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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
ASHANTI AND SAM JASPER
Married: January 11, 2020
Met: Dec. 5, 2017, via Facebook, in the DM’s [direct messaging].
Ashanti was a recent divorcee making her way back to the dating scene when she noticed it was nothing like it used to be. “I wanted to know why dating was so horrible,” she said, “so I had made a post centered around my experiences and asked single people how their dating lives were going. I didn’t know Sam from Adam, but he saw the post, and instead of commenting [underneath it] like everyone else, he decided to hop in my DM’s, asking why I was having such a difficult time dating.”
Sam, also recently divorced, was intrigued by Ashanti’s post. “She was saying that she was having a hard time because all the guys [she’d been going out with] thought that women were gold diggers, and I told her that wasn’t really my experience [with women],” Sam said.
Sam and Ashanti chatted via messenger before exchanging numbers because Ashanti first had to do her ‘Facebook Investigation’.
“…she had done her investigating and saw that I was married and asked ‘aren’t you married?’, and I wasn’t anymore…my divorce just wasn’t really public…,” Sam explained.
“We had similar stories,” said Ashanti. “We were both divorced and still believed in the unity of marriage…I could tell he was a kind man and I wanted to get to know him better.”
First date: Ten days later at Jinsei Sushi in Homewood for dinner, and Uptown for Top Golf, drinks, and fun.
Sam recalls Ashanti being 30-45 minutes late to the restaurant and blaming it on a fashion emergency.
“Honestly, I thought she had stood me up. I was just sitting there and the maitre’d’ asked me if he wanted to go ahead and be seated,” Sam said. After dinner, “we went to Top Golf and that was really fun. It had just opened up and you had to reserve a booth ahead of time. I tried to impress her by doing that and she wasn’t really impressed by much,” Sam laughed.
Ashanti remembers only being 20 minutes late because she wanted to decide whether to be “a sexy vixen or homely. I had on no makeup, and I had my hair pulled back in a bun… I hadn’t met him yet, so I said to myself ‘let me pull my fineness back some’ because I didn’t know if I’d like him. When I got to the table I saw that he was very handsome and said, ‘dog, I should’ve worn something different,” she laughed.
Sam remembers the end of the date. “We were taking selfies, and I was trying to give her a hug and maybe a kiss, and she gave me a church hug and just got in the car,” he laughed.
The turn: In January 2018 because “I loved the way that he made me feel, he was very kind and patient. He’s God-fearing, family-oriented, hardworking and the list goes on and on,” Ashanti said. “I pray about everything, and I prayed about Sam before deciding to get into a relationship with him and the Lord spoke to me and told me that Sam was the one He had for me. Shortly after that, Sam told me he loved me and so I knew that he was the one.”
Since his divorce, Sam said he had been “praying and seeking the Lord . . . and He told me that He had a wife for me and that He would soon show her to me,” Sam said. “And shortly after we started to date I was in the process of buying a house and I asked her to pray for me, and when she was praying I could feel the connection, oneness with her. … But it was kind of love at first sight. I knew from the beginning.”
The proposal: Sam prepared his proposal months in advance, booking Ashanti and her daughter for a fake photoshoot for Essence Magazine for a Mother’s Day piece he said he’d been commissioned to shoot, going as far as having Essence send over a release form for Ashanti to sign. He also invited Ashanti’s family and friends who waited nearby for the cue to come in with a huge banner that popped the question.
“The original plan was to propose to her on a hot air balloon, but because of the weather . . . We brought a hot air balloon basket inside the hotel, and I had a balloon company put together a mock atmosphere/scenery, it was really elaborate and beautiful. I had another photographer there doing videography, and he took over while I stepped out to change into my suit. When I came back I got on one knee and proposed to her. Her family and friends walked in with the banner that said ‘Ashanti Will You Marry Me’, and revealed to her that this whole setup was so that I could propose to her. She was totally shocked.
Ashanti remembers how beautiful the balloon atmosphere was but said she was kind of bummed that she wasn’t going to be in Essence Magazine.
“I remember saying ‘wait, so this ain’t gonna be in Essence?’,” she laughed. “I can normally pick up when he’s [got something up his sleeve], but I couldn’t tell. I was nervous that whole night because I had never been in a photo shoot before, I didn’t know how to pose, how to suck in my stomach, nothing…”
“He got me good, but what made me do the ugly cry was that he also asked my daughter [who was 12 at the time] by giving her a necklace as he was proposing to me… he said not only am I marrying your mom, I’m also entering into your life too, and he wanted to know if she would have him as well. That right there was over the top, and it touched me that he not only loves me, but he loves her as well,” Ashanti said.
The wedding: Nassau Bahamas at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar officiated by Bishop L. Spenser Smith. Their colors were emerald green, champagne, and ivory.
Most memorable for the bride was their reception, “it was like a movie,” she said, “it was beautiful the whole day, but it rained during our reception.” The party still went on- “We danced all night, even in the rain,” Ashanti said. “We had an open bar and we were turning up. Seeing my family and friends enjoy themselves was great.”
Most memorable for the groom was the presence of his family, and God’s promises coming full circle. “My mom and my daughters were there, and my dad is deceased, so it was memorable to put one of his hats on his empty seat,” Sam recalled. However, hearing Ashanti’s vows to him “was mind-blowing. It really resonated with me because it was how I was feeling and what I was thinking at that very moment.”
Words of wisdom: Always remembers that you are friends first, Ashanti said. “Even when he gets to getting on my nerves… true, he’s my husband, but he’s also my friend. I always go back to that and try to hash disagreements out with that person that was my friend before he was my lover.”
“I don’t see myself without him,” said Ashanti. Sam agreed, and said he’s happy “living and enjoying life with each other.”
He also said to “keep the atmosphere fun and exciting, joke, have playful banter, keep it fresh and new. Continue having a really good prayer life with your spouse. It helps to focus and align your goals, what you want to do, and your connection.”
Happily ever after: The Jaspers are a blended family and share daughters Kennedi, 14, Charity, 6, Christen, 4, and their son, Khari, 4 months.
Ashanti, 38, is an Irondale native, and Shades Valley High School grad. She attended Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University where she earned a bachelor of science degree in fashion merchandising and design and went on to attend the University of Phoenix, where she earned a master’s degree in business administration [MBA]. Ashanti works for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama as a benefit analyst.
Sam, 34, is an Atlanta, Georgia native who attended North Atlanta High School and Morehouse College where he earned a bachelor of science degree in physics and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) where he earned a master’s degree in material engineering. Sam is a contract materials engineer for NASA, and owns Sam Jasper Photography.
Updated on 3/17/2021 at 4:45 p.m. to correct the year of the wedding.