When Ronnie and Kathy Reed arrived at their 50th wedding anniversary dinner in December, they never dreamed they were walking into the fairy-tale wedding they never had.
On Dec. 1, 1968, the Church Hill couple first said “I do” just four days before Ronnie entered the military where he served as a soldier in Vietnam. The last-minute decision to marry before Ronnie left allowed no time to prepare for an elaborate wedding ceremony.
“Things happened so quickly,” Kathy said. “I wore a regular short white dress; nothing fancy,” she added.
They had a simple wedding at Fellowship Chapel in Fort Blackmore, Virginia, attended by several friends and family members. There were no decorations, flowers, cake or a single photograph to remember the event by. “What really disappointed me the most is that nobody thought to take a single picture and that breaks my heart,” she said.
Throughout their childhoods, Ronnie and Kathy’s three children often heard the story of their parents’ wartime wedding. So, when the 50th anniversary was approaching, Kristie, Marquita and Matt decided to give them the surprise of a lifetime. They planned a full-fledged wedding complete with the wedding dress, flowers, decorations, cake, catered food, reception, dancing, music, photographer and videographer.
The challenge was keeping it a surprise. In order to pull it off, Marquita told her parents she was going to get married and needed Kathy’s help planning her wedding. She told her Mom she wanted her wedding to be perfect, and since they were so much alike that she trusted her judgment. Even when Marquita took Kathy with her to shop for ‘her’ wedding dress, she convinced Kathy to try it on, so she could see what it looked like on someone else. “I truly believed her,” Kathy said. “They planned it unbelievably well and it was amazing,” she added.
Kathy said she didn’t think her children would even remember it was their 50th anniversary. “I was definitely wrong!” she laughed. She said that while their children regretted having to skirt around the truth to pull off the surprise, she understood why they had to do it. “It’s the only way we would have believed it, and we are in awe of everything that went on to make that possible,” she said.
Ronnie and Kathy were blindfolded when they arrived for what they were told was a pre-dinner surprise. They were lead into the church where friends and family were waiting to share in their reaction when they learned they were actually attending their own wedding. “It was definitely a surprise,” Ronnie said. After revealing the surprise to the shocked parents, the wedding party changed into gowns and tuxes, and proceeded with the unforgettable ceremony.
As the couple reminisced about both of their weddings, they shared some of the ups and downs of their 50-year journey together. Ronnie said their special song, ‘Remember When’ by Alan Jackson, describes their life together in many ways. The song speaks of young love, good times and bad, trust and commitment. When Ronnie returned from Vietnam, their relationship struggled. “The trouble started after I got back home,” he said. Kathy agreed, saying, “It was different when he came home. Vietnam did something to people. But we made it through and the trials made us stronger.”
They are quick to give God the credit for their long and happy marriage. “If it hadn’t been for the Lord, we never would have made it,” Kathy said.
When asked what advice they would give to young couples, they both had the same answer. “Put the Lord first in your life,” they said.
Ronnie also cited trust as being an essential part of any successful relationship.
“Trust is so important. Trust one another and talk to one another,” he added. Another piece of practical advice was offered by Ronnie. “Don’t go deep into debt. You can’t start out wanting everything your parents and grandparents took a lifetime to build,” he said. “We started out with $50 in our pockets and had to buy gas with part of that.”
Fifty years later, the Reeds find themselves blessed beyond measure with a loving family and many friends. They expressed their heartfelt gratitude to their children for their hard work and sacrifice in planning this special wedding event.
“We appreciate it more than they’ll ever know,” Ronnie said. They also wanted to thank all who attended, for the gifts, and for all of those involved in making the wedding extra special. Most of all, they are thankful for the love they have shared for 50 years.
Kathy asked Ronnie sweetly, “If you had to do it all over again would you do it?” He replied with a smile, “I sure would.”
As the song says, “We’d do it all again. Remember when.”
Read a first-hand account of how the children went about pulling off this elaborate surprise.