When you’re a product of divorced or single parents, there’s a chance that your view on love can be a bit jaded. Honestly, if you’re a Millennial dating in this world of “texting vs. phone calls” and the constant “Men vs. Women” mentality via Twitter/social media debates, you’re still fair game. Dating in 2016 can be so disheartening to the point where you might even have your own “Barack & Michelle” goals as parents and STILL be skeptical. For me personally, I am a product of divorced parents and it wasn’t until I got a bit older that I realized this effect on my life and my perspective.
The thought of a soulmate is something I’ve experienced via books or the big screen. I can’t lie, it sometimes seems as tangible as Santa Clause. But alas, because I am human and have this thing called hope ingrained in me, I still secretly believe in true love. I say all of this to set the stage for a love story that I was lucky enough to witness first hand. This isn’t your everyday love story of a man and a woman who met in undergrad and fell in love. This isn’t a story of two young lovers who managed to find each other in a hopeless place of Tinder and DMs. This is a love story of two people who lived the majority of their adult lives being married to other people, raising children, and then experiencing heartbreak through divorce. These two people after countless letdowns and setbacks, trusted in God and had the courage to believe that true love is still possible.
This is the story of my Mother and her journey to meeting her soulmate. I interviewed LaVerne Hill, 54, and her husband, Raymond Hill, 53, about their unforgettable wedding, their blended families, and what advice they have for my generation. Continue reading for a glimpse into the story of why we all are #HeadOverTheHills for Raymond and LaVerne.
How did you and Raymond meet?
LAVERNE: I went to a pool party with my sorority sister, Diane, and met Raymond’s very funny nephew Brad. We hit it off so well. He told me he had an uncle that would really like me and wanted us to meet. He said he didn’t live in GA but had a lot of fancy cars and would drive one of them to GA to visit me. He also said his uncle was brilliant. Hmm… I was intrigued.
A lot of time passed and one day I received a call from Diane that her friend Ferrice (who hosted the pool party) asked me to call her about this guy from the party who wanted me to meet his uncle. I gave Ferrice a call and she asked for a picture of me to give to Brad. I asked for a picture in return. It was just an OK picture of him. I found out later that he wasn’t crazy about the picture of me. We were already like twins and didn’t know it.
Another month passed and on September 11, 2014, I checked my phone and noticed a voicemail. It was the uncle calling to introduce himself to me. I didn’t call back until the following day. I can’t remember if we actually talked or if he had to call me back. When we finally talked, he said he wanted to come to Atlanta to meet me and take me out on a date. I told him that was a great idea because that next week was my birthday. He said “Oh yeah so is mine .When is your birthday? ” I responded September 16th, and he responded that his was September 17th. We planned our first date at the Buckhead Club on September 18th. It was the perfect date.
When did you decide to make it official as a couple? Tell that story.
RAYMOND: After all of the wonderful conversations we had, we decided to meet halfway in Nashville, TN. I arrived at the resort about an hour before they arrived. By they, I mean Brad, Diane, and my lady. I was waiting outside to welcome her and it felt like something I’ve never felt before. So, we had a great weekend with everyone. I had the opportunity to show all of them Nashville including her friends, Andy and Kathy, who live there. So, I knew she was my lady after we had such a great day and night together. The next day the 5 foot 4 inch, 110 pounds bully said to me “Now that we have been intimate, you my boyfriend right?!? ” and of course, I said “Yes I am!” And the rest is history. I fell in love with her right away!
At what point in your relationship, did you know marriage was something you both wanted?
RAYMOND: During one of our relationship assessments conversations, I realized how much we connected and had in common. We were having breakfast at our favorite place near downtown Atlanta.
LAVERNE: Since we were both long distance we spent a lot of time on the phone and Skype. We talked about everything. Whenever he would fly here, I would get butterflies driving to the airport to pick him up. The drive back to the airport was getting tougher after about 6 months. I would get so sad on the drive there. One day after I dropped him off, I watched him walk away and I sobbed in the car driving back home. I knew then that I wanted to be with him on a permanent basis. I also knew I wanted to marry him after our kids met.
