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‘I Had Never Seen Her More Beautiful … And I Cried’

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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 Barnett Wright bwright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

SA’DE AND BRANDON HAMMOND

Live: Birmingham

Married: April 16, 2016

Met: Halloween, 2000, at Sa’de’s childhood church, Sardis Missionary Baptist Church in the Bush Hills neighborhood of Birmingham. They were introduced by a mutual friend, whom Brandon sent over to make the connection, but Sade’ rejected the friend saying “Tell [Brandon] to come talk to me himself,” she laughed. Sa’de was 14, and a freshman at Tarrant High School, and Brandon, 16 was a junior at Gardendale High School.

“What caught my eye was her eyes, her lips, and I love her complexion,” Brandon said. “I told my homeboy ‘go get her number for me and he said ‘I got you’ — which is why he was the best man at my wedding. And when she [sent word] for me to come talk to her myself I accepted the challenge …”

“We met at the drink machine and had a conversation, we hit it off and exchanged numbers,” Sa’de said.

First date: Dinner and a movie two weeks later at the Wildwood Movie Theater, and Baumhowers Wings on Lakeshore Dr. They saw ‘Saw’, “and that’s when I found out she don’t do scary movies,” Brandon laughed. “It was a whole lot of arm grabbing and jumping, and I was laughing at her and the movie the whole time.”

“And still don’t do [scary movies],” Sa’de said. “We went to eat first at Baumhowers Wings. He definitely paid for the entire date and he was a perfect gentleman. He pulled my chair out and allowed me to order whatever I wanted. We got lemon pepper wings and some curly fries to be exact,” Sa’de remembered.

The turn: Since Sa’de and Brandon met so young their romance was off and on, but they remained in contact over the years through social media and mutual friends and often ended up in the same social environments.

In August 2009, Sa’de graduated from Jacksonville State University and moved back to Birmingham, but Brandon was now attending Mars Hill University in North Carolina. Prior to Brandon’s Christmas visit to Birmingham that year, they began phone conversations and Brandon invited her to his family’s annual Christmas Eve party.

“I had matured a lot since our younger days and I wanted to see what it would be like to reconnect,” he said.

“…I was a little shocked to be invited to his family’s Christmas party. We were in different spaces in our lives but I was interested…he was everything I remembered just more mature,” Sa’de said.

After Christmas, they began a long-distance relationship until Brandon moved back to Birmingham in May 2013, after graduating from Mars Hill University in North Carolina.

The proposal: Christmas 2014, at Brandon’s family’s annual Christmas Eve party at his grandmother’s home in Birmingham.

“After the kids are asleep, the young folks hand out everybody’s gifts, so in the midst of all the gift giving, I called everybody in and started telling everybody how much I appreciate Sa’de being in my life, and how I wanted to continue that, and I turned around and dropped on one knee and asked her to marry me,” Brandon said.

“I was shocked, I was thinking ‘is this really happening?’ I was not expecting it and I was caught off guard. I was happy of course, but I was shocked. I loved the ring, but he actually upgraded it at the altar [during our wedding ceremony],” Sa’de said.

The wedding: Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, officiated by Minister Donno Erskine and the couples’ colors were tiffany blue and silver. The reception was at Sloss Furnace with a Breakfast at Tiffany’s theme where the Hammonds served breakfast for dinner, complete with a breakfast buffet, omelet station, and chicken and waffles.

Most memorable for the bride was being walked down the aisle by her mom. “I’m an only child, and before my husband, my mom was my everything… I had her stamp of approval, and my mommy walking me down the aisle was breathtaking,” Sa’de said. “… and seeing Brandon and all my friends and my family.”

Most memorable for the groom was watching his bride walk down the aisle and his first dance with his mom at the reception. “I had never seen Sa’de look more beautiful in my life, and I knew she was the one I was getting ready to spend the rest of my life with and I cried,” Brandon said. “And also, getting to dance with my mom at the reception, my mama turned up. We were dancing to ‘California’, by Young Dolph.”

The newlyweds did not honeymoon. “We had a one-year-old at the time, but we had the time of our lives [because] all of our family showed up at our house the night of our wedding, we [hung out], went to sleep and we had a cookout the next day,” Sa’de said.

Words of wisdom: “Marriage can be a beautiful thing as long as you keep God first. Communication is key to keeping your marriage on the right track, and as old people say, ‘you can get angry, but you can’t give up’,” Sa’de said. “Stick together and pray about all that you do, and God will definitely lead you and order the steps in your marriage.”

“Stay optimistic, even when things look their bleakest and it looks like the hurdles and obstacles are impossible to get through. Stay in your faith and just know that if you put the work in you can overcome, and that’s where you build the character of your marriage,” Brandon said.

Happily ever after: The Hammonds attend Sixth Avenue Baptist Church on Birmingham’s west side and have two daughters, Brooklyn, 8, and Bella, 3.

Sa’de, 37, is a Norwood native, and Tarrant High School grad. She attended Jacksonville State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in marketing and works for the City of Birmingham as the Executive Director for Keep Birmingham Beautiful.

Brandon, 39, is a Forestdale native, and Gardendale High School grad. He attended Auburn University before transferring to Mars Hill University, in Mars Hill North Carolina where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education, with a coaching concentration. Brandon works for the City of Birmingham as a zoning inspector.

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