Nicole didn't care. She was dating, too, and had zero expectations that anything would happen with this friend-of-a-friend's friend.
When Martin's rotation brought him through Nicole's hospital, they'd chat.
Then Martin's brother couldn't make it to the Philadelphia Auto Show. "I uncharacteristically spontaneously called Nicole, and she was free, and we went," remembered Martin, who grew up in Reading, but lived in Cherry Hill then.
When he picked Nicole up at her Voorhees apartment, he met her little best buddy - a Yorkshire terrier named James Bond.
Martin's family had a Yorkshire named Yuri when he was growing up, and he and James became fast friends.
"I took a backseat to my dog," Nicole joked, before noting seriously that this was a positive sign. "I could never be with someone who didn't love animals."
At the auto show, Nicole, who is now 28, and Martin, now 37, decided the other was worth pursuing. Thus began a very slow courtship, made more so by two hectic schedules. "It doesn't always have to start out with a bang to make things work," Martin said.
"We developed a friendship first," said Nicole.
There were dinners, they would hang out, and then they wouldn't see each other for a while.
Still, by that spring, Martin was getting serious about Nicole.
He found her beautiful, friendly, and funny. She was serious at times, and ambitious, and certainly no one's doormat.
"Sometimes, I tend to be a pessimistic person, and she's the opposite of that," he said. "She made me feel better about a lot of things. I thought, 'Hmmm, this is different. This is kind of good.' "
Nicole knew then that she really liked Martin, but wasn't yet sure he was "the one." "He is very handsome, charismatic, and funny," she said. "But for me, all of that doesn't fully matter unless the person is my best friend."
One day when he found out she was really sick, he came right over to care for her, and returned frequently that whole weekend bearing drugstore remedies and cooking meals. He was, indeed, her best friend.
How does forever sound?
In spring 2011, Martin had accepted a position as a geriatric psychiatrist back home at Reading Hospital. He wanted to propose before making the move. His mother, Denise, offered ring advice, and he was ready.
Martin knew where he wanted to ask the big question, and had an idea to get Nicole in the neighborhood. "There's an exhibit on Christopher Columbus at the Franklin Institute," he told Nicole. Nicole didn't care if Martin saw what there was to see about his fellow Italian. But she was suffering from work stress, and really wanted a facial. "This is going to close soon!" he pleaded. OK, she'd go.
Once in the city, Martin suggested a little detour to the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. "You've never been in there, and it's really neat," he told Nicole.
A Mass was in progress. So Martin and Nicole wandered into an alcove off to the side. "Will you marry me?" he asked.
Nicole didn't hear the question over the singing. But she saw the ring Martin then waved in front of her face, and said yes loud enough for him to hear.
Martin had reservations at Le Bec-Fin, and the two never made it to the Franklin Institute.
It was so them
Nicole, who grew up in Williamstown, Gloucester County, is now a recruiter for Reading Hospital, and the couple live in Reading.
They were married at the basilica, where Martin said a person feels small but not insignificant. The cathedral "is designed to be reminiscent of the divine, and God is big. You're small, but you're a part of him. That's what I kept thinking of when we were up front."
Officiant Father Mike has been a friend of Martin's father, John, since they were boys.
Father Mike had recently been in Rome, and during the ceremony he surprised the couple with a gift: a certificate signed by the pope, blessing their marriage.
Since the church's strict no-dogs policy prevented James from being the ring bearer, the program listed him as "honorary ring dog," and explained he had skipped the wedding for a day at the doggy spa.
The couple and their 130 guests did not travel far for the reception, which was at the Franklin Institute.
Iris, who is the mother of one of Nicole's good friends, sang "In My Daughter's Eyes" during Nicole's dance with her father, Roy.
At the groom's suggestion, the couple took dance lessons to prepare for their trip around the floor to "Heavenly Day" by Patty Griffin.
This was unexpected
Martin entered the reception doing the Brian Dawkins tunnel dance.
Nicole's father came to her bridal suite and told her: "This is going to be the best day of your life, and I will always remember this day as one of the happiest days of my life, watching you marry a really amazing partner." Nicole's mother, Jean, helped her get ready. Soon after, the cathedral doors opened and "waiting up at the altar was my best friend," Nicole said.
When the just-married couple walked arm in arm out of the church, Martin really felt the support from all their family and friends. It was also a bit like walking through time, he said. "Memories came flooding back of my residency, and of my parents and other people in my life," he said.
A bargain: The flowers. Nicole found the prices of the city florists rather steep. Then she discovered that Wegmans does wedding flowers. "I brought them pictures from magazines, and they re-created them," she said. Nicole said she saved nearly 75 percent. "That's my tip to all future brides."
The splurge: Hiring a band was a "huge price difference" over a DJ, Nicole said, but the Monte Carlo Band nailed it.
A week in Miami.
BEHIND THE SCENES
The Rev. E. Michael Camilli, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Temple, Pa.
The Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul; the Franklin Institute
Frog Commissary Catering
Artistic Imagery, Bensalem
Monte Carlo Band, EBE Entertainment
Enchanted Evening Bridal and Gift Shop,Lebanon, Pa.
Nic Ink L.L.C., Dresher