SALT LAKE CITY — It's a love story that reaches to a galaxy far, far away.
From their first date, Julianne Payne — now Julianne Sine — was up front about her young daughter, Addie. Likewise, Victor Sine was up front about being an unabashed nerd. Within weeks and then months, a love quietly blossomed between the three of them.
But when photos of the trio dressed as Finn, Rey and the droid BB-8 from the movie "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" hit the Internet earlier this year, the love story grew to include thousands of people who shared their pictures and began cheering the newly engaged couple toward their marriage and the goal of adopting 1-year-old Addie.
Victor and Julianne Sine were married Saturday in the Newport Beach Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and adoption proceedings for baby Addie will begin this week. While their wedding reception was not Star Wars themed, it did include a lightsaber sendoff and a photo posted for their fans online with the message, "The Force is eternally strong with this family."
Falling in love
After connecting on Tinder and meeting for their first date last August, the Sines had no question they would see each other again. The same was true for the next date, and the one after that. After a few weeks, Victor was introduced to Addie and to Julianne Sine's parents.
"After every date … as he was walking me to my car it was like, 'OK, what are you doing next week?'" she said. "We never stopped seeing each other."
As they continued to date, coordinating their schedules to travel between his home in Salt Lake City and her home in Midway, the couple's activities became increasingly nerdy. Toward the end of the year they completed a weeklong marathon watching films from the Star Wars franchise as they prepared for the release of "The Force Awakens" in December.
"I didn't realize how much of a nerd he was until about two months into us dating. It should have been obvious," Julianne Sine said, laughing, as they recalled photos on Victor Sine's Tinder profile showing him dressed as the character Green Lantern.
Victor Sine, a veteran comic con attendee and cosplayer, noted that they resembled two new characters, Finn and Rey, who had appeared in the trailers and began suggesting they dress up to match them at Salt Lake Comic Con's FanX event scheduled a few months later.
Though hesitant at first, after seeing the film, Julianne Sine caught her boyfriend's enthusiasm.
"We went and saw "Star Wars" and I was like, 'Oh, that's Rey and Finn? I totally get it now,'" she said, diving right away into preparing her costume. "I realized, oh my gosh, I was born for this stuff."
Just before the convention, the couple got engaged, and got the idea to put the finishing touch on their costume: A dress and cap for baby Addie resembling the orange and white droid, BB-8, from the movie.
By the end of the first day at FanX, strangers asking to take pictures of the couple and "Baby 8" began informing them they were "going viral." However, unable to find anything about their photos online, Victor and Julianne Sine were skeptical.
But the day after the three-day convention ended, there was no longer a question that their pictures were making waves online. As posts were shared thousands of times across several sites — Reddit, Imgur, Tumblr Facebook, Twitter and more — requests started rolling in by the hour for interviews and television appearances.
"There were over like 300,000 views and likes and re-blogs," Victor Sine said.
Together they created a Facebook page and a Twitter account titled "The real Finn and Rey," spent about three weeks responding to requests for interviews and more pictures. With their soon-to-be wedding photographer, Robert Lance, they set out to the Little Sahara sand dunes for a photo shoot recreating the fictional planet of Jakku where their characters first meet and including a breathtaking picture of Victor Sine dipping his costumed bride-to-be for a kiss atop a dune.
And the Internet exploded again.
"How personal people were with us, who didn't know us, was shocking," Victor Sine said. "At first I thought it was just about cosplay, but they authentically and sincerely love us as people. … It makes us feel like we have a big friend group and a big family group."
The couple appeared in costume again May 11 for a press conference with Salt Lake Comic Con, where fans lined up to say hi and take photos.
"It's touching, really," Julianne Sine said. "Those are our people, for sure."
Adoption and faith
With wedding planning underway, the couple began looking at the cost of having Victor Sine adopt baby Addie. As they discussed the kindness of countless strangers online, Julianne Sine began to wonder whether their fans would be willing to help them become a family.
"When we went viral, we thought, all these people are so excited about our adoption, what if they were able to help?" she said, recalling a few people who reached out and offered help even before their GoFundMe campaign was launched. "It totally took off in the first few weeks. … It was almost like that was the reason it was meant for us to go viral."
Victor Sine said he has especially enjoyed seeing people's happy reactions as they have donated.
"They love that we're a whole family now, and that they were part of making that happen," he said.
As of Sunday, the campaign had raised just short of $5,500, half of the listed goal.
From their first few weeks dating, it had been clear that, should the relationship progress, the couple wanted Victor Sine to adopt the bubbly infant.
"It came to the point that I fell in love with Addie as her father," Victor Sine said.
At a hearing in April, Addie's biological father, who had not been involved in raising her, voluntarily relinquished his parental rights. Now, with Julianne and Victor married, their attorney will begin filing adoption paperwork this week while the couple honeymoons in Puerto Rico. While the process could take up to a year, they hope to fast track the adoption to be completed by summer's end.
Describing their marriage in the Newport Beach Temple, Julianne Sine says their love story — including its nerdy twist — has solidified her faith in God. She was raised in the LDS church but spent several years inactive, she said, and was just returning to the faith when she met her now-husband.
"Since I started going back to church and met Victor, everything has fallen into place," she said. "The more I go to church, the more my faith grows, the more awesome things happen to us. … Now there's really no room for doubt."
In addition to the happy moments, faith has played a vital role in dealing with the challenges they have faced, Victor Sine said.
"Things have been hard too, things have been stressful, and no one is exempt from trials in this life, but I think our faith has helped," he said.
Victor Sine said, "It's so encouraging, and we know that things will be hard, but together, as long as we anchor ourselves in our faith —"
"— And in our marriage," his wife interjected.
"We know that it will work out," he finished.