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 Barnett Wright email@example.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
DEMETRI AND DARIANNE TOLBERT
Married: December 21, 2020
Met: April 21, 2020, via Facebook messenger during the early stages of pandemic shutdowns when Darianne, who was in basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, inboxed Demetri when she discovered he was making custom masks.
“I was quarantined and in basic training for the Army … We [received mandates] regarding the types of masks we could wear with our uniforms, and after seeing his post about making custom masks, I inboxed him,” Darianne said.
The first few messages were about her order, but the closing message took on a different tone. “I told him I don’t want to let this moment go by without telling you how handsome [he was]. And once he got the address I wanted my package sent to he saw that it was a military address, and that spurred more conversation because he was also in the military [US Marine Corp.] and was about to get out. That was the first commonality that we discovered, so we kept messaging and started talking about more common interests, God and our spirituality…,” Darianne recalled.
“I was enjoying the conversation and instead of asking her for her number, I said here is my number, you can text me if you like. I was [thinking] if she texts me, I’ll know I got her, and I’ll flirt — and she texted me,” Demetri laughed.
“When I sent the masks, I also sent a letter with that package, and whenever you receive a letter or a package while in training it’s like Christmas day,” Demetri said. “I had begun [following] her page, I wanted to know her, I wanted to see who this beautiful young lady really was. I began to see all of the things that she was involved in, all the productions she had done, her roles in the church, her singing…, and I began to fall for the creative, spiritual person she was.”
Darianne said, “… receiving letters in basic training is like your only connection to the outside world, so it was very special to receive one from somebody I had just met who discerned everything about me just off my social media page. He saw things that people in my real life didn’t have the eyes to see, it was very moving.”
The pair FaceTimed as often as they could and became such great friends they decided on a committed relationship soon after meeting on Facebook.
First date: Late June 2020. Their first date was a Netflix virtual date, and they watched ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.’ “I had Netflix pulled up on my TV, and she had it pulled up on her laptop and we pressed start at the same time,” Demetri said. “It was dark in her room and I couldn’t see her, but I was just happy to be on FaceTime with her and be able to hear her talk and laugh.”
“I was in a very strict environment… I was just happy to be watching a movie without being bothered by my drill sergeants,” Darianne said.
By September, Darianne had transitioned to Fort George B. Meade in Maryland and Demetri flew there on Labor Day weekend for their first in-person date.
Darianne said she was just hoping that the guy she I met on Facebook, “was committed to, and had been texting and talking to on FaceTime all those months was the same person. And he was.”
The turn: At the beginning of July. “We said we should make this official because [everything added up] our futures were aligned. He was supposed to come visit [that month], but due to COVID, and my training, his visit got pushed back,” Darianne said. “We were already in a serious relationship before we ever met in person.”
“I told her I don’t have any games to play or any time to waste, not yours or mine. I love fast and I love hard, but it’s real,” Demetri said.
The proposal: September 6, 2020, at Fort Meade in Maryland. Demetri proposed on the second and final day of his first visit. “I actually had bought the ring in July because I just knew,” he said.
“We had just finished [lunch] and it was time for us to depart and I was trying to figure out how I’m going to [pop the question]. I was thinking [about whether] I want to do a TikTok video… and I was talking to myself, like ‘man, if you don’t do this now it’s going to be months before you see her again’. So, while she was turned around gathering her things I popped down on one knee and tapped her on her back and she turned around and was shocked. She was like ‘oh my gosh, are you serious right now, are you serious? I don’t know what to say!’ And I was like ‘you can say yes’! And she said, ‘well you haven’t asked me anything,’” Demetri laughed. “So I was like, ‘Do you wanna marry me?’, and she said oh my gosh, ‘yes!’.
“[He chose] a really nice ring. Up until that moment, I did not wear rings, and now all of a sudden I had a huge one,” Darianne said.
The wedding: At Soldier’s of the Cross Ministries in Alabaster. Darianne wore a nude-colored lace top and a white pencil skirt made by her husband, and Demetri wore a teal suit with a pocket square the same color as his brides’ lace top.
Most memorable for the bride were moments of reflection before the nuptials. “When I think about that day, I think about what I always thought my wedding day would be like; the fact that my dad was always supposed to officiate my wedding, [but couldn’t because of a family medical emergency that prevented travel] and my family and friends would be there, but I was really in a whole new state, starting a whole new phase of my life alone. I had my new husband [to be] and family, but none of my core. It was surreal,” Darianne said.
Most memorable for the groom was starting new traditions with his bride. “After the wedding and reception, we came back home to decorate the Christmas tree and Darianne loves Christmas, so I was very happy to take her mind off of missing her family by creating new memories and traditions,” Demetri said.
For their honeymoon, the newlyweds took a road trip to Dallas, TX, visited and left their car with Demetri’s cousin, and flew to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and stayed at Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. “The resort had natural hot spring pools… They served the best pancakes and bacon I’ve ever had,” said Demetri.
Words of wisdom: “When you’re both submitted to God and your marriage, the marriage works. Your marriage should bring glory to God,” Demetri said.
“Our story and our whole journey are very unusual, but at the core of any marriage and dating experience should be cultivating a safe space where people can communicate honestly and intentionally. We always regard the bond we have as a safe space and by choosing effective communication and starting out that way will probably be what sustains us for years to come,” said Darianne.
Happily ever after: Darianne, 26, is a Louisville, Kentucky native, and Ballard High School grad [Louisville, KY]. She attended Evangel University, in Springville, Missouri, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in political communication. Darianne works at REV Birmingham as the community engagement coordinator, and also owns and operates her Birmingham-based ‘World Changing Productions’ which specializes in video production for social impact organizations.
Demetri, 30, is a Beauregard/Opelika native and attended Beauregard High School, and Point University in West Point, Georgia, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in child and youth development. Demetri is the chaplain assistant in the Alabama National Guard, a real estate investor, and is currently in pursuit of his real estate license.