The first timeMelanie Marriott saw Damian Jackson was at a CrossFit gym in January 2018. She thought he was cute, but when she said “hi,” there was no response.
That August, Dr. Marriott, 35, a physical therapist at the Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston, saw Mr. Jackson’s profile on the dating app Bumble and remembered him. But he had no recollection. “I don’t remember seeing her in the gym,” said Mr. Jackson, 36, a mechanical engineer with CureUV, a light technology company in Delray Beach, Fla. “I was between jobs and worried about work. I wasn’t looking for a girl.”
Their first date was Aug. 24 at Buca di Beppo, an Italian restaurant west of Fort Lauderdale. “It was awkward,” said Dr. Marriott, who has a doctorate in physical therapy from Nova Southeastern University. “He was negative, inexperienced in life, had no travel background, and was the opposite of me. I thought he was a weirdo, too quiet. I couldn’t wait to leave.”
Mr. Jackson admitted his life was “routine” but found Dr. Marriott to have a dominating personality. “She was sweet and down-to-earth, yet seemed aggressive,” he said.
The mood changed later that evening while Mr. Jackson walked Dr. Marriott to the parking area and noticed that each drove a Mercedes-Benz. After spotting his black on black S.U.V., a model that she loved but couldn’t afford, she asked if they could take a spin.
“We drove around for three hours, visited the beach and a restaurant for drinks,” Dr. Marriott said. “We had fun running to the car in the rain, and sharing life stories.”
They dated regularly for a month, and learned that their love languages were polar opposite. She liked romantic restaurant dinners near their Broward County homes, while he preferred to dine in. She needed to be shown affection; he didn’t. She bought him happy gifts like picture frames. He gave her practical items like a plastic attachment to push toothpaste out of the tube.
Still, they learned to embrace each other’s differences. “We began to vibe off of each other,” Mr. Jackson said.
“I had never felt comfortable being my real self in front of other guys,” she said. “I could be goofy and obnoxious with him, and he accepted it. After our fourth date, I told my mom I would marry Damian.”
In December 2019, Mr. Jackson proposed while they were at home. The wedding was set for June 20 in a venue near Orlando.Then the coronavirus changed their schedules and much of Florida shut down, so they postponed the wedding for a year.
But during the shut down, while Dr. Marriott was giving therapeutic massages for Cleveland Clinic doctors and nurses to help them recover from the pain of working stressful days, she won an essay contest. The subject was couples delaying their nuptials because of the pandemic. The contest was sponsored by the Cleveland Clinic, along with the Hilton Hotel West Palm Beach and Rosemary Square, a nearby mall. They won an expense-free wedding, reception and bridal suite for two nights.
After rescheduling the nuptials for mid-August, the date had to be changed again when Dr. Marriott and Mr. Damian tested positive, with minor symptoms, for the coronavirus and were quarantined. The wedding finally took place Sept. 12 in a covered area next to the Wishing Tree, a multicolor lighted tree in the center of Rosemary Square. John Jeffrey Momplaisir, an associate pastor at Jesus is Lord Worship Center in Miami, officiated a nondenominational religious ceremony with 30 socially distanced guests.
For Dr. Marriott, the months of obstacles added up to a happy ending. “I love Damian’s heart, he is pure, transparent and consistent, a rare gem,” she said. “He is so good that he makes me better.”