Nicole and Bleik’s Intimate Japanese Garden Wedding

“I found my forever partner already, so I knew what to look for”

Nicole tells me this over coffee at our neighborhood coffee shop. She glances towards Bleik, sitting next to her, and squeezes his hand. They just finished telling me the story of how they came to be, how a series of tragic and not-so-tragic life events brought them together. Twice.

Nicole married her first husband, Phil, in June of 2012 and, amidst this happy time full of dreams and new adventures, found out that they would be adding to their family. However, life has a way of throwing curveballs. When she was three months pregnant, Phil was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, a brain tumor that has no cure and a resulting life expectancy of 1-2 years. 

Eighteen months after their son Alex was born, Phil passed away.

Grief, it’s said, is the price we pay for love. And, although I don’t know what it’s like to be widowed with a young child, I know grief. You can choose to retreat, to put up defenses, to avoid paying that price again or you can love unapologetically, fiercely, and completely knowing that tomorrow is in no way guaranteed. 

Having now spent a day with her family and friends, I can testify that Nicole has an incredibly loving support network which, combined with her strength, likely helped her through the years after. That, and watching Alex (who seems to be a mini-Phil from the photos I’ve seen) grow into a joyful, incredibly brave, and sweet little human.  

So, when the time was right, Nicole starting slowly back into the dating world the way that many of my couples do, via a dating app. She was living in Lexington and matched with Bleik. He was handsome, with a fantastic smile, had two young boys of his own; he checked all the right boxes. 

But then…. life.

Once again, another curveball. Nicole got a job requiring her to move out of Lexington. And life moved on. 

After some time, she was awarded a position back at University of Kentucky and made plans to return to Lexington. She pulled up the Bumble app and guess who she gets matched with again? Bleik.

This time, everything was right. 

Nicole and Bleik were married this June at Yuko-En on the Elhorn, the Japanese Friendship Garden in Georgetown. It was beautiful and symbolic and emotional and everything I knew it would be.  

Bleik has two boys, Owen and Jasper, and part of what Bleik and Nicole told me beforehand was just how ecstatic they were about the way the three boys bonded. From day one they were inseparable and constantly having fun. It was important to them as parents to reserve a special part of the ceremony for vows to the children. Owen, and Jasper sheepishly smiled during this part while Nicole and Bleik vowed to love and support them. Alex, a little younger, swung his feet and looked down, nodding when Nicole promised him that Bleik, Owen, and Jasper weren’t replacing Alex or his dad, but that she’d made room in her heart for them, too. When Bleik knelt down in front of him Alex’s smile lit up the room. There’s no doubt that little Alex has made room in his heart, too. 

When the ceremony concluded, and they had their first kiss (and then a second and third) as husband and wife, the boys and the rest of the friends and family showered them with tiny, colorful paper airplanes that the boys had spent weeks creating. 

There was dancing. There were hugs. There was champagne and, later, sushi and sake. There was the best wedding cake I’ve ever eaten.

I watched as that evening Bleik and Nicole found every single person and told them how grateful they were that they were a part of their day and how much that meant to them. All day they showered each other and everyone around them with love and gratitude. Nicole has absolutely chosen the path of loving unapologetically and fiercely and they are so incredibly lucky that she found Bleik to share it with, pretty much the luckiest.  

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