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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
DEMUS AND CHEKIE COPELAND
Married: Oct. 19, 2018
Met: On the app ‘Dating in Asia’ in April 2017 while Chekie lived in the Philippines and Demus in Washington D.C., where he was stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland in the US Marine Corp.
“I saw her picture and she had a funny [saying] on her profile that said she was ‘imperfectly perfect’, and I liked that so I pressed the heart on her picture and then I followed up with a message,” Demus said. “I was thinking she wasn’t interested in me and that I was wasting my time … I questioned why I was even on [the site] because it took a couple of days for her to respond . . . but then she responded and I felt like maybe this can go somewhere.”
Chekie said, “I was interested, I liked his profile picture too. That was the first time an African American liked my picture, so that was new, and I thought he was handsome… I was the one who actually sent him the friend request on Facebook and told him we can continue messaging on Facebook since I’m not always on the app,” she said. “It was my roommate who created the online account for that dating site because I wasn’t interested in doing the dating thing online. But my friend pushed me to see where it could go and I’m so grateful that she did …”
In October of 2017, Demus took an 18-hour flight to meet Chekie. “She lived deep down south in the Philippines, so I had to catch multiple planes… I had to fly into Manila, [Philippines, the capital], and then another plane into Cebu [the second largest city], I had to go there because she was working at a T-Mobile call center, and I had to wait for her to get off work and go on our first date,” Demus said.
First date: Oct. 13, 2017, at TGI Fridays inside the Ayala Mall, in Cebu, Philippines.
“I remember thinking she was smaller than I expected, she only weighed 95 pounds, she was really little. Over dinner, [once] we started the conversation everything went good,” Demus recalled.
“The first time I met him I was like ‘wow, there is a good aura in him’, I could tell he was the one and that wouldn’t ever break my heart. That was the day that I accepted him as my boyfriend, not just my online boyfriend, but a real one,” Chekie laughed.
The turn: “After I came back to the US [a week later, following the visit], I was thinking if we continue communicating it’ll be serious, but if she ghosts me, then it’s not,” Demus said. “But we talked like every day after that, and by November, I knew it was serious.”
“I just knew that it was serious for him when he asked me if I would be with him, and if I could see myself moving and marrying him,” Chekie said.
“When I asked her if she was willing to move to the US, and she said ‘yes’, I knew [we had a future],” Demus said.
The proposal: On March 19, 2018, Demus flew back to the Philippines and deeper south to visit Chekie’s village [Gingoog] and asked her father and family for her hand in marriage.
“It was quite an experience just to get there, we [Demus and Chekie] had to take a four-hour bus ride just to get to the village. I went to her mom and dad’s house, and her dad is a good guy, it was pretty much like ‘nice to meet you, I want to marry your daughter,” Demus laughed. “I got one of her older sisters and told her I was about to propose and she gathered everyone in the room and then called Chekie, and I got down on one knee and asked her if she would like to spend the rest of her life with me. Chekie said ‘yes’. Afterward, [her family] threw a big celebration, they roasted a giant pig, it’s traditional for their celebrations, and invited my wife’s whole family. Chekie has six sisters and one brother, her family was like a village in itself,” he laughed. “. . .there had to have been more than 30 people there, with all of her aunt’s uncles, and cousins…”
“I already knew that the proposal was going to be done at our house, but I didn’t know he was going to ask one of my sisters to be his accomplice,” she laughed.
The wedding: At the Prince George County Courthouse in Prince George, Maryland, where he was stationed there, officiated by a courthouse clerk. Demus’s mother and uncle attended. Chekie wore a wedding gown made in the Philippines, and Demus wore a grey suit.
“We spent the rest of the day at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention center in Fort Washington, Maryland with my mom, uncle, and brother and we celebrated there. We ate, took pictures and walked around the waterfront, and stayed the night there,” Demus said.
Most memorable moment for the bride was “thinking about all the experiences we had together, meeting his whole family and them accepting me… They offered me a warm welcome and told me that I was a part of their family before they even knew me. He was going to be [deployed], so they were going to be the ones supporting me and there for me while my husband was out of the country,” Chekie said.
Most memorable for the groom was getting their nuptials done before Chekie’s visa expired and he was deployed. “When Chekie arrived here, she came here on a fiance visa, and you get 90 days to get married so we did it two weeks later (after her arrival) because I was getting ready to be deployed to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It’s like we were racing against a deadline to get married before I had to leave. We came to find out that after you go to the courthouse to get married [you first get the license], but you have to make another appointment to actually come back and get married,” Demus said. “So, the fact that we got it all done in time was very memorable.”
The couple honeymooned before the nuptials because of Demus’s pending deployment: “We went on a honeymoon to Bali, Indonesia, and that’s where we found out she was pregnant and that we were going to have a daughter,” Demus said, “there was a lot going on, we got a surprise on our honeymoon.”
Words of wisdom: “Listening to your spouse’s likes and dislikes are very helpful and will go a long way in a marriage. It will prevent problems because every issue in a marriage usually leads back to communication,” Demus said. “Practicing good communication with your spouse and listening to their wants and needs is important.”
“You need to have a lot of patience under your sleeve to make your marriage work and always trust the love that you have for each other. Always try to show your culture and cook traditional meals for your husband and have him eat it, Demus is eating lots of rice now, rice is life in the Philippines,” Chekie laughed. “Since I’m new to the country, you have to understand how to adapt because it’s very different. You need to know that people have different backgrounds and that they are different from you are.”
Happily ever after: The Copeland’s returned to Birmingham, Demus’s hometown, in September 2019 because “the warm southern hospitality is perfect for raising our children,” he said. They have two children, Titan Wenndt, 12, from Demus’s previous relationship, and Tiana, 2, from their union.
Chekie, 26, is a Misamis Oriental, Philippines native, and attended college at Bukidnon State University [in Bukidnon, Philippines] where she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Chekie is currently a stay-at-home mom and working on her certification of education for the State of Alabama.
Demus, 37, is an Avondale native, a Woodlawn High School grad, and attended Miles College where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science, and Columbia Southern University in Orange Beach, Alabama, where he earned a master’s degree in criminal justice. He is currently in pursuit of his Juris Doctorate at Birmingham School of Law, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps, as a Sergeant of Infantry for eight years.