I choose you.
Pokemon is the world's most successful media franchise, spanning decades with fans all over the world. But no one would have guessed that the power of Pokemon would lead to true love in Lithgow.
When Nicole and Lucas Blanchard first met, Nicole was in a long-term relationship with someone else.
When they met again, Nicole was newly-single and not looking for a partner so soon.
They met at a Pokemon GO meetup, one of a few every month that occur in Bathurst, the town where they were both living at the time. The AR game that took the world by storm in 2016 continues to evolve and has grown in popularity since its original release.
The group often gets together to complete 'raids' in the game - the details of which are not important but let's just say you need a group of people to get them done. That first meeting was nothing more than casual conversation according to Nicole.
Stories of true love from people in the Lithgow region
A few weeks went by and another meetup was planned, and this time Nicole and Lucas ended up in the same group together. They got to talking again as they did last time and Lucas mentioned that he worked as a first aid trainer. And wouldn't you know it, Nicole needed to do a first aid course for work.
The course went well, Nicole could now adequately save a life if she needed to and Lucas asked Nicole if she'd be happy to help set up for another training session later on, which she happily agreed to do. More talking went on, more sharing of life experiences, likes and dislikes but most importantly numbers were also exchanged that day.
As these things go, the text conversations were where the bonding continued and one day Lucas asked if Nicole would like to grab a coffee - a first date had been planned.
A memorable first encounter
Nicole remembers the day of their first date quite well.
"I got severely sunburned on this day, really, like, second degree," she said.
Halfway through the lockdown. I said, Look, if we can survive this together. Let's just get married.Lucas Blanchard
"We went to the Peace Park, so we weren't in the shade. I got really, really sunburned on my back. And because of what he does for work, he had all the real good sunburn stuff. Of course he came over to make my back feel better."
Lucas said the coffee, which was supposed to be a 20-minute date, turned into five hours. "I was extremely nervous and actually pretty proud of myself when we got out," Lucas said.
After that first date they are now very much in love with each other, and decided to make the move to Lithgow where Lucas grew up.
The best laid plans
The couple arrived in Lithgow, ready to start their new life together and learn what the town had to offer, but fate had other plans.
Just two days after moving to Lithgow, the state was placed into COVID-lockdownm meaning they were both about to spend a lot more time together.
But, ever the pragmatist, Nicole said that it was the perfect test for their relationship. Nicole admitted that it was not 'love at first sight' for her, like it was for Lucas.
"It took a long time to warm up to him," she said. "But from what he's told me, for him it was straight away."
"Halfway through the lockdown. I said, Look, if we can survive this together. Let's just get married," Lucas said.
And in no time at all, following months in lockdown, Lucas got down on one knee in the kitchen one night.
The big question
"I planned the proposal that afternoon in the drive up the driveway," Lucas said.
"Around my birthday... in June, he [Lucas] decided to just get down on one knee, one day in the kitchen, and propose to me. We had no rings. No, nothing. He just asked me. That weekend he asked my dad if he could have my hand because I really wanted to do that," Nicole said.
"I knew it was coming. But the fact that he did it just randomly in the kitchen was a surprise.
"I'm happy the way that it happened. I'm not really a glitz and glam sort of person. I don't like being the centre of attention."
It was a few months before they got rings for each other.
And as if planning a wedding wasn't stressful enough, it was done right in the middle of the pandemic.
Venues, guests and even first dance plans had to be reconsidered. But Nicole and Lucas decided to bring the date of their big day ahead by one whole year, giving them just six weeks to plan.
They were married on their one year anniversary in November 2020 against the beautiful backdrop of Hassan's Wall Lookout. "He's only got one day to remember now," Nicole joked.
Nicole and Lucas are happily married and live together in Lithgow. They both still love playing Pokemon GO and regularly meet up with the Lithgow group for raids and community days.