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‘Evolve together and appreciate where each is going’

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 ewright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.


Live: Chelsea 

Married: September 10, 2006

Met: June 26, 2005. Both were beginning new careers at the State Farm corporate office in Birmingham. “This was my first corporate job so I was very focused on work and excited for the new opportunity, especially as a young mom,” Gwendalyne said. “I remember walking into the training class and he was already there sitting on the front row.” 

LaDarrylus had a friend in the training class and remembers sharing an observation with him. “I said I don’t see any fine girls in this class. And as soon as I said that Gwendalyne walked in, and I said, ‘wow, who is that, she’s bad.’

First date:  July 2005, at the California Pizza Kitchen at the Summit. LaDarrylus remembers being taken by her brains and beauty. “The vibe was really cool, I’m a pretty laid back guy and I felt like we just had a really cool mental connection. I thought, wow, I’m actually chilling with a person who can actually have a conversation about things deeper than the surface,” LaDarrylus said. 

Gwendalyne said: “I felt like I’d met someone who respected me and saw me as an intellectual, not just somebody who could be in the kitchen cooking, but saw something deeper than the superficial…I don’t think I’d ever just connected with someone that I could just talk and talk to, I kind of felt like I’d known him forever, there was this kindred spirit and instant connection on everything.”

The turn: In August 2005.  Gwendalyne found that she needed a ride to and from work which LaDarrylus provided. She said, “it almost was like God was pushing us together with our circumstances.” LaDarrylus said he had fallen in love with her daughter and they became a family unit. 

The proposal: On Mother’s Day 2006, LaDarrylus proposed at Mount Nebo Baptist Church in Birmingham, before the congregation. 

“The pastor gave me permission to do it… after he was done with the sermon, there was this Mother’s Day program, and when I got up to speak, I said a speech to my mom, thanked her for raising me to be a great man, I had just graduated from college [Miles College] the day before… And then my dad and my brother went and grabbed Gwendalyne while I was making this speech and brought her to the front of the church. When she got to the front that’s when I dropped down on one knee and pulled out a white box, and I asked her to be my wife. The whole church celebrated and exploded with joy with us,” LaDarrylus said.

“I was caught off guard,” Gwendalyne said, “I remember thinking ‘I didn’t know he was a part of the Mother’s Day program’”, she laughed. “But when his dad came and offered his hand to me, I knew something was about to go down, so I slipped off the ring I used to wear on that finger to the other hand on the way up to the front of the church. Two of my really good friends were there and that stood out to me too… [During his proposal speech] I had tunnel vision, all I could see and hear was him, everything else just kind of faded away… But once I said ‘yes’, and all the people started cheering I snapped out of it.”

The wedding: Mountain View Garden and Ballroom, in Springville, Al. It was officiated by Pastor Jesse Leonard, and their colors were champagne bisque and chocolate.

Most memorable: For the bride was the exchanging of their vows. “Just committing to each other and doing that in front of all of our family friends and God, that stands out to me the most,” Gwendalyne said. 

For the groom, being overwhelmed with emotions is what he’ll never forget. 

“That day at church [hours before the wedding] I could not stop crying. I sat there on the side [row] of the church and just cried the entire time, I could not get control of my emotions. My mom and dad thought I was crying because I didn’t want to get married but it wasn’t that. I was crying I couldn’t control my emotions . . . I knew God was in control,” LaDarrylus said. 

The couple honeymooned in Ft. Lauderdale FL and cruised to the Bahamas from there. “I had never cruised and she had. I was blown away by how beautiful the ship was and how great a time we had,” LaDarrylus said. 

Words of wisdom: “You have to allow and give space for your spouse to evolve,” LaDarrylus said. “The person that you marry may not be that same person 10 or 13 years from now, so you have to give space for them to become the person God called them to be.”

Gwendalyne agreed. “We married very young, we grew up together, the people we were in our 20’s are not who we are in our 30’s. I don’t think the same way I thought at 25, and he doesn’t either. So, we didn’t get stuck on not being the person one another married years ago, we said, ‘let’s evolve together and appreciate where each of us is going.’  We’ve grown together instead of growing apart and worked to still grow in the same direction.”

Gwendalyne said that she has learned to give space. “If I see we’re going into a disagreement I’ve now learned to say, ‘We don’t have to hash everything out in this moment, we’re upset. So, I’ll go do some soul searching and you go do some soul searching and then we’ll come back.’ That gives you a moment to see the other person’s perspective…”.

 When it comes to overcoming challenges, LaDarrylus said, “You can’t be emotional . . .  because those emotions cloud your better judgment… Don’t put words out there that you can’t take back, and I’m guilty of doing that, and that’s how I know not to do that.”

Happily ever after: The Barnes’ own a fitness center downtown called Kick Fitness, and have three children: daughter Kennedy Lewis, 15 [from Gwendalyne’s previous relationship], and sons Morgan, 11, and Kayden, 10. 

Gwendalyne, 36, is a Montgomery native and a Booker T. Washington Magnet High School grad. She attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where she studied business management and works at American Family Care Corporate as a manager. 

LaDarrylus, 38, is an East Lake native and Huffman High School grad. He attended Stillman College and graduated from Miles College, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in business management. He is the store manager at a clothing retailer at Patton Creek in Hoover.