YBOR CITY — Water soaked the hem of Nicole Krawiec's Old Hollywood-style white gown as she spun around the dance floor in the Ybor City Museum State Park.
It sloshed as Justin Brock twirled her in the light rain on the chilly evening of Feb. 7, but neither looked cold or upset.
Hours earlier, their seven-year courtship became an eternal bond when they married at the Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn. Not even rain could put a hold on events set into motion the first time the two shared a charged handshake in 2007.
"I'd always wanted to have an outdoor wedding in a garden or something like that," said Nicole, 28, a nail technician from Tarpon Springs. "I just knew it would never rain on my wedding day."
A rainy reception wasn't the first time this couple got something good from something unexpected.
Neither Justin or Nicole wanted to attend her parents' Labor Day barbecue in 2007, but dragged themselves there anyway. Aunts and uncles had met Justin at another soiree and kept motioning for Nicole to go meet him, too.
"Everyone in my family already knew Justin," she said. "He grew up with my cousin, Tom, and they worked together then. They kept telling me, 'He's got bedroom eyes,' and things like that. But I wasn't going to approach him."
Then Nicole's mother, Beth Maki, intervened. She brought her daughter and Justin together in the kitchen, gave a quick introduction and skittered away.
"I thought she was beautiful," said Justin, 33, a boat mechanic at Pittman's Yacht Service. "Then we started talking and I liked everything about her because we are both goal-oriented and really self-sufficient."
They talked into the evening, and Justin casually invited Nicole out the next night. Less than a month later, he was ready to make the leap into a real relationship.
Soon, Nicole moved in to Justin's Dunedin home, a house he'd purchased after his mother's death and vowed to pay off in 10 years. In 2010, they moved to Tarpon Springs, and the purchase once again delayed their engagement.
But getting married was never a question. The couple had already discussed potential memorable wedding dates, and Justin suggested 2 x 7 = 14.
"I really liked it, so I started making plans," Nicole said. "I booked the garden before he even proposed because the event coordinator scared me and told me people were booking up to a year and a half in advance."
Wedding date firmly secured, there was still a bit of business to take care of on Justin's part. He purchased two small wooden treasure chests and conspired with a client of Nicole's and her husband to take a fishing trip for his birthday in June 2013.
During the trip, Nicole was supposed to cast her line in the gulf and pull up a treasure chest with a note inside. Murphy's Law nixed that plan when a person on another boat carrying the diver Justin had hired fell ill and had to get back to land.
Justin told the other boat to throw out a buoy and attach the chest. "I told her that to fish in Florida you had to pull up the buoy to claim your spot instead of tying off to the buoy like in the Bahamas," he said.
Nicole found the chest clipped to the buoy. Inside lay a laminated note with burned edges and old-style script. The love note poured out Justin's feelings until the final line, "So here goes Lola, bend on knee, I will be, when you turn to see me."
Nicole, who also goes by the name Lola, snapped around as she read the end of the note and saw Justin kneeling with an open ring box. "Oh my god!" she exclaimed.
The surprise was just the beginning of bringing Nicole's dream wedding to life. She wanted to leave the wedding in Justin's classic 1951 Chevrolet pickup, so he and his friends spent two weekends before the wedding rebuilding the vehicle and getting it painted primer red. After the reception, the couple hopped into the cab of the truck with a shoestring for the gas pedal and prayed that it would make it the three blocks to the hotel.
The bumpy ride chugged all the way back to the Don Vicente before stalling 10 feet from their parking space.
"There were two guys standing outside smoking who asked what happened," Nicole said.
Justin explained the truck had stalled, and the passers-by told the just-married couple to stay in the cab as they pushed it into the parking space. "It was the nicest thing," Justin recalled.
For the Brocks it was also a confirmation. "It's not always going to be perfect," Nicole said. "But if we're together we can get through anything."