By Je’Don Holloway Talley
For The Birmingham Times
“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Ariel Worthy at email@example.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
Name: Valencia and Michael Carpenter
Live: Center Point, AL
Married: Dec. 9, 1997
Met: At church, practicing and performing in a play together. He played the Devil and, “I played the adulterous woman, ‘Spicy, right?’” Valencia playfully asked her husband.
Michael said the first time he saw Valencia, she was stepping out of a “big, blue dusty 15 passenger van,” with long red curly hair, and big, beautiful brown eyes. He recalled being struck by her beauty. “I’m a musician and ex-military… I’ve been all over the world, and I’ve seen a lot of women, but none as breathtaking as Valencia,” he said. “Connecting with her after our first rehearsal together was must. I couldn’t let her walk away… I felt like I would have been letting her walk out of my life. I’ve never felt that way before.”
There was a reason for the van, Valencia said. “I was a youth outreach minister– which is why I had the big blue van– but I was there to rehearse for the play, I wasn’t thinking about picking up a new husband.”
Michael and Valencia became fast friends. “From June of 1995, to December 1996, I spent all my free time with her, and made myself a part of everything she did, yet she couldn’t tell I was in love with her,” Michael said with a laugh.
First date: Michael and Valencia’s first “official date” was also the night that he revealed he was in love with her and that “she needed to stop trying to set me up with all her friends,” Michael said. “Yes, I’d been married before, but I have never been in love or experienced love the way I did with Valencia. She’s my soulmate. She gives the term a whole new definition.”
Valencia said she knew Michael was interested her but “didn’t know he was in so deep . . . he laid his feelings out for me, and that made me listen up… especially when he told me that he wanted to marry me (and not date me), because he wanted to provide medical insurance for my two children from my first marriage.”
After each of their divorces were finalized in 1995 things got serious. By December of 1996 they were married.
The proposal: “He proposed at the end of a six month premarital counseling session which was intended to see if we were compatible,” Valencia said, “I told him ‘yes’ and we got married that same day in the pastor’s office.”
The wedding: The two were married at Faith Chapel Christian Center by a counselor and friend named Pastor Connie Blaylock. Valencia did not wear a wedding dress. The couple had a reception a few weeks following their nuptials at the Westlake Lodge Apartments guest house. “We paid $75 to rent the place, and all of our friends and family contributed the rest,” Valencia said. “I really wanted to wear a wedding dress and take pictures, so one of my dearest friends loaned me her heirloom wedding dress. My mother-in-law purchased my shoes and purse, and another dear friend provided my makeup, cake and the food.”
Words of wisdom: “God is the key and glue that holds us together, but it is only because we have learned to really love each other through God’s eyes that we have become so grounded,” said Valencia. “Humans place restrictions on each other based upon religious beliefs and preconceived ideas from growing up . . . but every marriage has its own rhythm and when a couple finally finds it and embraces it no challenge is too hard.”
“Free people are happy people and only free people can free people,” Valencia added.
Michael said, “Couples have to remember how and why they fell in love. Keep the main and important things, important. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t try to put each other in a box; celebrate each other often. Date often even if it’s just sitting in the kitchen sharing a sandwich or meal with each other’s undivided attention.”
Happily ever after: Michael, a Tacoma, Washington native, and Alabamian since the late 1960’s, is a neurophysiologist in Selma. Valencia, a North Birmingham native, operates a Life Coaching and Family Therapy business, and works full time as an Office Manager at Jefferson State Community College.