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Couple gets married and graduates from USF in the same day

A couple wearing graduation gowns, sashes, and caps stand in front of a display that reads "University of South Florida." They're both holding flowers and smiling.
Mark Schreiner
/
WUSF Public Media
Emily and Sean Rooks pose for a photo following their USF graduation ceremony Dec. 9. The couple was married on the Tampa campus just a few hours before commencement.

After being together eight years, Emily and Sean Rooks got married just hours before they received their undergraduate degrees at USF.

More than 4,500 students graduated from the University of South Florida this past weekend — but one couple took part in two ceremonies Friday: commencement and their wedding.

Emily and Sean Rooks both received their bachelor of arts in language speech hearing science from the USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, just hours after they were married on the Tampa campus.

Emily, 26, wore her wedding dress underneath her graduation gown, and decorated her cap with the words, "Just Married."

A couple stands next to each other, the woman has her back to the camera. They're both wearing graduation gowns and caps - hers says 'Just Married." She's also wearing a long, white wedding dress with the train resting behind her.
Mark Schreiner
/
WUSF Public Media
Emily Rooks decorated her graduation cap with the words "Just Married" and wore her wedding dress underneath her graduation gown.

"We've been together for eight years," she explained. "And all of our family members were disappointed that we were going to go elope.
And they're like, 'No, (we) want to be part of it.'

"So we're like, 'Okay, well, any family members that are going to want to be at our graduation could also be there for our wedding, so let's do it right before at the (USF) Botanical Gardens. So that's what we did, and it worked out."

Around 30 family members, including the couple's seven-year-old daughter attended the ceremony.

"Obviously, (it's) a great memory for her, I think she's going to be able to remember it," said Sean Rooks, who also turned 32 on Sunday.

"We were going to go to the Grand Caymans (to elope)," he added. "But instead... (Emily said), 'We made a great day with graduation into a magical day."

The pair, who have been together for eight years, met at Ava Maria University in Collier County where both were student-athletes — Sean played basketball, while Emily played lacrosse.

Graduation was also a long time coming for both, as Emily graduated eight years after starting college, while Sean took 13 years.

As for what's next, the family will be moving to the Tampa area, where Sean will work as a project manager for a custom home builder, while Emily will be teaching at her daughter's elementary school.

Close-up of a bedazzled white sneaker with "Mrs. Rooks" embroidered on the side. The frilly train of a wedding dress is to the right of it.
Mark Schreiner
/
WUSF Public Media
Emily Rooks, a former lacrosse player, decorated the shoes that she wore with her wedding dress -- and graduation gown -- with the words, "Mrs. Rooks."

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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