Friends and coworkers liked to set Nikki up, and there were quite a few first dates, but nothing that stuck.
In late summer 2010, Nikki was perusing JDate bachelors when she spotted Jason's picture. "His profile was pretty boring, but he was cute enough that I sent him a note anyway - he is pretty dang cute," Nikki said.
Jason, who grew up in Mount Laurel, quickly proved in e-mail that he was much more interesting than his profile suggested. "He's hilarious!" Nikki said. Jason, who works for his family's car dealership, was also newly out of a long-term relationship. "We talked about our families, and where we grew up," Nikki said. Their talk was exclusively e-mails for about a month. Their first phone call was to set up an in-person meeting at the Dark Horse Pub.
Jason definitely liked Nikki's looks. The easy flow of their conversation and Nikki's energy were even better, he said.
"We stayed until the bar closed," Nikki remembered.
Jason walked Nikki back to her place. They said goodnight. She put her key in the lock, but the door wouldn't budge.
Nikki's roommate had gotten home at 1 a.m. Never considering that any first date would go so late, she assumed Nikki was already home and threw the deadbolt.
After much knocking to no avail, Jason invited Nikki to his place in Old City. She looked through his music collection and smiled when she saw an album from NOFX, a punk band Nikki listened to as a teenager. They stayed up talking all night. "It felt like we were in high school," she said.
Like always, Nikki told her mother, Roni, about her latest dating adventure. Roni smiled, and nicknamed the new contender for her daughter's heart "Jason No-buts." "Whenever you go on a first date, you always say, 'He's really nice, but . . . ,' " Roni explained. "This one has no buts!"
How does forever sound?
In September 2011, Nikki, who now works in public relations for QVC, and Jason, Elkins Chevrolet's controller, were getting ready for a visit with Jason's parents.
"I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you," Jason said. "Yeah, me too!" said Nikki.
The couple had made these declarations before, so Nikki didn't know this time was even more special - until Jason hugged her. She could feel him shaking.
"Will you marry me?" he asked her, breaking the embrace to get down on one knee.
At Judy and Michael Elkins' home, the newly engaged couple were met on the lawn not only by his parents, but by her father, John, their siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and a big sign that said "Congratulations, Nikki and Jason!"
"We were so amazed that nobody remembered to take a picture," he said. But no matter. "We'll never, ever forget it."
It was so them
Jason, 29, and Nikki, 30, were wed before 280 guests in a traditional Jewish ceremony at the Loews Philadelphia hotel.
Their large bridal party included 14 groomsmen and 13 bridesmaids.
Some very important people could not attend.
Nikki's mother Roni, who had successfully battled cancer for three years, died six months after the couple met. Near the end, she told friends she knew her daughter had met "the one."
In lieu of favors, the couple made donations in memory of Roni and Jason's grandfather Seymour to City of Hope Cancer Research Hospital and in memory of Jason's Aunt Audrey to Seeing Eye.
The couple and their parents were wrapped in Seymour's tallit during the ceremony, and Audrey's bracelet and Roni's Bible were on a table under the chuppah.
Nikki wore a pendant her father had had made from the diamond in her mother's engagement ring. She also wore a hairpin made from Roni's wedding veil.
The bride's dangly diamond earrings were a gift from Jason's mother, Judy.
This was unexpected
Before the ceremony, Nikki lifted her gown to show Jason the maize and blue of his beloved Wolverines. Nikki chose a University of Michigan garter as her something blue. "I lost it laughing," Jason said.
After the couple cut their cake, Jason led the guests in singing "Happy Birthday" to Nikki, who turned 30 on their honeymoon. "Was that cheesy or cute?" he asked her after. "A little of both," she said. "I'll take it!"
Nikki's brother Matt and some of the stylists from his salon, Ground Zero South, did everyone's hair. Then her Uncle Mark, a professional makeup artist based in New York, did her makeup. And then her hair had to be touched up. By the time she was putting on her dress, "I started to panic on timing. I was crazy and frazzled."
Meanwhile, as Jason and his friends got ready, he was feeling pretty out-of-sorts himself. "I walked back and forth to my apartment four times, because I kept forgetting things I needed."
Then the couple saw each other.
They hugged, and kept on hugging. Just like the day of the proposal, Nikki felt Jason shaking, but soon it stopped. She felt calm, too. "He keeps me sane," Nikki said.
"You guys are going to have to let go so I can get some shots!" the photographer said.
"From there on out, I just smiled for the rest of the day," Jason said.
A bargain: Nikki bought custom necklaces and earrings for her bridesmaids from Marlyn Schiff Jewelry in Ardmore. She intended to buy the bangles she wore, but Marlyn, a family friend, made those a gift.
The splurge: At the last minute, the couple changed their minds and added uplighting to the decor. The "extra oomph" it gave also oomphed the venue cost by about 5 percent, but "it was great," Nikki said.
Two weeks in Thailand.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: Rabbi Stacy Rigler, director of religious education at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, Elkins Park
Venue: Loews Philadelphia Hotel
Food: Loews Philadelphia
Music: Milan 77 of EBE Events & Entertainment, Philadelphia
Photography: Jackie Bayne and crew of Love Shack Photo, Erdenheim
Videography: EBE Events & Entertainment
Dress: Designed by Stephen Yearick, purchased from Bijou Bridal & Special Occasion, Ardmore
Flowers: Michael Bruce and team at Michael Bruce Florist, Collingswood
Invitations: Bella Figura, Syracuse, N.Y., www.bellafigura.com