‘It would be the adventure of a lifetime’
He’s the captain, and she’s his first mate. Or is it the other way around?
The roles were fuzzy when Bridget Nugent and Dean Reineking embarked on their first date — on a boat. After nightfall. She was the amateur fisherman who caught the red snapper; he was the host who left his matches at home and resorted to lighting their camp stove with the boat’s engine battery.
“Yes! MacGyver!” Dean thought to himself at the time. Meanwhile, Bridget sat waiting at the other end of the boat, none the wiser that her date had almost set himself on fire.
They had met in the fall of 2013. Dean, 28, was completing a master’s degree in architecture at the University of Miami, and Bridget, 27, was starting a federal clerkship at the U.S. District Court for Southern Florida.
Bridget wandered into a gathering at a local Catholic church in the hopes of making new friends, as she had just moved to the city. In a room of about 50 people, “she stood out as a new face,” Dean says. He immediately introduced himself.
“He looked like he had just come back from a run,” Bridget recalls. “He looked fresh. Vibrant.”
Dean has another word to describe his first impression of his blue-eyed fiancee: beautiful.
“I sawthat right away,” he says. “And then we just had good dialogue that has never stopped.”
As it so happened, Dean was working part time at an engineering firm next door to Bridget’s office. Two weeks after the church event, she gave him a tour of the courthouse, and he invited her to go fishing on the marina that night.
The excursion would foretell their exploits to come, as the two discovered their shared passion for the new and unpredictable.
“He basically told me that I had to fish for my own dinner,” Bridget says with a laugh. “I had never done that before.”
But she succeeded where her seasoned fishing partner failed, and they shared a meal of fresh fish with lemon, rice and asparagus — cooked thanks to Dean’s resourcefulness sparking the stove.
After dinner, they talked until 4 a.m. It was the perfect first date, but for one detail: “He certainly took his time to kiss me!” Bridget says.
The two soon became inseparable, spending much of their time together exploring the natural beauty of South Florida. They went for runs on the beach, found quiet places in the Everglades and kayaked in a boat they named “Fury.” With so many of their activities centered on water, Bridget took to calling Dean “captain,” and she was his “first mate.” Neither had ever met someone with whom they felt so at ease.
“Right away, I saw that he was strong and had a strong sense of self,” Bridget says. “He knew who he was.”
Dean appreciated Bridget’s authenticity. “Right away, there was just a comfort with her. She was very real. We flirted of course, but I never worried about whether she was going to call me back.”
After Dean’s graduation in May 2014, he took a job in Washington at David M. Schwarz Architects, a firm with a specialty in historic preservation. Before he left, the two expressed their devotion, both affirming that they were in it for the long haul despite having dated for less than a year.
Dean handed Bridget a map, a compass and a handwritten note that read: “Dearest Bridget Rose, as firstmate and ship’s navigator, I leave you in charge of treasure recovery in Miami and her environs.” It was the first clue of many in a scavenger hunt that Dean had devised a couple of weeks before, with the goal of continuing their adventures even while living apart.
As Bridget followed Dean’s intricate hunt week by week, they grew closer than ever. The puzzles, which made ample use of his architectural and design background, were elaborate: They included cyphers, messages inMorse code and clues left with friends who wouldn’t release them until Bridget completed certain tasks (one friend demanded frozen yogurt). The notes took her to places that were important to their relationship, such as the marina.
The end of the scavenger hunt coincided with the end of the summer and, with it, a visit by Dean to Miami. He arrived to help Bridget move to her next federal clerkship, in New Jersey, which was ideal timing because she was stuck on the last clue.
They went to the golf course at the Biltmore Hotel, where they had gone on their first run together. It had been a clandestine run — in the dark, past closing time — and afterward, they had carved their initials into a tree.
There, underneath the tree, Dean directed Bridget to the final prize. As she dug for the trinket-filled tackle box that he had wrapped in layers of plastic bags and buried three months earlier, he got on one knee.
Bridget turned to face Dean, who was holding a diamond ring.
She didn’t say yes. Instead, she told him, “It would be the adventure of a lifetime.”
With the treasure retrieved, the captain and firstmate turned to their next big project: Turning Bridget’s childhood home on Long Island, a 19th-century Victorian ravaged byHurricane Sandy, into the wedding reception venue of their dreams.
With the help of their parents, family and friends, Bridget and Dean completed the repairs over 11 months and countless D.I.Y. projects. With Bridget working in New Jersey and Dean in Washington, the endeavor united them on the weekends, their bond deepening as they replaced pipes and painted walls.
It also served as Dean’s official introduction to the family. Bridget is the oldest of three daughters, and her engagement was hard on her father, she says. But his worries dissipated when he saw firsthand how dedicated Dean was to their future.
“It was wonderful to be working side by side, shoulder to shoulder with the people who are going to be my family,” Dean says. “If we had just rented a venue, we wouldn’t have those experiences.”
On July 11, Bridget and Dean were married at St. Martin of Tours Church in Amityville, N.Y. They exchanged traditional Catholic vows before 200 guests, followed by a backyard reception at the house they had refurbished.
Ever the adventurous pair, Dean and Bridget honeymooned in Letchworth State Park in Upstate New York, hiking, camping and kayaking. Then they took a trip to where it had all begun: Miami, where the judge Bridget Bridget Nugent and Dean Reineking were married July 11 at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Amityville, N.Y. They held their reception at Bridget’s childhood home on Long Island, with seashell bouquets and other decorations with a nautical theme. The couple, along with family members and friends, refurbished the 19thcentury Victorian home for the occasion after it was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. had worked for was celebrating his 25th year on the bench.
But this time there would be no separations, no scavenger hunts to keep each other busy until the next reunion. After Bridget completes her clerkship in late August, she will start work at the Washington law firm Latham & Watkins, and the pair will move into an apartment in Rosslyn — their first place together.
“What I’m looking forward to most is being able to say goodnight instead of goodbye,” Dean says. “I just can’t wait to say, ‘Hello, good morning.’ ”
“What I’m looking forward to most is being able to say goodnight instead of goodbye.”