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‘Being broke takes away every bit of cuteness in being married’

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

CRYSTAL AND REMARCUS GRAY

Live: Huffman

Married: September 18, 2010

Met: Early February, 2009, online at OKcupid.com. “I had just moved to Birmingham and was staying in Homewood, and decided that after moving up here I would start dating, so I created my profile [on OkCupid] and I noticed her profile picture, she was wearing all white,” Remarcus recalled. “I reached out and sent her a message about having coffee and getting to know each other, and at first there were crickets,” he laughed. “I didn’t hear back for weeks, but when I did, we decided to meet for a date.”

Crystal said she previously joined the site along with her ex-boyfriend for the games that the platform offered, “I wasn’t on there for the dating aspect,” Crystal said. “I had recently broken up with that boyfriend, and I wasn’t interested . . . and when I checked my email I had several messages from guys [who had been trying to communicate on the site] and for some reason Remarcus’s was the only one that I responded to. He had asked if we could meet for coffee, and I said ‘yeah, sure, I could do coffee,’ but it ended up being sushi.”

First date: February 13, 2009, at Surin West on the Southside.

Crystal said that their first date wasn’t planned to be a romantic one for Valentine’s Day. “We didn’t even realize Valentine’s Day was the next day until they brought out the sushi, it was shaped like a heart,” Crystal said. “That was my first attempt at any kind of setup like that [online dating], so I was very nervous. … He’s a good conversationalist, so we actually hit some good topics points on the date. It wasn’t water cooler talk… I felt like I’d be interested in seeing him again.”

The turn: Fall 2009. “During the time we were dating she [had my back]. I had lost my job in 2009, and she stuck with me through it, and that let me know that she was going to be the one for me,” Remarcus said.

Crystal said that when they began seeing each other earlier that year “I was dating, so he wasn’t the only person I was seeing. But as the weeks and the months went on, I was less interested in chatting with the other gentlemen,” she said. “A lot of times I found that men were intimidated by me because of what I did (television news producer), and who I was, but he matched my hustle. He was determined and ambitious, and I felt like ‘ok, we can do this.’”

The proposal: April 2010, atop of the Vulcan tower at Vulcan Park and Museum.

“We went on a date, and went out to eat, and then after that I said, ‘let’s go to the Vulcan because I’ve never been to the top,”’ he said … She already knew I was going to propose because she had mentioned wanting to be proposed to at the top of the Vulcan, and when we got there, Crystal said ‘Oh, are you about to propose?’” Remarcus laughed. “So, it wasn’t as much of a surprise as I would’ve liked,… But we got to the top, and I got on one knee and did the proposal and she said ‘yes.’”

Crystal knew something was up on the way to the top of Vulcan.

“It didn’t feel like a regular date,” she said. “When we got up there he started trying to give me this whole quote thing and it was long, and I don’t know if he forgot it or got nervous, but he was stumbling through it . . . and I saw where it was going, so I was like ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, hurry up, give me my stuff,’ she laughed. “And he said, ‘can you just give me a minute?’ And I said ‘ok, finish it out’, but the answer is ‘yes’, just give me my ring.”

The wedding: Greater Antioch Baptist Church in North Birmingham, officiated by Pastor Ben Nichols. Their colors were red and black.

Most memorable for the bride was her walk to the altar. “My grandfather was walking me down the aisle, and I didn’t look at Remarcus when I first came out because I [didn’t want to start crying and] thought I was going to fall, but once I got myself together and looked at him, he was in full blown tears, with his brother rubbing his shoulders,” Crystal said. “I thought it was funny because he thought he wasn’t going to cry, but to look up and he was crying too, I thought ‘ok, were going to be [crying] together.”

Most memorable for the groom was the dance party during the reception. “I had invited a former coworker and his brother to the wedding and they were the only two white people there… and when we started dancing at the reception, they were hilarious. Seeing them have so much fun and doing their versions of the Electric Slide with us, and breakdancing was hilarious,” Remarcus said. “It was great to see them having so much fun with us.”

The couple honeymooned in Savannah, Georgia. “We walked up a light tower to look over Tybee Island and there were so many steps,” Remarcus said. “I was looking for the elevator,” Crystal laughed.

“We did a lot of walking and the cobblestone path near the hotel was really pretty and serene. The wedding was done, and we were reflecting and enjoying each other. The fact that we were married was really surreal,” Crystal said.

Words of wisdom: “Be willing to work through every issue that comes up. If you’re not willing to work through the issues it’s not going to last,” Remarcus said. “It falls under the ‘mountain vs molehill’saying. You’re going to face a lot of problems in a marriage and you discover a lot about yourself and your partner by working through the challenges you face individually and together.”

“Talk about your finances. Go in depth, get uncomfortable, talk about your past finances, and your current finances and once you do all that, develop goals and set them up,” Crystal said.

“Being broke takes away every bit of cuteness in being married,” Remarcus added.

Happily ever after: The Gray’s have two daughters, Julia, 13, and Arianna, 7.

Crystal, 36, is an East Lake native and Huffman High school grad. She attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB] where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in communications. She is a former newsroom producer and currently works as a photographer and videographer for her home-based company ‘Gray Manor Photography’.

Remarcus, 34, is a Stockton [Baldwin County] Ala. native and attended Baldwin County High School. He attended Faulkner State Community College in Bay Minette County Ala., where he earned an associate of arts degree. Remarcus works for AT&T in their outside sales department, and runs his pressure washing company ‘Gray’s Pressure Washing’ on the side.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Remarcus is still doing outside sales for AT&T and his pressure washing business while Crystal continues to run her business from home and is developing her social media marketing company.