Most every magazine’s “Wedding Issue” is intended to offer inspiration to a bride and groom for their big day. Whether it’s which perfect gown to select, which impressive cake to choose, or whether or not to have assigned seats at the reception, there are more than enough details and components to fill magazine pages. But, one detail often overlooked with all the planning is the very reason you’ve chosen to have a wedding: the marriage. As the allure of wedding details continue to fill the agendas, the beauty of the bond the couple is about to enter can easily be lost in the midst of the wedding-bell chaos.

So we sat down with a few of The Lakelander’s very own couples, those behind the scenes of these pages. Whether they’ve been married for decades or as recently as last year, discover the stories that led to their big day and where life has led these unions after the “I do.”


The Lakelander: How did you meet?

Deb: We met at Northwestern Bible College in Roseville, Minnesota. It was the very first day I got there, as a freshman, and I was moving into my apartment — I had just met my two roommates. As we were unpacking, Curt and his very obnoxious friend Reggie came in the room, and Reggie plopped himself down in the apartment, on the desk, and said, “Hey! Come out here, we want to see what you look like.”

Curt (cringing): Not a good opening move.

Deb: Evidently, Curt’s sister Marcy, who was moving across the hall, said …

Curt: … “You need to go meet the girls across the hall.” So we walked over there and that’s when we met. Of course, they did come out. And I don’t remember what happened then.

Deb: At first we all hung out together as a group.

Curt: So we probably hung out with our sisters and intentionally tried to include Deb. But the first things that I saw was that she was a Christian and loved the Lord; she had a Christian family (which was important to me); and they were in business, and I loved business. Plus, I was attracted to her. So I said, “This might be the one.”

Deb: I remember him going to the orientation on campus. He came up early to get a job. He was wearing white painter pants and a yellow, blue, and white striped shirt with the UNI emblem. And he had a ’stache and longer hair. I have pictures. [laughs]

TL: How long was it before you both got married?

Curt: She broke up with me like four times that year. But she was a freshman and I was a senior. I wasn’t in need of dating, but I understood (well, I don’t know if I understood).

Deb [laughs]: But he’s a good salesman.

Curt: Haha, yeah. In my heart, I still felt like she was the one. So I still pursued her. I had no interest in anybody else. One of the periods of breaking up, I went on a date and I saw it as a waste of time. Then we were separated for the summer. Deb went home and worked while I was still working up there, and that’s when we felt it was ridiculous because we were on the phone all the time, so she came up early to school so we could be together, and then we got engaged at Christmastime. Not the exciting engagements that they do now. But I did ask her father.

TL: How did you know this was the person you wanted to be with?

Deb: I think what helped was the separation. I’ve heard before, “Don’t marry someone you can live with; marry someone you can’t live without.” And, you know, you’ve got to feel that way. You can live with a lot of people.

Curt: I felt like I knew sooner in the process, but we both really knew that summer being separated from each other.

Deb: Some great advice we received from some close married couples was that there will be times when you’re so mad that you don’t feel that love. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there — it just gets buried. Love is a commitment.

Curt: The feelings come and go. I think a lot of people forget it’s a commitment. If you think about it, every day your emotions are all over the place. It’s really a reflection of Christianity and God’s love towards us. We fail Him and mess up, yet He loves us consistently. You’re going to have trials. You’re going to have hard times in a marriage — no question. So you both need to be committed.

TL: In what ways are you alike? 

Curt and Deb (simultaneously): Alike??

Deb: We’re mostly opposite.

Curt: We like to laugh.

Deb: That was a requirement — whoever I’d marry had to make me laugh. Curt gives me a good laugh, whether he means to or not. [laughs] And we both love the Lord.

Curt: Family is big for both of us. Our hobby is our family.

Deb: We daily work on keeping a healthy lifestyle, so that as we get older we will be able to enjoy life and still chase around our grandkids, by God’s grace!

TL: In what ways are you different?

Curt: She’s detailed. I’m a visionary.