Tell us about the proposal. How did it happen?
RAYMOND: LaVerne was very surprised when I proposed. She already had in her head where the proposal would take place and when it was going to happen. Each time I arrived in Atlanta and she would pick me up at the airport, she would stick her hand out and say, “Now’s a good time to propose to me.” So, we drove to the house to have dinner. As the family began to eat the turkey necks she prepared; once again she stated, “Now would be a good time to propose,” and she stuck her turkey juice finger out! So, I pulled the engagement ring out of my pocket and asked the question.
LaVerne, was it everything you dreamed of?
LAVERNE: No, it was not the proposal I dreamed of but it was very unconventional and one that I will never forget. That is all I will say about it. LOL
Let’s talk about that dress of yours. How many did you try on before you got to this one?
LAVERNE: Diane and I went to this bridal boutique Winnie Couture in Atlanta after a luncheon. This was before I got my engagement ring. I knew it was coming soon. We walked in and saw all of the beautiful gowns!! I put my hands on a few and this particular one caught my attention!! It was truly love at first sight. I would not try on another gown nor look at any bridal magazines. I knew this was the one. When I got my engagement ring, I went back to Winnie Couture for my first fitting with some special sorority sisters. They MADE me try on other gowns to be 100% sure. I tried on a total of 10 and this one STILL took my breath away. I wanted something that was age appropriate, timeless and classic…..something that I could pass down to a granddaughter or goddaughter. My fashion icon is Jacqueline Kennedy and this gown reminded me of her. BTW, I named my beloved wedding gown Simone. I had to get personal with her.
Where did you decide to get married and why that location?
RAYMOND: We knew we wanted to have a destination wedding, so we took a vacation to Scottsdale, AZ. She fell in love with the city and the resort, so we decided on that beautiful location.
How was the wedding planning process? Were you stressed? Who helped you?
LAVERNE: Yes I was starting to get a little stressed and one day I was texting with my friend Wes and I shared with him that I was stressed and he told me his wife was an event planner. He mentioned our conversation to her and she came and changed my whole life. She literally took over and took such good care of me. I loved her calm demeanor and sweet personality. She was my Saver and Fixer. Her name is Tasha Estelle Scott and she comes highly recommended.
How did you incorporate you and Raymond’s blended family?
|LAVERNE: Raymond has three children; LaCoya, Joi, and Jordan. I have only one, Paige. Unfortunately I met his daughters for the first time at his brother’s funeral. We really didn’t get a chance to know each other. His daughter, LaCoya and I chatted a little in the car about our love for scrapbooking on the drive to the grave side ceremony. I flew to Indianapolis later in the year and met them again and this time I met the grandkids. I won the oldest granddaughter over right away. She became my Bestie.
As far as blending our families, Raymond’s oldest daughter LaCoya came to Atlanta on a separate occasion and met my daughter Paige. Wow!!!! It was amazing how well the two of them hit it off. They had an immediate serious connection and seemed to have quite a bit in common. Raymond’s middle child, Joi came to Atlanta and met Paige. They also connected. They are the same age. How cool is that?!?! Joi has the sweetest personality and demeanor in the world. She has this quiet spirit about her that is quite refreshing to be around. I have only one grandson (Hunter). Raymond has six grandchildren. They got along very well during their first meeting. So my Christmas list has grown quite a bit now with this new blended family. Whew!!!
What was your favorite part of the wedding?
RAYMOND: Watching my soon to be Bride walking towards me looking so beautiful, and to know she was coming to me to be my Bride.
LAVERNE: My favorite part of the wedding was making my entrance and seeing him. We couldn’t see each other the night before so I was really missing him. He looked so handsome standing there waiting on me.
