By Jenna Marina Lee
ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 12, 2018) – The wedding ring popped out of the box, rolled onto the gazebo floor and continued rolling right on into the depths of Lake Baldwin during the middle of Nicole Dumbroff ’15 and Cecil Chik ’09 ’15MA’s wedding ceremony.
Thanks to a scuba diver from theringfinders.com, the ring is back on Nicole’s finger after spending two weeks in the lake, and she laughs now as she recalls this romantic-comedy-esque moment of the couple’s five-year love story.
The Chiks’ wedding day is something they weren’t sure would happen when they met at UCF in 2013. But when Florida legalized same-sex marriage in January 2015 and the U.S. Supreme Court declared it a right nationwide six months later, social norms changed things for the couple in the best way possible.
“The same way that my family members asked my sister when she was going to marry her husband, they were now asking me. And they had never asked before,” Cecil said. “We’re married, so now the next question people are asking is, so when are you going to have kids? So, in a way, this has normalized my relationship in a way I never would have thought possible.”
Cecil immigrated to Miami from Hong Kong with her family in 1989. She grew up on Calle Ocho, learning to speak Spanish before English, and at her parents’ insistence, she was destined for a college education.
A first-generation student, she chose UCF because her cousin attended the university and enjoyed his experience. She strengthened her connection to the university by getting involved with the Campus Activities Board through the Office of Student Involvement.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics education and taught for Osceola and Orange County Public Schools before returning to UCF in 2013 as a graduate assistant within UCF’s LGBTQ+ Services and Multicultural Student Center to pursue a master’s degree in counselor education.
Her decision ended up changing the trajectory of her life both personally and professionally.
How They Met
One of her role’s main responsibilities included managing UCF’s first LGBTQ safe space on campus, Pride Commons. The space opened its doors for a test run during 2013’s summer semester before officially opening in September.
“I loved being a part of that beginning because I was able to set up something that I didn’t have in my undergrad for every single student that came afterwards. You can come in and you can play card games with people, and you don’t have to talk about different identities, but the people surrounding you, you know will understand your experience,” Cecil said.
During one of Cecil’s shifts, an undergraduate statistics student from Coral Springs walked in and struck up a conversation with her.
“I knew she was interested in me, but the thing is, I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to because I was a graduate assistant at the time and she was in undergrad,” Cecil said. “So I kind of skirted around the situation. I didn’t really say anything. She friended me on Facebook and I left it untouched.”
Nicole interjected: “For two weeks! I knew there may have been an ethical dilemma. She’s older than I am. We have a 7-and-a-half-year age difference.”
Cecil quickly cracked: “It’s her favorite thing to bring up,” and laughed.
Nicole continued: “I was used to being rejected because of my age. So I thought, you know what – it’s ok. If it has to remain a crush, it will remain a crush. I was accepting of that. But then she finally did accept my friend request.”
For the record, Cecil pointed out that she asked permission first from her supervisor at the time under the guise of asking advice about the situation for a friend. With no ethical conflict to worry about, the two quickly became attached to each other.
Two Weddings and One Lost Ring
Not long after, they had their first date: lunch at Mills Market and a stop at Lake Baldwin, where they had their first kiss.
Three years later, they proposed to each other. Cecil popped the question on Feb. 29, 2016, by recreating their first date, and Nicole returned the gesture in a surprise proposal on April 1.
They wanted to get married at UCF where their relationship began. They started planning for a November 2017 wedding but also decided to hold an intimate ceremony beforehand on Dec. 28, 2016, at Lake Baldwin in front of their families – the same date as Cecil’s grandparents’ anniversary.
Nicole’s aunt performed the ceremony. Cecil’s sister jumped into the lake to go after the ring. The whole family had a nice meal together afterward.
Nearly a year later, they held a big bash with all of their friends at Live Oak Event Center, just around the corner from Pride Commons where they first met.
“We made it to UCF’s Snap (chat) story. We had some friends text us afterward, ‘Over 300 people watched your first dance!’” Cecil said.
After “I Do”
The two now live in DeLand, where Cecil is the director of diversity and inclusion at Stetson University.
“Opening Pride Commons and having the ability to stand up and fight for something I personally believe in, and also be able to do it on behalf of a community I belong to, is really what kickstarted my passion to do the diversity and inclusion work I do now,” Cecil said.
Nicole received a Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship to obtain her master’s degree at UCF and is guaranteed a job with the Department of Defense in California after she graduates this spring with her degree in statistical computing with a data mining track.
The two will move this summer to the West Coast but they will always have a special place in their hearts for Orlando and UCF.
“UCF always felt like a welcoming place. I never felt like I had to hide my identity. Because Orlando is a pretty gay-friendly city and the sheer size of the school, there’s so much diversity,” Nicole said.
Cecil added: “I am very grateful to UCF for dedicating a space to LGBTQ+ inclusivity because it didn’t just provide a safe space for queer-identified people – I found the love of my life there.”