Deb: He’s awesome at the big picture, the vision, and goals, and I fill in the blanks with details.

Curt: And that’s why we’re a great team.

Deb: That’s where being so different is such a plus. We can fill in each other’s gaps.

Curt: It’s funny, when you’re first falling in love, you almost think that you both look at life the same way and that you like all the same things. As we’ve grown, we have realized that we are different. But that’s good.

TL: What was the most memorable part of your wedding ceremony?

Curt: Deb’s mom made me cry.

Deb: When my mom was being seated, she told Curt she loved him and made him cry. I remember the amazing trumpets, being so excited that Curt and I were going to be our own family, and also seeing all the family and friends who had come to share our special day!

TL: What is your advice to couples who are preparing to get married?

Curt: I’d say, to the guys, just enjoy the ride and let them make all the decisions.

Deb [laughs]: Absolutely! It’s about commitment. Somedays it’ll be nothing but commitment. God put you together, and you made that promise. Don’t look to the other person to make you happy. That’s up to you.

Curt: First of all, great job on the decision to get married — because not everyone does that anymore. Marriage is ordained by God. You will accomplish more with a helpmate in life.

Deb: Always put your spouse first, before yourself, and put God in the center of your marriage.

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TL: How did you meet?

Jason: We met when Sasha was 14 and I was 20. Obviously, we did not date. I was playing music, and we were here in town. [Editor’s Note: Jason was a former drummer and toured for 10 years.] Fast forward five, six, years later, and we met at a Six Flags Atlanta, at a concert we were doing there. And I always describe it (she’s going to roll her eyes), but there were 100,000 people at this place, elbow to elbow. And I remember 15 yards away I saw her, and it was like the Red Sea. I remember there she was, just as cute as can be. And then, a few months later, she was on my mind the whole time, and even though I was dating someone, I called her.  And she was toying around with some guy [Sasha laughs] that she knew wasn’t going to last. She went with me to a wedding in Charleston, and she was totally convinced that I was not the right guy for her for a year. But we kept talking, and she said, yes, I could come visit her, though sometimes she would ask me to leave.

Sasha: Because he was the Christian guy who drank, and used foul language, and he didn’t have all the check marks in my mind. So, I assumed, “Oh, he’s not the one for me.” And his personality wasn’t just like my dad’s. I was convinced I was going to marry someone just like my dad, because I thought he was perfect. I got over my self-righteousness eventually. But it took me a little while to realize, OK, I’m not supposed to marry someone that’s always patient and quiet, and doesn’t give his opinion. So that was a lot of why I thought he might not be for me.

Jason: So, when it really happened, I was playing a show in Mississippi at Ole Miss. And Sasha had called about a week before that and said, “Hey, my parents want to fly you up to New York City. We’re going to be hanging out as a family.” And I’m like, what? “Yeah, I’ll be there!” So I flew to New York City and bought tickets to a Broadway show, spent two or three days there, and that was the week that she was like, “Ok, you’re the one.”

TL: In what ways are you alike? [They look at each other and laugh.]

Sasha: In no ways.

Jason: In no personality ways, at all. I would say the bond that binds us is our faith and our world view, based on that faith. So that trickles down to, most importantly, the fact that we are dedicated to this marriage. Nothing will break it. Even when it’s difficult. And, what trickles down from that is how you raise your children and what’s important. We agree on most of that.

Sasha: Yeah, we think the same about everything. Our approach is just different.

TL: In what ways has your marriage changed each other and you as a couple?

Sasha: I think it has made me realize that I was really prideful, that things should be done the way that I think. But, realizing that his perspective is good, even though it’s different, it’s not wrong. But it feels wrong initially, so realizing it’s not just the way I see it. It’s made me more thankful that he’s not like my dad, because if he were I would be walked all over.

Jason: I would say we’re both equally self-righteous, and we’re both equally set in our ways. She is quietly self-righteous. I’m loudly self-righteous. So the whittling away is getting her to be OK talking about things in our relationship. And the way she whittles away at me is you don’t always have to say what’s on your mind.

