• The Poplar Family

From the Courthouse to the Caribbean Sea

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Our love story isn't glamorous but it's ours

"Don't despise the day of small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin." Zechariah 4:10

My husband and I got married at the Davidson County courthouse in Nashville, TN. I was 22 years old. Our oldest son was 16 months old, and my husband was in the fifth year of his four year degree. We had met in high school. I was the new girl who had good grades and a troubled past. He was a popular guy who was an undercover nerd. We had been together for six years by the time we made our way to the courthouse to tie the knot. It was a far cry from my childhood dream of having a shoeless ceremony on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan. We didn't tell a soul. He came home from class on Friday, December 17th, and said, "Do you want to go get married today?" I said yes, and we made it there just before they closed for the day.

Photo by Lia Ross

It was not glamorous. It would not have been something worthy of posting on social media. We weren't wearing fancy clothes, hashtags were unheard of, and if we weren't already late enough, my then Fiancee made me repeat after him in the parking lot, "Divorce is not an option." I said it real quick because I was afraid they would lock the doors, and we'd have to wait until Monday before we could make it official. He asked me to say it like I meant it. Over and over, I repeated the words, "Divorce is not an option."

This was important to him because we were both by-products of divorce. He loved me and knew early on that I was going to be his wife, but like so many young men feared the unknown. He didn't want to get married before graduating from college. He didn't want to marry until he could afford to buy a home. He didn't want to marry until he had secured his dream job, and most of all, he didn't want our relationship to end in divorce. He was very vocal about what he didn't want as I internalized what I wanted.

Simply stated, I wanted to be married. I wanted to be his wife. I wanted to share the same last name as my son. I wanted to stop coming up with creative ways to explain why we were still engaged. I wanted to be free from the shame, condemnation, and frustration of things not going as I had previously planned.

I relinquished my dream of being a barefoot bride and settled for being his courthouse queen. I was relieved that after all the prayers, tears, conversations, and fears, we were officially becoming husband and wife. After I finished repeating, "divorce is not an option" after him in the parking lot, and we finished repeating after the judge in the courthouse, my greatest desire since 1993 had come true. I was officially "Mrs. Melvin Poplar Jr." All I needed was a photo to commemorate the occasion.

Old Soul Ross Photography

This was before digital cameras or smartphones so I asked him if we could go to the mall and take a photo in a photobooth. Not wanting to contend with Nashville traffic, he said no. We drove home, put our son down for bed, and began our life together as husband and wife. I cried myself to sleep that night because memories mean so much to me. My dad was a photographer, and my favorite aunt, who had passed away the previous year, was a memory maker who caught so many of my milestones on camera. It felt like all the people who would've captured the occasion or advocated for me to have my picture taken had passed away.

I had no evidence of one of the most important days of my life. All the people who would be proud of us for making it official would have to take my word and use their imaginations to fill in the blank on how extraordinary our special day was. Like I said before, it was not glamorous. But it was significant. It was a decision that we made together solely independent of anyone else's influence. And we were determined to make good on our promise. Divorce was not an option then, and it's still not an option today.

Old Soul Ross

Here we are 20 years and six kids later. We've experienced varying degrees of success, and we have the photos to prove it, but there was one moment that God must've looked from eternity into time and said, "I haven't forgotten their humble beginning." A few months back, we were trying to decide how to celebrate our anniversary, and just when we thought we knew what we wanted to do, we received an invitation from a college friend to attend her destination wedding in Negril Jamaica, on December 17th. Our actual wedding date! We knew God was up to something. But there was no way we could've ever guessed that He was setting us up to have the barefoot beach ceremony we dreamed of having when we were 16 & 17-year-old kids.

On December 18th, 2019 (20 years and one day after our anniversary), my husband and I retied the knot along the Caribbean Sea. It was a perfect day in every way. Our ceremony consisted of us exchanging our vows in the sand, a cocktail hour in front of the sea, a honeymoon dinner at a Venetian Restaurant, a decadent red velvet wedding cake, and my favorite feature of all, a photo of us as husband and wife. #Poplarsinparadise

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