Candle Lighters, my brother Keith and Russell’s sister Bettie Jo
Since Daddy was performing the ceremony, my Grandad walked me down the aisle.
Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, where the two of us met (in 1959), when Daddy came to pastor this little church close to Jefferson City, MO.
As the photographer suggested we place our hands on Daddy’s Bible for “the ring” picture, I quickly turned to The Love Chapter so that the photographed passage would be intentional.
Our parents, R.V. and Leona Wilson and Betty and Joe Ford.
Left to right: Bettie Jo Ford (Russell’s sister), Brenda Wilson and Janene Wilson (my sisters), bride/groom, Curtiss Ford and David Ford, Russell’s brothers, Keith Wilson (my brother). Front: Shannon McGowin (family friend) and Melody Wilson (my sister).
Going Away (my pearls were from my Grandmother, Mamo Wilson). Mother made my suit (and all the girls’ gowns, including mine).
The following account is from my Diary, written a few days after the wedding.
September 8, 1965
I awoke with the feeling that this was the day for which I had been born. At 10:00 I went to the beauty shop to have my hair done and a manicure (my first). I picked up the sheet cake and the flowers while in town and then spent a leisurely afternoon getting ready. Honoring tradition, I did not see or talk to Russell before the wedding.
At 7:00, time for the wedding, I was excited to death but not in the least nervous. I had not one second of doubt about what I was doing. I was consciously thinking, "Remember all this--remember how you feel and everything about this evening. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
There was an aura of unreality about the ceremony--an "I can't believe this is really happening, it's too good to be true, I'm the happiest person in the world" aura.
The girls wore mint green satin, full-length, sleeveless dresses, with matching pillbox headpieces. The men wore dark suits. Russell wore a black suit. I wore a floor-length white satin peau gown with an illusion veil secured to a pearl tiara. I carried white cymbidium orchids from Russell on my white Bible that was my wedding gift from him.
NOTE: My wedding gown and all the bridesmaid dresses and headpieces were handmade by Mother, in the six weeks preceding the wedding. The ring pillow was handmade by Mamo Eubanks (Mother’s mother).
The ceremony was brief--everything went perfectly. Candle Lighters, Keith Wilson and Bettie Jo Ford; Ring Bearer, Sheldon McGowin; Flower Girl, Melody Wilson; Groomsman, David Ford; Bridesmaid, Brenda Wilson; Best Man, Curtiss Ford; Maid of Honor, Janene Wilson.
The ceremony was performed by Daddy, and Grandad walked me down the aisle. To the question, "Who gives this bride in marriage?," Grandad replied, "Her grandfather, in the name of her mother and father." (He had rehearsed his line many times and was quite nervous about his role.)
One highlight of the service was the "Home Dedication Ceremony," which required Russell to vow to establish and maintain a Christian home, including having a family altar. I vowed to support him in this.
When Russell placed the wedding ring on my hand during the double-ring ceremony, I saw my wedding ring for the first time. Tradition required that I not see it during our engagement.
Rob Comstock sang three songs: "Walk Hand in Hand With Me," "One Hand, One Heart," and "Wedding Prayer." His wife Linda accompanied. (The Comstocks were our friends whom Russell had met at college.)
Following the ceremony, the reception was held in the basement. The Frosted Lime Punch that Mother had made was delicious--it was so hot in the church that evening. There was a huge crowd; several were standing.
After the reception, there were pictures. I changed into my going-away outfit, a green wool suit that Mother had made, with matching hat. I transferred my orchid to the lapel of the suit.
The `53 Mercury parked in front of the church was "decorated." We only drove it to a nearby garage where we transferred to Joe's red `64 Ford neatly decorated (thanks to Russell's brothers). In it, we embarked upon our wedding trip.
Our first stop was Rolla, where we spent the night in the Holiday Inn. The room rate was $9.00 + .27 tax.
I felt that my whole life had just been a preparation leading up to marriage, and I was never so completely happy than when I realized I was finally married to the man I loved with all my heart, the one in God's plan for me.
There were “color” snapshots “back then,” but the professional photographer’s prices made it impossible for me to have color wedding pictures. Glad I have a few color snapshots!
After a four-day wedding trip, we settled into our first home in Bolivar, MO, where Russell began his junior year in college at Southwest Baptist College, and I began my freshman year.
In a way, it seems like yesterday. In another way, it seems like a lifetime ago. It was a lifetime ago. I was 18, Russell was almost 20. How could we even begin to thank Our Heavenly Father, or each other, for the lifetime of happiness and blessings. We would never have thought it possible to love each other more than we did that evening 50 years ago. But each year has brought a deeper love. Our greatest blessings are of course our children and grandchildren.
How in the world the most wonderful man in the world could have put up with me for 50 years is beyond my understanding. It has to be a God-thing, for sure! Well, that and his infamous “rose-colored glasses.” He still tells me that I am beautiful, and more than that, he convinces me that he really means it! Now, that’s love!
Somehow, when I thought “ahead” about our 50th anniversary, I thought I would feel “old.” It’s very strange. I don’t feel old. I feel full of memories and experiences, and I feel a depth of love for my husband and family that I would’ve never understood as an 18-year old dreamy-eyed bride.
When people ask the secret to a lifelong marriage, I always let them know that the first step for us was knowing God and following His direct and specific will. There is more, of course. There is the element of commitment, and sometimes, frankly, hard work. But everything, for us, was made easier because God was always at the center of our marriage and our family. He was the Center who kept us in balance during rough seas. We did not live in a fairy tale, and yet somehow, in God’s unfathomable mercy and grace, He chose to bless us, and we could always feel His hand in the heart of our marriage.
I could write a book about our life together. Actually, I have written my life story, not for publication because no one would be interested except our offspring, and they will read it some day. It seems that a post like this falls so short of expressing my feelings on the importance of this occasion. But there would not be an end to this piece at all if I didn’t let it “fall short.”
My mother tried to tell me that “marriage is not a bed of roses.” But, I think I can say now that, in my case, she was wrong. Oh, there may have been some thorns along the way, but somehow they just made the roses sweeter.
So, happy 50th wedding anniversary to my man of steel and velvet, the love of my life since I was 12 (it’s true). Thank you for being God’s answer to my prayer for a godly husband who loves me more than life. Thank you for providing for my needs, and my wants, for all these years. Thank you for living out the definition of love from I Corinthians 13. Thank you (and God) for giving me the two most wonderful children in the world, and for being the best possible father to them. Thank you for growing up with me, for growing old with me, and for always being there for me, now and forever.
Yes and amen.