So that’s what marriage does over the course of a lifetime. Over the course of 12 years we’ve eked a little bit out of each other. Over the course of 50 years, God uses marriage as the most — besides His word and Spirit — sanctifying force on this earth. If you let the marriage be that and don’t give up on it, it’s a good sanctifying force.

TL: What were the most memorable moments of the wedding?

Sasha: It was so much fun having everyone that you love in one place. For me, it was fun because, since my mom worried about everything, I really didn’t care at all. Which, if I would’ve been in charge, it would’ve been a disaster. But since everything was under control, I could really enjoy it.

Jason: There was a hotel, on the beach. We had no plan. We’re on the beach and in the water the whole time. Obviously, when she turns the corner and walks down the aisle, that’s a special moment.

Sasha: I think our wedding was at six, and I didn’t start getting ready until four. So my friends and I were just at the beach. I got ready in about 30 minutes, so we just hung out. That’s how I would do it again.

TL: What is your advice for couples preparing to get married?

Sasha: To have a good 10 fights before. Ask all the hard questions at the beginning so there’s nothing left to question. I feel like that’s the scary thing we’re seeing — that they didn’t ask the tough questions, or they didn’t have a handful of good fights to really work through things. Because everyone has something. Everyone is like, “I don’t want to judge them for their past or what they’ve been through.” So people just let things go, and it seems like they don’t realize they’re going to have to deal with that at some point in their marriage. You are who you are. And what you’ve gone through is part of who you are. That’s part of why you fall in love with the person. But living with someone like Jason, you’re going to know it all, whether you want to or not. Which is great in our marriage. But I feel like there are a lot of guys that hold a lot in and don’t know how to communicate.

Jason: I would say, start with the traditional wedding vows. This is why we have a wedding, so we can say before God and man, all who are in that room, that I am going to stay with this person through all the good and the bad. The wedding vows are trying to literally list out all of the possible good and bad things that could happen. So study those and go, “OK, if death and sickness and heartache happen, do I love this person so much that I’m going to stay with them?” This is going to be the most difficult relationship you ever have. You can’t even imagine how much another person can stretch you until you’ve lived with them and realize you’ll never satisfy their expectations and they’ll never satisfy yours. But how God shapes you through those difficult moments … character is built through the difficult moments. So the reason the vows are there is because that is what God is going to use the most to build your character and their character, and your hope and faith.

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TL: How did you meet?

Meleia: We met at Liberty University. I’m pretty sure it was the first day, freshman year, I saw him from afar and thought, Ah, he’s so cute. But so did all the other girls, too.

Brandon: We met the first day because her roommates were friends with my soccer teammates.

Meleia: After hanging out in groups of mutual friends throughout freshman year, he then asked me out on a date, and the rest is history.

TL: How did you propose?

Meleia: So I’m from Minnesota, and he came up for the 4th of July the summer after our junior year just to hang out with my family. My brother and sister-in-law live on a beautiful lake and were having a party, so they asked us, “Can you go around the lake to a friend’s house to get some stuff for the party?” So we drove around the lake, and Brandon said, “Oh, let’s stop here.” There was a beautiful area that overlooks the lake. And I said, “Oh, look, someone put out flowers and stuff. That’s so cool. I wonder who that’s for?” It just did not cross my mind that he was about to propose. So we walked out and are looking at the lake, and then he started saying all these nice things, and then it took me a minute to realize: Wait! He’s going to propose to me!

Brandon [laughs]: It took longer than I expected for her to realize what was going on.

Meleia: He wrote me a song, played it on the guitar. And it was absolutely perfect.

Brandon: Well, I’m glad you liked the song, because I’m sure it would be embarrassing now.

Meleia: I think I was just so excited to have you there. It was just special to have the proposal in Minnesota where I grew up. And then all my family was there to celebrate after!

