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‘We keep God first, if not for God we wouldn’t have found each other’

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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.

ERIN AND WILLIAM GARDNER

Live: Brook Highland

Married: June 22, 2018

Met: On a dating app called ‘Soul Swipe’ in July 2016.

“His picture came up and as one of my matches… We both had the same area of interests as far as being communications majors in college, we both loved the outdoors, fitness and bowling. But the thing that stood out to me was that we had the same major I didn’t know a lot of guys who were communications majors,” Erin said. “I swiped yes, and we ended up exchanging numbers around the 4th of July in 2016.”

William said he was drawn by Erin’s smile which “lit up the whole picture and I thought to myself, ‘I would like to see that smile outdoors on a date’, and so I hit her profile,” he said.

Erin said, “both people have to say ‘yes’ to the match for it to go through, so it was a mutual match…”

First date: July 2016, they went bowling at Brunswick Bowling Alley on Highway 280. “It was the first meeting, I was outside and she said she’d be a few minutes late. I was nervous… It was hot, I was sweating, and hoping she wouldn’t stand me up,” William laughed. “She pulls up in a little blue car and she stepped out [wearing] wedges and grey jeans, with a white top and I was like ‘wow, she looks even better in person.’

Erin remembers being nervous about her appearance that day.

“I wanted to look nice and I remember changing outfits three times before I went out. And since he was somebody I was meeting from online, I was scared because I didn’t want to be catfished [where a person creates a fake identity on a social network to lure someone in for abuse, deception or fraud], and he was really patient with that and even showed me his license to let me know he was who he said he was and made me feel comfortable.”

The turn: By fall 2016, they were in a committed relationship.

“I knew she was the one [because] on the second date, she decided to do what I wanted to do [go skating].”

Erin said William would visit every weekend while attending Auburn University at Montgomery [UAM] . . . “he was very kind and I appreciated that, and I knew that he was somebody that I could see myself with long-term for sure,” Erin said.

The proposal: September 2017, at Oak Mountain State Park. They were on a hike.

“Oak Mountain is her favorite place, so I decided to do it there,” William said. “We went on a two-mile hike where we could get a nice scenic view. I packed the ring inside with the water bottles… and I told her she was special to me and that she meant the world to me and asked her if she would do me the honor of being my wife and marry me,” William said.

It was surreal, Erin recalled. “That day I was just excited to go to Oak Mountain but I had suspected that he may propose, so I checked the bag that we take on our hikes and I did not see a ring, or a box or any signs of a planned engagement, so I thought ‘well, I guess it’s not going to be today’,” Erin laughed. “But when we got to the pointe, I saw that he started acting nervous and started sweating, that’s when I kind of got the feeling that we were about to get engaged. Then he got on one knee and told me how much I meant to him…I was really excited and happy, and grateful… I wanted to call everybody and tell them but I didn’t have any reception on the mountain.”

The wedding: The Barn at Shady Lane in Bessemer. Officiated by Reverend Al B. Sutton Jr. Their colors were blush pink and champagne.

Most memorable for bride was being under the weather on her wedding day, but feeling better as she headed down the aisle. “I just did not feel good and had to try my best to get through the pictures. But literally, when my music started, I felt good. It was my moment and I took it all in,” Erin said. “This wonderful guy really loves me and I was getting married. I was excited and I felt good.”

Most memorable for the groom was the vow exchange. “I was thinking Erin was going to say something short and sweet, but it was really thoughtful. She had the numbers down to the day for how long she had been praying for God to send me to her… her vows said ‘three years, 10 months and 10 days’, but it really blew me away that she had the time figured out. Made my vows look weak, to have to follow that,” he laughed” I was jaw-dropped.”

They honeymooned in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

“The food was good and we really liked that we could enjoy a different type of cuisine every night, and it was awesome seeing Will in his element speaking fluent Spanish. It was really helpful because no one on the resort really spoke English,” Erin said.

Words of wisdom: “It’s always important to remember that every marriage is different, so what works for one may not work for another,” Erin said. “We’re really getting into a groove now of figuring out our own way and how to make each other happy and staying focused on what works for us. We like to write out personal goals for ourselves and each other and express gratitude for the things we have accomplished, and we ask God for things we’re trying to work on and better within ourselves and for our marriage, ensuring that we’re growing together.”

“We always have to keep God first because if weren’t for God we wouldn’t have found each other. Stay consistent because every day is not going to be good, every day is a learning process,” William said. “We grew up learning differently and now we’re learning to grow together. It’s an everyday challenge, and before the sun goes down we should always learn something new about each other …We try to have fun, you gotta have a date night.”

Happily ever after: Erin, 33, is a Pleasant Grove native and a Pleasant Grove High School graduate. She attended the University of Alabama, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and Information Sciences. She works as an advertising manager in Birmingham.

William, 35, is a Roebuck native and Huffman High School graduate. He attended Lawson State Community College where he earned an Associate Degree in General Studies, and Auburn University at Montgomery and where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications. He works at Bryant Bank in Homewood.