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From This Day: Anchors aweigh for new life together

Alex and Kristen Hansen celebrate their wedding aboard the SS American Victory in Channelside. The couple met at a pool party, and soon their separate groups of friends merged into one, with them at the center.
Published Mar. 3, 2012

TAMPA

Guests smiled as Alex Hansen and Kristen Mace climbed aboard the SS American Victory, just one hour after tying the knot.

Their 20 bridesmaids and groomsmen stood to one side as the newlyweds gazed at the 185 guests who came together to celebrate their love.

"That was my favorite part of the night," said Alex, 25, a financial compliance advisor who lives in South Pasadena. "Just seeing everyone together and cheering for us."

Since the day they met in May 2010, Alex and Kristen's cheering section has grown.

First came the friends, who blended two large independent groups into one to give Alex and Kristen more time together. Then came the families that took to the union immediately and welcomed the pair into their homes.

On Nov. 19, the duo walked out of St. John's Episcopal Church in Hyde Park as husband and wife — official titles for something they already felt.

Alex came to Florida as a Stetson University College of Law student. His plan was to get his juris doctorate and head back to the Northeast to start his life.

But at a pool party on May 19, 2010, something changed the plan.

He met a tall, beautiful girl and had a weird conversation.

"We talked about serial killers, and neither of us would call the subject an interest, but we both knew a bit about it," Alex remembered.

"It was the weirdest conversation," laughed Kristen, 27, an office manager for a lawyer.

But that conversation led to a date a few days later.

Kristen welcomed Alex into the world of her huge Tampa Bay area family.

They dined at her uncle's restaurant, Hattricks Tavern, near the Tampa Bay Times Forum. She had waited tables there with friends. Then, their respective groups of friends began hanging out and dating one another.

"We're the only ones who lasted," Alex joked.

Everyone could see they loved each other; his proposal was only a matter of time. So he picked a date: Feb. 13, 2011 — his parents' wedding anniversary.

Kristen's friend had bought her tickets to a bridal show, because she was sure Alex would marry Kristen soon.

When Kristen woke up that morning, Alex served her breakfast and proposed. The ring's main stone came from his mother's ring.

"If that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is," he said.

With all the support they received, they knew the wedding guest list could get pretty long.

The couple spent months trying to find places to accommodate their huge party.

"People were either telling us it would be kind of tight or that they couldn't do it all," Alex said.

The perfect place opened up, but then fell through six months before the wedding.

Kristen scrambled and found the SS American Victory, a World War II era cargo ship converted into a museum, docked at Channelside.

It was big enough, and Alex couldn't resist having American Victory on his wedding invitations.

The couple stepped aboard the ship and saw their families together in one place. All had gathered to cheer them into their new life.

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