I recently contacted Donna and Wesley from the Atlanta, Georgia area after seeing a comment Donna had made on Katie Couric’s webpage about Katie’s engagement and how much Donna enjoyed being an older bride. Donna and Wes were so kind to share their older bride and groom experience with me.
Donna gracefully answered my interview questions and Wes wrote a beautiful article from the groom’s perspective. This couple, like many older brides and grooms are a testament to second chances and successfully marrying later in life.
Enjoy the read and may it inspire you to be open to love and create the wedding of your dreams!
Lisa: How old were you both when you married?
Donna: Wes was 55 and I was 45. We married on November 7, 2009.
Lisa: How long did it take you to plan your wedding?
Donna: When we got engaged we thought about a destination wedding for only a second, but deep down we knew we had to be in our church with all of our family and friends. We were so excited about our wedding and most of all the rest of our lives together.
It took us about 10 months to plan our wedding. We wanted to make memories and include both of our heritages and traditions, Greek and Japanese. Everything we did was a true labor of love. Our wedding was a peek into our relationship and our love for each other.
Lisa: How many guests did you invite?
Donna: We had about 250 guests which may seem like a lot but we included all those we love; family, friends and colleagues who have been so supportive of the two of us.
Lisa: Where was your event held?
Donna: We married in a traditional Greek ceremony at Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene Greek Orthodox church in Cummings, GA. http://stsrni.org/site/
Our reception was a sit down dinner held at the Reid Estate & Barn in their state of the art barn overlooking a lake. http://thereidbarn.com
Lisa: What was your favorite moment?
Donna: We had two favorite moments. First, was from the wedding; the last part of the ceremony is the procession around the altar. This procession is called the dance of Isaiah. The priest holds our joined right hands and walks us around the altar three times. This is symbolic of our first walk with God as husband and wife.
Our second was from the reception. We were standing in front of this amazing barn full of all of our family and friends watching as our wedding party was introduced and danced in to “Tonight’s Gonna be a Good Night” by the Black Eyed Peas and then we were announced and entered to “Ain’t No Other Man” by Christina Aguilera as bubbles were being blown. The love, energy and smiles on every one’s faces were absolutely electric. Then we danced to our song “You and I” by Michael Buble.”
Lisa: Is there anything you would have done differently?
Donna: We would not have changed a thing honestly. There was a little glitch here or there but that is life and you just roll with it.
Lisa: Any specific challenges you ran into as an older couple trying to plan a wedding?
Donna: Our biggest challenge, this being our second time around, were all the opinions and comments about having an actual wedding ceremony as opposed to the courthouse or something private. We were truly flabbergasted by people saying things like “really you are having a full on wedding, wearing a wedding dress, having a wedding party?” My response was absolutely! What makes this marriage, this man, less important than the first one?
We are grateful to have found love the second time around and wanted to share it with everyone we could. It was important for us to start our marriage in our church in front of God and all of our family and friends. We wanted our family and friends to stand up with us. So yes, our wedding party was eighteen to seventy. We wanted to share our love and create memories for a lifetime.
Lisa: What was the one element you had the most fun planning for the wedding?
Donna: The music! Everything from the ceremony through the reception! We were able to include Greek, Japanese and spiritual music as well as songs sung by dear friends in the church. We also included traditional Greek music and dancing at the reception. We had a DJ, Wes’s nephew who played music from all genres, as well as live performances by friends and family. It was truly a celebration to remember.
Lisa: Any Unveiled Wisdom you would like to share with other older brides/couples?
Donna: The best advice that we could give to other couples marrying at a more mature age is to be true to you, be true to your love story and have fun with it. I wore a one shoulder satin pink gown and veil because my ring was flanked with pink diamonds and we were incorporating Japanese cherry blossoms at our reception. My bridesmaids wore black dresses with pink pearls and accents. Wes wore silver with his black tux and his boys chose to add pink to their tuxes.
Remember it’s all about the two of you and what makes you happy. There is no right or wrong way. Don’t stress if there are glitches, just go with the flow, laugh and just keep on. Your guests will never even notice. What they will remember is the love story they have been included in. This is the first day of the rest of your life. Live, Love and Laugh.
Love is a beautiful thing. With age comes wisdom and gratitude for a second chance at love. Whether you find love a second time because of the loss of a loved one or the loss of love, you know it when you see it, feel it, experience it, you recognize it, know it and most of all appreciate it!
We were just giddy on our wedding day. Every day we tell each other we love each other. We never leave without kissing each other good-bye. Mostly we spend time together not apart and we laugh all the time.
We thank God every single day for bringing us into each other’s lives. We truly hope that we can inspire other maturing couples to follow their hearts and celebrate their weddings their way just like we did.
