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‘Always put God first. He is the center of your marriage’

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By Erica Wright
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.

ARTHUR AND LATESSA DILLARD

 

Live: Centerpoint 

Married: May 2, 1998 

Met: At Miles College in 1996 where both were students. 

“I saw her a year before I asked about her and I was watching her, she was with her friends and I didn’t want to intrude,” said Arthur. “When the following school year started, I asked her friend about her and introduced us and that’s how we started talking.” 

Said LaTessa, “He did ask a mutual friend about me and we ended up going on a date at Burger King some time later.” 

First Date: At a now closed Burger King in Fairfield. “It was a casual date. It was very comfortable,” said LaTessa. “It was like hanging out with my best friend. It felt so natural and I just remember telling him he was different from every other guy I had talked to and I felt very comfortable to be myself and I wanted to know more about him. I still remember what we both ordered: we got two number one’s with cheese, cut in half.”

Arthur said he remembers they kept looking at each other the entire night. 

“I remember everything she said . . . it was a very casual date, we talked a lot and I enjoyed getting to know her and it was just like I had known her all of my life.” 

After that first date, the pair were inseparable. 

The turn: After their first date LaTessa was the one, Arthur said. 

“We knew we wanted to be together and we were together so much that even the friends who introduced us, we didn’t hang out with them as much anymore.” 

LaTessa remembers an instance where they did not want to leave each other. “We were at my house and he had to get ready to go home . . . and we ended up staying on the phone all night,” she said. “That marked the time of saying ‘we’re never going to be a part.’”

Proposal: At Arthur’s parents house in East Lake in the winter of 1997. “It wasn’t anything fancy,” said Arthur. “I just really wanted to be with her and wanted her to be my wife and I remember getting down on one knee and asking her to be my wife and she said ‘yes.’”

“It was a small diamond ring and he asked me ‘will you marry me’ and I said ‘yes’ and that’s how it went,” she said. “It wasn’t anything big, we just wanted to be married and be together. I put the ring on and we went on about our normal day.” 

Wedding: Jackson Street Baptist Church in Woodlawn. Their colors were yellow and white and the ceremony was officiated by Pastors Betty and Joe Bryant. 

Most memorable for the bride was seeing the groom. “We stayed away from each other a few days before our wedding day with the exception of the rehearsal dinner and that was big for us because from the day that we went to Burger King, we were never a part. When I walked in and saw him with his tuxedo on and he had tears in his eyes was most memorable for me,” she said. 

Most memorable for the groom: “When she was walking down the aisle and I saw her for the first time, I was in disbelief. I was nervous and I was excited and just seeing her with a wedding gown on just amazed me and I was overcome with emotions… she took my breath away.” 

The couple honeymooned in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. 

Words of wisdom: “What works for us is that we always look at putting each other’s needs first,” said LaTessa. “Of course, we honor God but after God, his needs are more important than anybody else’s needs.” 

Setting boundaries are important, Arthur said. “For an example, when we communicate with each other, she does not like curse words so when I speak with her, curse words cannot come out. For me, it was more if you have a problem talk to me and don’t say it to everybody else. Understanding that there are going to be sometimes when you get frustrated with each other but don’t let that one particular problem stop everything else from going. If we get mad with each other, we still communicate. Setting boundaries also helped me to understand her more.” 

Arthur also said, “Always put God first. He is the center of your marriage.” 

Happily ever after: LaTessa and Arthur have three children, Kniya, 26, Dominick, 26 and Justtin, 23. The couple has one granddaughter, Laila, 5 and another granddaughter on the way. 

LaTessa, 45, is from Birmingham. She graduated from Woodlawn High School and attended Miles College where she received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She is a reading intervention specialist. 

Arthur, 47, is also from Birmingham and graduated from Jackson-Olin High School, attended Miles College where he received a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He is a retired firefighter. 

The couple enjoys shopping, watching movies and spending any time they can with each other. They also liked to try new restaurants before COVID-19 hit. 

A unique thing about the couple is that they like to coordinate outfits. “We always dress alike and a lot of people ask why we do that but we just tell them it represents our unity,” said Arthur. “We get a lot of compliments from people and questions and we try to make them understand our reasoning behind it.” 

“You will hardly ever catch him in one thing and me in another” said LaTessa. “Even if it’s just a T-shirt and sweatpants, it is the same.”