"I didn't know that DJ Nigel Richards was this cute," Nicole thought to herself.
"She's hot," thought Nigel.
They talked — as much as one can talk at what is essentially a college bar — for the rest of the night.
Monday at work, Nicole received a bouquet of flowers in a charmingly cheesy smiley face vase. "Are you having a nice day?" the card said. It was signed "your secret admirer."
Nicole, who is now 39, was casually dating back then, so she wasn't exactly sure who her admirer was. Her hopes were confirmed that afternoon when Nigel texted, "How's your day?"
"Great! How's yours?" she wrote back. "Oh, by the way, have you ever had a secret admirer?"
"No," Nigel, now 42, said. "But that sounds really great. You're lucky."
As they began dating, Nicole realized Nigel was equally content at art openings or Eagles games, that happiness was his default setting, and that he was loving without being needy.
Nigel, who is also a Realtor for Coldwell Banker Preferred, was impressed that Nicole was willing to climb to the roof of an East Kensington property he had refurbished — even when wearing heels. "She had her feet on the ground, yet was this wonderful, put-together woman," he said. "She's the whole package."
By fall, they were dating only each other.
How does forever sound?
In September 2011, Nicole and Nigel bought together a home in Northern Liberties.
That December, Nicole was swamped with her company's big holiday party, while Nigel hustled to open a pop-up shop for his clothing line. That was all behind them by Dec. 23, but ahead lay Christmas, when the couple was hosting 30 family members.
"Can we just stay home tonight?" Nigel said as he left home that morning. "Thank God you said that," Nicole replied.
It was after 9 p.m., and Nicole was in her PJs and relaxing with Sasha The Cat when he walked in with Chinese takeout. Nicole was starving, so she started eating, even though Nigel was still futzing at the microwave.
"What are you doing?" she asked between bites.
He didn't tell her he was warming a fortune cookie, so he could pry it open.
After they ate and cleaned up the dishes, Nigel motioned to the fortune cookies on the counter. Having recently heard fortunes don't come true unless you eat part of the cookie, Nicole broke off a piece of hers and popped it in her mouth. Nigel seemed unusually nervous, and she wondered if he'd had too many Red Bulls while working in Atlantic City the night before.
When Nicole broke the cookie in half, an engagement ring fell out.
"We're doing it," Nigel said as Nicole stared at the ring on her palm.
"Aren't you going to ask me?" she nudged.
Nigel knelt in front of her. "Will you marry me, Nicole Cashman?"
She said yes. They got out the champagne.
It was so them
Nigel and Nicole were married by Mayor Nutter before 230 guests at the Horticulture Center at Fairmount Park. Nigel is Jewish, Nicole is Catholic. "Neither of us felt like we wanted to impose our religions on one another," Nicole said. "Our wedding was more about our love and our personalities than our religion."
At the start of the outdoor ceremony, the bride was escorted by her parents down a 50-foot, white carpet aisle, lined with white hydrangeas.
To say thank you to their moms, the couple gave each of them a rose and a kiss.
In addition to their vows, Nicole and Nigel read love letters they had written to each other.
"I talked about Nigel's kind eyes and his contagious, happy smile," Nicole said. "He's my best friend, and he makes me the best me. I have never been happier in my life."
"I told her she was my warm sunshine in the morning, a cooling sunset at an outdoor wedding, a welcoming breeze gently wrapping around me and making me feel cozy and safe," Nigel said. "She makes me excited about my life and being a better person, but she loves me as I am today."
After the ceremony, guests sunk into lounge furniture around a reflecting pool dotted with floating peonies, listened to jazz vocalist Jessy Kyle and ate some of the couple's favorite foods: pigs in a blanket, mac and cheese cups, lobster tacos and sushi.
Dinner and dancing followed in the main greenhouse, decorated with candles, disco balls and sequined table cloths. The couple was introduced to one of Nigel's original compositions, "Waistline."
The couple included a line on their RSVP cards for guests to name a song that they would absolutely dance to. This list was their DJ's guide, and it worked.
When the couple cut their cake, white drapes were removed to reveal a dessert lounge with giant bowls of fresh berries, vats of whip cream, a coffee bar, a candy-themed cocktail bar, and six kinds of cupcakes. Everyone got a boxed piece of cake and a fortune cookie to take home.
This was unexpected
Nicole has worked with Brian Kappra of Evantine for years, but that didn't prepare her for the white hydrangea aisle, the spheres of roses and moss, the bead work in her bouquet. "It was beyond our wildest expectations," she said.
When Nigel first saw Nicole at the far end of the aisle in her gown, the significance of the day struck him hard.
Nicole was thinking about that, too. "I had to literally take 10 deep breaths, so I didn't pass out," she said.
When Nigel saw her take those yoga breaths, he knew they were feeling exactly the same thing.
A bargain: Perfect fuchsia dresses for the three flower girls were found on J. Crew's website, for a fraction of bridal store prices.
The splurge: Air-conditioning for the greenhouse. It cost nearly half as much as the food, but was the only way the couple could be sure dancing guests would be comfortable. "Thank God we did it," Nigel said.
Four days at Mayakoba Beach in Mexico after the wedding, to be followed by a trip someplace exotic and warm this winter.
Behind The Scenes
Mayor Michael A. Nutter, Philadelphia
The Horticulture Center at Fairmount Park, Philadelphia
Stephen Starr Events, Philadelphia
Jazz singer Jessy Kyle, Philadelphia, and DJ Jon Gill, Philadelphia
Studio Michael Spain-Smith, Philadelphia
Marc Smiler Video Artist, Philadelphia
LaRichi couture, purchased at Nicole Bridal & Formal Shoppe, Jenkintown
The groom designed his tux, which was custom tailored by His Exclusively, Philadelphia
Flowers and decor
Evantine Design, Philadelphia
The Papery, Philadelphia
Evantine Design's Brian Kappra
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