Lisa: Well said Donna! Thank you for sharing your story!
Donna: Thanks so much!
The Second Time Around
(A “man’s” perspective)
By Wesley Carlton Dennison
The thought of change for many can be formidable, even polarizing. Whether
A person goes through a loss of a loved one or a divorce, getting through it can be difficult and psychologically draining. Life, often throws us curve balls. I feel, how we deal with them is a true measure of our character and personal growth. Starting over can be tough, emotional and scary. It can also be eye-opening and very liberating. It was a total mix for me. Here’s my story of finding love again.
We each deal with change differently. We want to avoid the pain, to quickly resolve it and move on. We’re forever searching for an easy recipe to fix it! Rarely easy, we must each go through a healing process. But, for success, we must add the right ingredients, first. Here’s a poem that I was inspired to write in 1999, after an article that I read in “People” magazine. As I recall someone famous had lost her husband to testicular cancer. I remember her saying that she wished there was a recipe she could give out for all those going through similar situations. I was very moved by the article. This is when I decided to write, “Recipe to Recovery.”
“Take a pound of hurt and pain, let marinate in tears, mix emptiness and loneliness with a cupful of our fears. Peel back our deepest feelings, stir in moist memories, grate some guilt and anger too, crush the heart and squeeze. Slice and dice composure, toss our need to “smile,” chop the social obligations and cover for a while. Now, add an ounce of friendships, a dash of good advice, pour in some sense and inner strength, and sprinkle life with spice. Slowly, mix and stir in healing, let simmer and sauté, cool, uncover, then let stand… drain the pain away. Then, season the ingredients, stuff with faith and bake, let rise our spirits, ’till it shakes our confidence awake. Wait and watch and when it’s done, remove and we’ll discover, this recipe and food for life, will help us to recover.”
Whether it’s good or bad, change is inevitable. Life ebbs and flows, with or without our permission. A Chinese proverb says, “With every end, a new beginning… with every new beginning an end.” But, not all change is bad and not all ends are forever. There is light at the end of each tunnel however difficult or dark it sometimes seems. I found myself, after a period of uncertainty, finally moving on, accepting my new life challenges and being open to new opportunities. I allowed myself to live, love, and laugh again. I decided to “picture” how I wanted my life to look like and began to believe it would happen. It wasn’t long before my mental picture, soon “developed.”
In my case, at the end of the rainbow, I found my pot of gold; my Greek goddess…my wife, Donna. I first met my blond-haired, blue-eyed, “love of my life,” at a job interview that I was conducting. Let me just say, we had a mutual friend, Denise, that suggested Donna find a job to immerse herself into. Her suggestion would turn out to be…to see me. This became a crucial turning point in her life and mine. However, before we could finish “our” love story, we each had totally separate journeys to walk alone, before ever being in a position to ultimately find each other.
Donna was married for 19 years. She met her football sweetheart at 14, married him at 21, and buried him at 40. They had no children. What they did have was the picture perfect life and marriage, before a rare “thymus” cancer took her husband, Terri, after just 16 months. He was 43 years old. He was far too young to die and she was too young to be a widow. In the aftermath it was an extremely difficult time that would take her years to overcome. Daily, she found herself dealing with the “why'” of his death and the relentless feelings of emptiness, loneliness and isolation. She once told me that, “you never really get over a loved one’s death, you mostly find yourself, under it.” “You’re covered by its finality and smothered by its lingering pain. You find yourself under its spell; under its power and control.” In time, healing would eventually come. She kept her trust in God and knew in her heart, that she would love again. There was always a deep feeling of faith that God would not take away a love so precious, without replacing it with another one, just as precious. I’m glad her trust and faith were strong.
My path was one of falling out of love after 19 years of marriage and two children later. My boys were 17 and 13 at the time of the divorce. As much as you don’t want it to happen, the children inevitably will go through the divorce with you. Life and marriage has a way of getting away from you if you let it, or if you don’t pay enough attention to the “tell-tale” signs. I worked long hours in retail jewelry and traveled far too much as a Regional Supervisor to keep our relationship grounded and fully functional. We found ourselves becoming more and more distant as time went on. We became “unplugged” to the real needs of each other. I can remember the arguments; more often than not, never reaching a mutual understanding or compromise. There were distinct differences in parenting styles also. There was insensitivity, hurt and pain. And somehow, regret always became the haunting result. We both made a lot of mistakes that we would’ve liked to take back, but it was too late. When you reach the end of a once caring and loving marriage, it’s hard to recognize how different it’s become now; a far different picture from standing at the altar reciting the vows you once swore to keep.