TL: In what ways are you alike?[They look at each other and laugh.]

Meleia: We’re not alike at all. But I’d say we’re both sensitive.

Brandon: I think we’re very perceptive to other people, to what’s going on. We both like to have things together, to have things done so we can relax.

Meleia: That’s true; we both like to keep things clean. Visual clutter is mental clutter. We both love playing sports together.

Brandon: We both like staying active versus just sitting and watching movies.

TL: In what ways are you different?

Meleia: Brandon’s really good with words — arguing or just talking in general. And I’m not so much. Or it takes me time. Like if we need to discuss things, or are in an argument, he knows what he wants to say right away. And I’m like, “I need 10 minutes. Let me go in the other room, collect my thoughts, and I’ll get back to you.” I’d say you’re a little more social or extroverted than I am.

Brandon: Yeah, I almost always prefer to be doing something socially.

Meleia: Yeah, and I have four kids hanging on me all day, so alone time is gold. (Just kidding.) [Editor’s note: Brandon and Meleia have had four children in five years.]

TL: What was the most memorable part of the wedding preparation?

Meleia: For me, it was more just the excitement, because I’m the youngest of five in my family. (I have four older brothers.) The fact that all of my brothers and sisters-in-law loved Brandon, I feel like they welcomed him so well and loved him like a brother. The preparation was fun, since it was more of a destination wedding and everyone was around to help out. [Brandon and Meleia had their wedding at St. Pete beach in Florida.] The morning of the wedding, we were all playing volleyball. We had a pretty athletic bunch that loves sports. For the wedding preparation, all the old people took care of it, and the young people just had fun, ha! The mothers were probably stressing over all of the details for us.

Brandon: I try to scrub all of the planning from my memory. But it was a fun, long weekend, almost a weeklong celebration.

Meleia: I felt like it was the last hoorah before adulthood. It was like, “Here you go! You’re no longer in college. You have absolutely no money. Good luck!” [laughs]

TL: How did you know this was the right person for you?

Meleia: Well, obviously, he was very good looking, and after I found out he loved Jesus and was a Christian — and not just saying it to get me to like him — that was a big thing. So knowing he had a real relationship with the Lord, after a few dates [I’d say I knew]. And, when he tried to kiss me on a date, and I turned away and said, “No,” and he still wanted to go out with me, I knew that was good.

Brandon: We can edit that part out.

TL: What is your advice to couples preparing to get married?

Brandon: I would say find a good mentor, someone you really trust who is older, who has been through it. We were given a lot of good advice leading up to it on what to expect. Guys can just be so clueless about little things and expectations.

Meleia: Yeah, I think I knew I wasn’t marrying Prince Charming, and he wasn’t going to complete me. [laughs] In a good way!

Brandon: You’ll begin to realize how selfish you are once you get married. Once you have kids you’ll really learn how selfish you are!

Meleia: Be able to laugh at yourself. Brandon laughs a lot. He can turn everything into a joke, and it’s great, even when it’s annoying and I’d rather he not. But, generally half an hour later, I’m like, OK, I guess that is kind of funny. So try not to take yourself too seriously.

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TL: How did you meet?

Sally: We met in college. We were working together, on a student leadership team at SEU [Southeastern University]. I was on Daniel’s marketing team. He was the lead designer, and I was on his team.

Daniel: Yes, we met that way but didn’t date until Clark, a friend of mine, invited me to hang out on the lake with some friends but insisted I bring a date. I wasn’t seeing anyone at the time, so my first thought was, Who do I know that’s cute?

Sally: I recall clear as day the night he asked me out. I was with some friends watching a game when I got a call from Daniel. My first thought was, Did I need to send him a graphic or miss a deadline? What is going on? So I answered the call, and he invited me out on the boat but then proceeded to clarify, “Only if you are OK with it, just as friends — no pressure.”

Daniel: Well, I was sort of her boss, and I didn’t want it to be anything weird.

