The end of my first year of college was quickly coming to an end, and I was ready! I was ready for home, for some hot humid air, for the ocean, for some good ol’ home cooking and to see my friends and family. But there was one thing I was not ready for to, being away from Devin.

The last two months had been wonderful. We continued to learn more about each other which made us love each other even more. We spent every evening together. If we weren’t studying, we were talking about our future. The more we talked about it the more excited we became about all the possibilities life had to offer. We both dreaded the summer and being apart. Of course Devin was much more practical about the whole thing than I was. He made plans to come visit me for the summer and at that time would ask for my hand in marriage. Then later in the summer I would fly to Oklahoma to visit him and his family. He had a good job lined up for the summer. He knew he needed to work so we could hopefully get married the next summer. I, on the other hand, had no job…just time on my hands…time to start planning a wedding!

I soon forgot about the whole “don’t tell anybody about our engagement” agreement. As soon as I got home, my mom and I got to work! If we were going to get married the next summer that meant I only had a year to plan and it would take every bit of that to plan what I had in mind.

The first item on the list and by far the most important was the dress. I knew what I wanted, all we had to do was find it. On July 29, 1981 I woke up at 5:00 in the morning to watch Lady Diana walk down the aisle to marry her prince. I was in awe! I loved everything about her wedding, especially her gown. I purposed in my heart at that moment, that when the time came, I would walk down the aisle to meet my prince in a beautiful dress like that.

Mom and I were having so much fun planning. I remembered vaguely something about “don’t tell anyone about our engagement” but if I was gonna have the wedding of my dreams, I couldn’t be bothered with a trivial secret! While Devin was working hard in Oklahoma, I was planning his wedding. I figure that what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him…right? I already had my colors picked out, seven brides maids chosen (five of them had already been asked) and the flower girl and ring bearer had been chosen before he had even asked my dad.

The next big decision was the dress. My Mom and I planned a day trip to New Orleans for some serious dress shopping. To help us get our creative juices flowing we took our good friend Teresa Stokley and her daughters, Noell and Whitney. I had asked Noell to be my flower girl. We had a blast shopping at all the store and boutiques New Orleans had to offer, but we left empty-handed.

Next we planned a trip to Pensacola Florida. Store after store, dress after dress and no luck. I had a dress in my head and nothing but that dress would do. We had one last boutique to try. When I told the sales lady what I was looking for, she went to the back and brought out a few for me to look at. Still nothing caught my eye. Finally she suggested that I design the one we wanted. We worked all day picking out every detail until it was perfect. And perfect it was! Finally, I had the dress of my dreams!

After we got in the car Mom and I had a good laugh about poor Devin not wanting anyone to know…and we had already bought a dress! Bless his heart, he had no idea what he was getting himself into 🙂

The time had finally come for Devin’s visit and I could hardly wait! Not only was I ready to see him, but this was the time he was going to formally ask my dad for my hand in marriage. It was so good to see him, I felt like we had been apart for months when in reality it had only been about four weeks. After we got him home and all settled in I asked, “are you nervous about talking to my dad?” “naw”, he said, “not really”. “so when do you think you’ll talk to him?” I questioned. “I’ll talk to him tomorrow morning.” he said. I was dying for Devin to ask my dad so that our engagement didn’t have to be a “secret” any longer.

That next day was a long day. I waited all morning for Devin to work up enough nerve to talk to my Dad. Finally, after I got tired of waiting, I said, “what are you waiting on? Are you sure you’re not nervous?” “no, I’m not nervous, I just haven’t found the right time yet…but I will.” hour after hour passed and still nothing. My dad was planning to grill hamburgers for supper which I thought to be the perfect “man to man” activity for him to talk to my dad. So I waited some more. Finally, Devin got up the nerve to go outside with my dad. I watched anxiously through the glass doors waiting for a deep conversation…and I waited. Finally Devin came back in the house, “well?” I said, “”what did he say?” “I didn’t ask him yet” he said with an exasperated tone, “he got mad at the grill so I thought I’d better wait till he was in a better mood”. I couldn’t believe it. I had now been waiting twelve hours and nothing! After Devin had fooled around all day, missing one opportunity after another, my dad stood up and announced he was going to bed. I elbowed Devin firmly in the ribs and gave him a “do it or die” look. As my dad passed by, Devin said, “before y’all go to bed I have something I want to talk to you about.” My mom and dad looked at each other with a knowing look. They had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen…I had also instructed them to act a little surprised…just for effect. My dad stood there waiting. Devin began by saying, “well, you know Tonya and I have been dating for a while and…well uh we want to get married but I wanted to talk to you about it first. What do ya think?” my dad smiled and said, “do you love her?” “yes I do, very much.” “well then, I guess you two should get married!”

