The Wedding

My daughter is tying the knot

By Joey Kennedy

I’m going to a wedding this month. I know that sounds like no big deal, but it will be my first wedding to attend in a long time.

My wife and I have been to a lot of weddings over our lives. But not since our own wedding in 1980 have I gone to a wedding as important to me as the one I’ll attend on August 17.

My daughter is getting married. But I’ll get to that.

Veronica and I got married in February. It was cold on that Groundhog Day. I still joke that each February 2, if I see my shadow I’ll be married for another year. I ALWAYS see my shadow.

I’m an anomaly in my family. I attended only one of my older sister’s four weddings—the fourth—and unlike the other three, this marriage appears to be sticking. The last wedding I served in as a groomsman was my younger sister’s. Alas, after two great kids, that marriage ended, too, though my younger sister hasn’t remarried.

Marriages in my family—and not just my immediate family, either, but my extended family—have one common denominator: Divorce.

Veronica and I have beaten the odds. We’ve been married more than 38 years, and I don’t see that changing. But does anyone ever?

I’ve always been curious about weddings.

We attended an Indian wedding that lasted so long, Veronica and I left at halftime, as guests were being served ice cream. An Eastern Orthodox wedding we attended lasted it seemed forever, and we were kneeling, sitting, and standing so often, it was like an aerobics class.

Name-drop wedding: I served in best-selling author Rick Bragg’s first wedding in Jacksonville, Ala., and attended his second in Memphis.

I’ve even been a match-maker, though I didn’t know it at the time. In one of my English classes at UAB a few years ago, I unknowingly brought together Brittney Hundley and Tate Luker, two of my students.

As Brittney tells it, she was early to English class that day, and a friend told her that Tate and his girlfriend at the time, also named Tate, had broken up.

“Tate arrived (to class) about 10 minutes late,” Brittney remembers. “Our professor stopped him at the door and asked him if he was all right. Tate looked confused and said he was sorry for interrupting. The professor then said something to the effect of: ‘I heard you got dumped. That really sucks. But don’t worry. That girl right there (pointing to me) thinks you are really cute.’

“I slid behind my laptop and frantically thought of ways to avoid ever seeing him again. Instead, I messaged him on Facebook and apologized for causing him embarrassment, explaining I had no idea the teacher was listening. That conversation started and never stopped. In the moment, I certainly never expected to be thankful for the most embarrassing moment of my life and his, but it is a story I never tire of telling.”

Brittney and Tate sent us the very first invitation to their 2012 wedding.

“Our wedding day was spectacular,” Brittney says. “Everyone we loved, including the professor who introduced us, was there to encourage and support us.”

Now, after a girl and twin boys, Brittney and Tate are living their dream. Says Brittney: “I am thankful for our marriage, our family, and our Father who sent a big-hearted, blabbermouth of a professor to deliver the biggest blessing of my life.”

Veronica and I, by choice, didn’t have children. So how can I be attending my daughter’s wedding this month?

Nicole Bowland adopted us. She was a scholarship volleyball player at UAB from San Jose, Calif. She took one of Veronica’s composition classes in her first semester at UAB. They immediately hit it off and, when I met her, we hit it off. Nicole’s family couldn’t come to volleyball events, so Nicole asked us. We grew closer, and she began to call me her “Faja,” and Veronica her “Maja.” We called Nicole our “Daja.”

After graduating from UAB, Nicole stayed and worked in Birmingham for a few years, but eventually the draw of her native West Coast took her away. She’s got a great job in high-tech in San Diego. Her fiancé, Sara Kate Denton, has a law degree and works for Berkshire-Hathaway there.

They are getting married on August 17, but Nicole’s parents are not supportive and won’t attend the wedding. Veronica can’t attend because she selflessly volunteered to take care of the dogs.

Nicole asked me if I would wear a gray suit and camel-colored shoes—the wedding colors—and give her the father-daughter dance. She also wants me to offer the first toast.

I cried when she asked. I said yes through those tears.

Nicole and Sara Kate came to Birmingham for my 60th birthday party two years ago; we message and phone regularly. Sara Kate is an amazing woman, wants to have children, and Veronica and I will have another “Daja,” even at our advanced ages.

“I love her smile, laugh, and love for friends and family,” Nicole says of Sara Kate. “She is home and makes me feel like the most important person in the world.”

Nicole has fond memories of her years in Birmingham: “I made friends and was adopted by family like you,” she says. “Birmingham is a great city that is continually evolving.”

Says Sara Kate: “My big wish for marriage is to continue growing and loving together, to be the best and most beautiful versions of ourselves. Not only for ourselves, though, but also for one another. What I like most about Nicole is her beautiful heart and free spirit. She is the kindest of souls. She is the light in the dark.”

So I’ll be going to my daughter’s wedding this month and, no doubt, I’ll cry.

2 Responses to “The Wedding”

  1. Sara Denton says:

    I look forward to meeting you at my granddaughters wedding! Loved your priceless column!

  2. Sandra Gerhardt says:

    Congratulations upon being faja of the bride Joey! This is a lovely article.

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