Who took your pictures?
LAVERNE: My pictures were taken by Stephen Miller & Yasmeen Ahora at District Photography. He was a referral from Paige. Thanks Stephen and Yasemeen!! Y’all were EVERYTHING!!!
Who else was a big help to you during the wedding process?
LAVERNE: Wow where do I begin…..In life, you have a few ride or die people in your circle of friends that ALWAYS just come through for you. When I didn’t have a Wedding Planner, my unofficial Wedding Planners, Angela, LaTosha, Tara and Teresa (who just happen to be my amazing sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated) ordered me to set up a discussion dinner so we could get this wedding planning going. We met for dinner at my favorite restaurant and had a planning meeting. LaTosha would send update texts every week asking me status. I think she is a Closet Wedding Planner. Tara spent quite a bit of time helping with the ‘Save The Dates’ and formal invitations. She became the keeper and monitor of the guest list. During the weekend of the Wedding, they really came through for me AGAIN and helped stuff all of the welcome packets and was at my call when I needed ANYTHING. Another sorority sister Markita of Freckles Events made my beautiful bouquets. And then there was my wonderful line sister Rebecca who designed and printed our wedding programs.
Soooo I got lucky or should I say blessed with finally getting not ONE but TWO incredible Wedding Planners (Tash in Atlanta and Ally from the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort and Spa.) They worked so well together taking care of EVERYTHING for me. They made my perfect wedding happen.
I saved this next person last because she made a HUGE impact on our wedding day. The Officiant (Evangelist Rosalyn Elder) was EVERYTHING. Raymond and I both have strong Christian faith and we wanted to start our marriage off this way. She was such a blessing and a true woman of GOD. I just love how she prayed over us, performed the communion part and made the entire ceremony so personable and intimate. Oh, did I mention that she is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated AND my line sister who was my front on line. How cool is that!!!! It made the day even more special.
What advice do you have for future couples getting married?
RAYMOND: To remember that is your day and don’t let anyone or anything take away from your happiness and joy.
LAVERNE: Put together a budget, stick to it and make sure you read over your contract very thoroughly. We made a little slip up there. Also relax and enjoy the planning. It was a wonderful experience for us. Our wedding was truly a Fairytale wedding. One that I have always dreamed about. I can’t stop thinking about how perfect the day was. Oh, I have to add to please follow up with the RSVPs. We had a destination wedding and received a total of 65 RSVPs but 129 guests showed up…..crickets.
And what advice would you share with my generation when it comes to love, dating, and marriage?
RAYMOND: Know each other. Talk to each other. Laugh with each other and be In Love with each other.
LAVERNE: I’ve noticed that the younger generation likes to communicate via text a lot. Use the old fashioned communication of talking on the phone to hear the person’s voice. Communication is so important in dating. It’s OK to have disagreements. It comes with dating, love, and marriage. The key is working out the disagreements and having open and honest discussions. Our dating was so perfect. We rarely had arguments. I had to tell myself when we had that first and second argument that we were a normal couple. It felt so weird.
Who was your maid of Honor? I bet she was great. Do you plan to get her a good Christmas gift?
LAVERNE: Yes she was great and so perfect!! She was everything I ever wanted in a Maid of Honor. She took such great care of me during the wedding weekend. She was like a Mama Bear and was so protective. She even kicked folks out of my bridal suite so I could get some rest for the big day. I have loved her from the first moment I laid eyes on her and held her in my arms. I gave birth to her. My Maid of Honor was my lovely daughter Paige. She is getting an amazing Christmas present.
What do you love most about each other?
RAYMOND: Most is hard because it’s all ties together for me. Her Heart, Joy, Beauty, Style, and Faith.
LAVERNE: I love how affectionate and thoughtful Raymond is with me and his funny personality. He is Uncle Ray to everyone. He is a wonderful Honey Do. After 50 some years, he is my first love.