(Photo by Nicole Horton Photography)
On Christmas Eve in 2017, Nicholas Ellis, who was living in Plant City at the time, thought it would be fun to play around on dating apps.
It wasn’t anything serious – just a laugh with friends during the holidays – but he was intrigued by one person he chatted with that night.
“I started messaging a random person who had no image, nothing, and it turns out, it was the love of my life,” he says.
That faceless person who captured his attention was Joe Christianson, his future husband.
“I wasn’t remotely interested in the idea of a relationship at the time,” Ellis recalls. “It turned into like hours and hours of chatting on the app.”
Eventually, he gave Christianson his phone number, telling him, “If you want to continue chatting, you can text. I’m done with this app.”
Christianson, who lived in St. Petersburg, was visiting his aunt and uncle in Winter Haven – not far from Plant City – the night they connected on the dating app.
Two days later, they met for lunch at Pincher’s in Wesley Chapel.
“From that lunch date, it was kind of like history,” Ellis says. “We were talking on the phone every day, turning into me going to St. Petersburg and staying at his place.”
A former St. Pete resident, it wasn’t long before he and his two children returned to Pinellas County to join Christianson, moving into a Treasure Island condo.
As an added bonus, he clicked with Ellis’ children who both have special needs. Christianson’s background, both in his native Minnesota and in Florida, involved working with special needs individuals.
On Dec. 13, 2020, Ellis surprised Christianson by popping the question surrounded by loved ones.
“I wanted the spirit of Christmas to be behind it because everybody is so joyous and happy,” he remembers.
Before dinner that night, the couple walked through North Straub Park and South Straub Park enjoying the city’s holiday lighting.
Ellis hired a pianist to perform in the park. As they strolled along the waterfront, they stopped to listen to the musician playing “All of Me” by John Legend.
When the song was over, the pianist called upon the couple, asking their names and other questions. As this was happening, Christianson didn’t notice that their friends and family walked up behind them to join the crowd carrying a sign that read, “Will you marry me, Joe?”
“He was in utter shock,” Ellis says.
They didn’t start planning their wedding right away, partially because of COVID-19. They knew they wanted a large wedding – with about 220 people on their guest list – and didn’t want the pandemic to keep people away.
Once they started their wedding planning in January of 2022, the couple “had a lot of fun,” Ellis says. “We knew we didn’t want a typical wedding like normal people have.”
They hired Philadelphia-based singer Beth Sacks and local drag artist Alexis De La Mer to perform. They married on Oct. 8 at Nova 535.
The couple has already moved on to their next adventure. In December, they closed on a new house – a horse farm in Pinellas Park.
Ellis is a longtime, self-described “horse person.” In fact, he even previously sold horses.
“I got out of it and had just been itching to get back into horses,” he notes. He’s also a social worker and plans to run an equine therapy center for those with special needs from the property.
Engagement Date: Dec. 13, 2020
Wedding Date: Oct. 8, 2022
Wedding Venue: Nova 535
First Dance Song: “I Wanna Know What Love Is” by Foreigner
Wedding Theme: Rustic
Wedding Colors: Wine and marigold
Florist: The Rose Garden
Officiant: Forever is Fate by Chris Cake
Bakery: Cakes by Carolyn
Cake Flavors: Yellow cake with coconut buttercream icing
Photographer: Nicole Horton Photography