Sarah and Joshua Thomas have been married for 12 years. They have three children – 15, 13, and 4. But because Joshua currently serves in the United States Army and is often deployed, the couple were never able to have the wedding ceremony they wanted.
Until Friday, on Veteran’s Day.
The two finally got married in a formal ceremony thanks to free event called “Vows for Vets.” The couple’s three children, Sarah’s dad and other family member were there. Sarah’s dad was finally able to walk her down the aisle. Their 4-year-old daughter clung to her mother’s dress as they read each other their vows.
Joshua put a ring on Sarah’s finger and they kissed.
“For me it’s a big deal because I wanted the experience with my father, because he wasn’t there the first time,” Sarah said, dressed in her white wedding gown. “And my kids get to be here, and I get to wear a dress and get pictures.”
Joshua said he was happy his wife was happy. “That’s the most important thing,” he said.
Joshua and Sarah were among nine couples who renewed their vows on Friday at the Rand Bryan House off N.C. Highway 50 in Garner. For many of the couples, it was the first time they had an official ceremony. The event was organized by two wedding officiants, and good friends, Katherine Edwards and Stephanie Shaffer. They came together and wanted to give military families the weddings they never had.
“Just to do something good and do something nice,” Shaffer, the daughter of a veteran, said. “I know that life can be hard for veterans. Families go through a lot and we just saw it as an opportunity to do something special and nice for them.”
Edwards said the two crafted the idea after hearing a fellow officiant try it in another state. The other officiant tried to host an event on Memorial Day, but it didn’t work out. Edwards figured it would be better to hold one of their own on Veteran’s Day, a day that recognizes veterans for their service in the military.
“I talked to Stephanie about it and we agreed,” she said. “We are planning people, and we thought ‘we can do this.’”
With the help of some volunteers, the event was a success to their standards and to the standards of the participants.
“It’s a day for us to recommit to each other and think about the past five years,” Allyson Samples, who renewed her vows with her husband Christopher, said. “And be grateful for what we’ve been through, and look forward to what the future has.”
Allyson and Christopher, who now have a four-year-old son, were married in a small ceremony five years ago. But two weeks later, the Marine had to go back overseas.
When asked what it means to him, Christopher said, “It’s kind of a reminder that I’ve been gone a lot, so just remembering what’s back at home and what’s important.”
This was the first year Edwards and Shaffer held the event. They hope to continue it next year.
“It’s amazing to me, that you see people come in full wedding regalia, and they are excited because they didn’t have a chance to do that maybe two years ago or maybe 20 years ago,” Shaffer said. “So it’s really neat for us to see how excited they have become of this opportunity.”