By Je’Don Holloway-Talley
Special to 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 Erica Wright firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
JESSICA AND JEREMY SIMS
Married: March 12, 2011
Met: Jessica and Jeremy met in 2001 at Fairfield High School. Jessica, then a junior, and Jeremy, then a senior, were introduced by a mutual classmate. “I told her I was interested in Jeremy because [the mutual friend] was dating his friend,” Jessica said. “We [she and Jeremy] actually took athletics together and he approached…he came up behind me on the bleachers and put his hands over my eyes and said guess who?”
Jeremy remembers how exciting it was to receive word that day that the school’s female star basketball player was interested in him.
Jessica said the two became fast friends. “We started talking, we were friends for about two weeks, and then we made it official; I remember it was December 12, 2001. I remember because I found out later on that that’s his mother’s birthday,” she said.
First date: “We ended up on a group date at McDonald’s on Lakeshore,” Jessica said. “But it was cool because it didn’t make us feel a lot of pressure. It just felt normal like hanging out with your friends.”
Jeremy had planned to see a nice movie and to get something to eat, “but when I went to pick her up her mom was like ‘have my daughter back by 10’. And I was like man, what, it’s already 7? But I didn’t say it, I just said yes ma’am.”
The turn: That first date would be the start of a 17-year relationship. In 2002, Jeremy went on to graduate high school and join the workforce, while Jessica began her senior year and choosing between colleges.
“It really got serious for me when I had to make the decision about whether I would leave and go off to college, or stay here and go to UAB,” Jessica said. “I had offers to Alabama State University and Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University, but I felt really good about how our relationship was growing and I wanted to see where it would go,” she said. “I know we were young, and I was only 18, but when you know you know,” Jessica said.
“My thoughts and first reaction was like, ‘man, my girl bout to leave and go off to college’, but I didn’t want to be that jealous boyfriend that holds you back, so I encouraged her to go and to make the right decision,” Jeremy said.
Jessica chose to stay in town and attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB].
“I felt like the relationship was kind of love at first sight…I really wanted something positive to grow from it,” he said.
The couple would date throughout Jessica’s college years, and eventually, start a family and purchase their first home all before taking their nuptials.
The proposal: “So we didn’t do things in the traditional order…,” Jessica said.
“November 2008 we got pregnant with our first daughter, Kaylie, and then in December , he proposed.
“It was actually at my mom’s house, I had bought a gift for her, but before I wrapped it I put the ring inside the scarf I got her, and wrapped it up in a box. When I gave her the present, she proceeded to open it, and that’s when I hit the one knee,” Jeremy said. “She was fiddling with the box, and trying to open it, and when she looked up I was on one knee and said, ‘Baby will you marry me?’. It was real simple, just us.”
Jessica recalled the proposal was an intimate setting. “It was just him and I, and it wasn’t dramatic, but it was really special,” she said. “We held off on the marriage for a while [because] in 2010, we bought our first house. I never really wanted a big wedding, it was all about working on [building] the marriage we wanted and our future,” she said.
The wedding: First Baptist Fairfield Church. The groom wore his father’s black tuxedo, and the bride wore a white wedding gown.
“It wasn’t a big wedding, it was supposed to be in the pastor’s study, I only bought a dress because David’s Bridal was having a sale and I found one I really liked,” Jessica said.
“[in attendance] It was both of our parents, both [sets of their] siblings and both of our best friends, 15-20 people tops,” Jeremy said.
The couple said the nuptials were quick, they were in and out. What’s most memorable was bringing their closest friends and loved ones back to their new home and having a cookout.
“But,” Jessica said, “We’re only 360 days apart, our birthdays are four days apart, and were a month later,” Jessica said, “so we had a big birthday/reception celebration and invited everybody.”
Words of wisdom: Jeremy said communication is the key. “You cannot read somebody’s mind,” he said.
You also have to compromise, he added. “Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, and personally, I believe your relationship is defined by how you handle the bad times, and not the good times,” he said. “Based off how you react to the bad times, you’ll appreciate the good times all the more, and you’ll grow.”
Jessica said the most important part in a marriage is true love. “You have to honestly love your partner unconditionally,” she said. “A lot of people say that, but they don’t realize what that means. But being together over the course of 17-years, you will grow and change a lot,” she said, “and you have to honestly love that person for who they are, where they are and unconditionally.”
Jessica also said, “We mute outside influences. When you get too many people involved in your relationship, they’re gonna give you advice based on their experiences, and that might not be my experience or what’s best for me,” she said. “Our relationship is a little different because there are not many people our age (33 and 34) who can give us advice based on a 17-year relationship, their relationships haven’t even made it halfway to where we are yet.”
“If you openly communicate, you don’t need anyone else’s advice,” she said.
Happily ever after: Jessica, 33, graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, with a B.A. in Social Psychology. She is a Billing and Compliance Coordinator for UAB and owns her own medical coding company called ‘K-3 Coding’, where she teaches medical coding.
Jeremy, 34, is a Convention Production Specialist for VEAL Convention Services. The couple have three children, daughter Kaylie, 9, and 4-year-old twins, Kolton and Kelsey.
One of the joys of being married is “we actually like each other and we get along,” Jessica said. “We look forward to coming home to one another, and I can’t wait to get home to him, especially when I’m having a bad day or I’m struggling. It’s comforting to know that I have someone at home who can understand what I’m going through.”
Jeremy said it’s been a fun ride. “Growing together as a couple, we started as teenagers, and now we’re adults with kids, so it’s been fun to watch it play out,” he said.
The couple enjoys nice dinners and taking yearly trips. “We try to take at least two trips a year without the kids to keep the relationship alive and interesting. They also enjoy watching [sitcom] ‘Martin’ reruns.
“We love quoting ‘Martin.’, we watch it like it’s brand new,” Jessica said.