kept creeping into Michael's downtime.
"The Internet can be a good thing or a bad thing, I guess," Sara said.
Unsure if anything would be big enough, Michael went to New York with his father to buy the diamond for the ring and then spent four months trying to figure out how to ask the woman with whom he had spent most of his life to give him the rest of hers.
He settled on going back to the beginning.
On Dec. 30, 2012, he drove her from their home in South Tampa to miniature golf at Smuggler's Cove. It was a little chilly, but Sara still wasn't sure this was it.
After Michael began reminiscing at Frenchy's and complimenting Sara effusively, the light bulb went on.
"When we were out on Clearwater Beach, he wouldn't give me his jacket. He's very chivalrous and still opens doors and my car door for me," Sara said. "He didn't give me the jacket and I knew the ring box was inside."
He asked and she answered in front of the Clearwater sunset. The thing that had been in the making since before they'd known it had come to pass.
The ceremony and reception had the important things: a place on the program for both of their grandmothers, salsa music and Sara's large Cuban family.
"Both sets of parents watched us grow up together, so in a sense it's a unique family feel between both parties," Michael said.
Now, life begins in earnest for the Moseses.
"People always ask that question, does it feel any different now, and it does," Sara said. "I like being able to call him my husband. I like the feeling of knowing he's off the market."