That was it! That was what I waited all day to hear. It wasn’t quite what I had envisioned, but the end result was the same. We were getting married!

After that minor detail was out of the way it was time to get busy! We had to pick out a date, secure the photographer, and reserve the church before he had to go back home. “Why do we have to make all of the decisions right now?” he asked, “we have a year!” I tried to explain to him how long it takes to plan a wedding and that we needed to secure the church and photographer. We soon chose June 22, 1985 to be our wedding day. When we went in to book the photographer, June 22 was already taken! “see there!” I said, “we can’t wait till the last-minute to plan…we have to start now.” If I wanted that photographer, and I did, we would have to change our date. We decided to move the date to June 29th instead. I was a little disappointed but at least I got my photographer! We then booked the church and discussed the wedding party. “you need to go ahead and pick out your groomsmen”, I explained, “You need seven guys because I have seven bridesmaids picked out.” “seven?” he said in shock, “Good Lord! I can’t pick out seven! I don’t even have seven friends!” “you have got to be kidding me”, I said, “you don’t have seven friends? Surely you can find seven guys.” “no, I can’t.” he said matter of factly, “you’re gonna have to cut it down to five. Maybe I can scrape up five guys”. Well, this was disappointment #2. First the date, now this. Once again we met in the middle and came up with a workable number, five.

After his visit was over, it was then time for me to go to Oklahoma to visit his family. In the past, when I had gone home with him, I would stay with his cousins, Carla and Cheryl. This time, since I would be there for a week, it was decided I would stay in their home. This made me a little nervous. They had only one little bitty bathroom, with one outlet and no counter space. How would I get ready and where would I plug in my apparatus? And then of course…this would mean I would most likely be seen without makeup. Devin had seen me without it, but I didn’t really want his family to know my secret. What secret was that? That I have to draw my face on! Without makeup…I’m translucent!

Devin was there to meet me when I walked off the plane. I was so glad to see him again. If there was one thing I had learned over the summer, it was that I hated to be without him. When we were finally together again…everything seemed right. We hugged and kissed and then made our way to his little house in the country.

When we pulled into the driveway I could see his dad waiting at the front door. We got out, I gathered all of my bags and made my way to the house. When his dad, Ronnie, opened the door he pulled out a yard stick and proceeded to measure my behind! “come in here and let me see if you’ve grown any!” he said with a laugh. “come here and let me measure that behind of yours!” “you better get that stick outta here!” I said jokingly. Devin had voiced his concerns before about whether or not I could handle his dad and his brothers jokes. I assured him I could…but this was pushing it!

The next morning, I heard the door to my bedroom creep open. I barely cracked my eyes open to see Devin’s dad standing over me with a flashlight shinning in my face. I put my hands up to shield my eyes and said, “um, what are you doing?” “Devin said you didn’t like anyone seeing you without makeup…so I came in here to get a good look and see what all the fuss is about.” I could not believe what I was hearing! Has this man lost his mind? About that time I heard Devin say, “dad, you better get outta here before she gets you!” “oh, she don’t look that bad! I thought you said she looked bad!”, his dad mumbled as he left the room chuckling to himself. I could hear Devin snickering as he approached my bed. He kissed me on the forehead and said, “good morning, you ok?” “yeah, I guess, but why did he have a flashlight in my face? And did you tell him I looked bad without makeup?” ” No, I told him you think you look bad without makeup…I don’t think you look bad at all. Anyway, he’s just foolin’ around. He wouldn’t do these things if he didn’t like you. I’ll leave now so you can get dressed.”

As I lay there in bed, I wasn’t sure what to make of all of this. First the measuring of my behind, now the flashlight in my face, and this was just the first day! I wondered what the rest of the week would hold. To be continued…