Sally: I agreed to go. I always thought Daniel was cute. And I thought it would be fun regardless — I’m a Texas girl so I could count the number of times I had been on a boat on one hand.

TL: How did you propose?

Daniel: Back in school we attended this award ceremony. It’s a big formal event put on at the Polk Theatre. She was my date, and afterwards I took her to this spot in town that’s commonly referred to as the “highest point.” I thought it was a romantic place to ask her to make our dating relationship “official,” I guess So — fast forward four years — it was her birthday month. With my friends, one of whom is a photographer, I convinced her that we would take some photos for her birthday, as an excuse to get her dressed up. My friend Dan set up two locations for the shoot, the “highest point” being one of them. Meanwhile, my other friends and I were up on the hill getting everything ready. Lisa Malott, who does a lot of staging for the magazine, also helped me put it all together. But then, as it does during Florida summers, it poured. It was August, so I knew there was a possibility this would happen. As my only backup, I had brought the 10×10 popup tent from our office. As scheduled, Dan and Sally eventually arrived but remained in the car trying to wait out the rain. But it just wasn’t letting up. He somehow managed to convince Sally to get out of the car insisting they could get a shot or two with the umbrella. They finally made it to the tent, where I was waiting. Table set, me dressed up, barely keeping dry under the tent that was now sagging under the weight of the water collecting on top. I just remember trying to block all of that out as I greeted her, wished her a happy birthday, and then finally popped the question. All the while Dan was shooting photos while our friends Matt and Candace captured the video. After I got the “yes” and placed the ring in her finger, we sat down and enjoyed a meal served by yet another friend, Charlene, who fully committed to the role by dressing like a waiter.

TL: In what ways are you alike?

Sally: We’re both creatives. We both really enjoy similar overarching themes — we really enjoy movies, fashion, architecture, music, travel.

Daniel: We love travel … although we like to travel somewhat differently. And I’d say we really appreciate people and experiences. We love to take an ordinary moment and try to make it something memorable.

Sally: They’re called movie moments.

Daniel: Trademark Sally. [Both laugh.]

TL: What do you remember most from the wedding day?

Sally: I think all the people there, all of our friends. We had so many friends attend. I’m not from Lakeland, so having that many people come from out of town was really special to me. I had family from Texas, from Mexico. Daniel had family from Jamaica, U.K., Canada.

Daniel: Honestly, for me it was the ceremony. It was very happy and joyous, obviously, but I took it very seriously along with the meaning of our commitment, writing out my vows that morning. I really appreciated our friends and mentors Hillary and Jason performing the ceremony; it was so special to us.

Sally: I had always dreamed of getting married in a church. For me there’s something really special about that. It represents the sacredness of a great sacrament. Because most of our families live so far away, they don’t know who we’ve grown to become, and it was really important to share that with them and say, “This is who we are. This is our community and our life.”

TL: When did you know this was the right person for you?

Sally: When I started to realize that Daniel brought out the best in me and I felt challenged by him to become a better person, I knew there was something special.

Daniel: I feel like I knew pretty early. But, after two years of dating, I remember saying it out loud: “I’m for sure going to marry this girl.”

TL: Is there anything you would’ve done differently at the wedding?

Daniel: I would’ve gotten the tent. Our entire reception had to be reset after a brief rain.

Sally: I wouldn’t have spent so much money on flowers.

TL: What is your advice to couples preparing to get married?

Daniel: We did the Enneagram during our premarital counseling, which was huge. I’d definitely recommend it.

Sally: Yes, the Enneagram! I became so self-aware and learned so much about myself and Daniel. We also had conversations that made us both open up while talking through the things that have shaped who we are.

Daniel: I’d say it’s been helpful to have a set of household values. We have a list of five that are foundational to who we want to be. For instance, we value flexibility: we dream big and have high aspirations, so to avoid disappointment and pressure, we intentionally value being able to move forward and be flexible when we encounter the unexpected. But, we’re at the very beginning of our marriage, and learning daily. We are by no means the experts.