Looking back, it wasn’t anyone’s individual fault. There’s really no one to throw the blame at. It was more our lack of commitment to work on the issues that were undermining our relationship. Left unanswered, our complacency and indifference to each other led to apathy and contempt. Eventually, we lost respect for each other, as well. Our “care-meter” plummeted and what’s worse, we really didn’t care to revive it. It wasn’t long before we decided to end it and finally divorced on spring of 2006.
Today, my ex-wife and I are friendly and cordial to each other. My boys, now 25 and 20, are well-adjusted, but only after years of working through a difficult transition. I felt that they blamed me for messing up their lives and turning their world upside down. If nothing else, for changing the way things were and life as they knew it. Divorce is hell on everyone involved, but life goes on and new chapters in our lives continue to be written.
God only knows why my marriage didn’t last a lifetime. I think situations occur in life…to teach us “lessons.” Whether we will realize, recognize and respond to it, is the question. I only know that if it weren’t for what came “before”…there would be no “now,” and no second chance at love. I’ve learned and grown quite a lot over the past several years and have come to realize that everyone deserves a second chance. Everyone deserves to make changes and amendments; to make right the wrongs and re-examine how we dealt with marriage before. I believe that in this philosophy, lays the key to happiness and a healthy lasting relationship, of any kind. And, if you’re lucky enough to find “the” one…your soul mate, for a second time, then hold on tight and don’t let go. Do everything you can “not” to repeat the past. As difficult as it was for me and trying for her, I’ve finally learned a few important do’s and don’ts.
Here’s my list:
- Keep plugged in and aware of the “dynamics” of your relationship.
- Be open and willing to compromise.
- Don’t let things fester.
- Always be respectful to each other, especially when you’re disagreeing.
- Pick your battles.
- Be kind, thoughtful and considerate.
- Make time for just “yourself,” when you need it.
- Allow your-self to be fun, crazy, sexy and at times, surprising!
- And most importantly, keep romance and intimacy alive!
There’s a lot that we can do to make our relationships “special.” I’ve learned that cards, flowers, poems and romantic dinners go a long way. Post a loving message on a mirror with her lipstick. Make time to keep connected, on all levels. Surprise her! Stage a “treasure” hunt for gifts, complete with riddles. (Donna loves that!) Whatever you come up with, make it your own. And ladies, if “he” can’t think of anything, just casually “suggest” something “you’d” like. Men are open to suggestions.
Now, I can’t say I don’t completely blow it at times, because I do. But, the frequency is far less and I’m totally focused on the “day-to-day” substance of our marriage now. I try to catch myself, before inserting foot in mouth. I can be wrong and no longer need a wet fish across the chops to realize it!
Don’t get me wrong, we’re like any other couple that struggles to maintain harmony. But, we try not to let a day go by without saying that we love each other. We like to give each other hugs and kisses, especially when leaving each other. Some might say, we’re over the top. We make no apologies…it works for us. Does this seem like too much to ask? I didn’t think so, because I knew what the alternative was!
I’ve made the many changes necessary to sustain a healthy marriage. And my wife Donna has too. She has devoted her life to managing and maintaining the idea of making our home, life and marriage special, even “magical.” It has been a life altering and amazing experience for us both. We are “totally” in love, for the second time. We feel very blessed and grateful every day and vow to never take our relationship or each other for granted.
We married on November 7th, 2009. I was 55, she was 45. We were an older couple who got lucky. And now, having just celebrated our 4th “wedding” anniversary and nearly 8 years together, our love is as strong, healthy and as vibrant as ever. And yes, I did indeed give her another treasure hunt for our anniversary. Her growing excitement and anticipation is soooooo worth it!
This story is told from my prospective, with all the trials and tribulations of what the past looked like and what I’ve learned in the process. It is my opinion of how I found love…for a second time. God had answered my prayers with the perfect woman for me. In hindsight, God also responded to Donna’s belief and faith that, “He” would not take away a love so precious, without replacing it with another one, just as precious. Thank you, God! Everything happens for a reason. And one more thing: nothing happens in the physical without its roots being formed in the spiritual, first. Our thoughts, desires and “beliefs” are more powerful than we know and will manifest accordingly. So, envision what you want and believe in your heart and soul, it will happen. It did for us!
Our love story ended happily, but it wasn’t easy. I wish you knew all that we went through that’s not found on these pages. For instance, the nearly 4 years that we dated before getting married, was a doozy! I met Donna right out of the gate, so dealing with my commitment issues and not wanting to get involved was very challenging for her. All the while, Donna was trying to run away from everything. We nearly sabotaged the whole thing more than once. I look back now and am totally amazed that we made it! I guess, through it all, our love endured…but that’s another story!