When they propose marriage, men often delight brides-to-be despite their blubbering delivery, their ham-handed wooing, their cuckoo ideas involving blimps or football scoreboards, their harebrained plans to present the ring via pet cat.
Any fool who has ever dropped to one knee thanks the stars that women find charm in ineptitude, romance in clumsiness.
Kendrick Whitaker has ruined this for all of us.
Every bride to come will weigh every suitor against this groom’s towering example. Before he proposed, Whitaker arranged the entire wedding. Bought the dress. Chose the cake. Sent the invitations. Arranged the menu. Even ordered the teal and gold napkins.
All in secret. For a year.
So when Jamica Ashley – now Jamica Whitaker, because duh – accepted his hand in tears, he explained that his perfect proposal came with a catch:
We’ve got to get married tomorrow. It’s all arranged. The guests are already here.
“I stress over everything,” explained the new bride, 31. “And he did that for me.”
This story starts at Southeast Halifax Senior High in the late ’90s, where our key players met – their flame still unlit.
“I didn’t pay too much attention to the little nerdy girl walking around,” said Kendrick, 33.
“I didn’t pay too much attention to the football player,” said Jamica. “Another jock.”
I’ll gloss over the in-between years. Way led on to way. In the chaos of young life, scrambling between colleges, jobs and states, dipping toes into life’s different ponds, their lives collided one night through a Facebook post.
By then the nerdy girl, a reporter turned PR professional, could more than catch the eye of the ex-jock, a screenwriter and hip-hop radio personality turned personal banker.
“She’s still the nerdy girl,” said Kendrick. “When she puts on her glasses and cracks open a comic book.”
Hatching a plan
So last December, when the courtship pot started to bubble over, Kendrick hatched a surprise wedding plot, enlisting Jamica’s sister Jessica as co-conspirator. They’d spring the wedding on her as a done deal, sparing her the hassle.
For the biggest chores, Jessica faked interest in starting a new career in wedding planning. She’d ask Jamica to try on dresses for clients and offer comments. Too frilly. Too hot. Too hard to sit down. Then she’d have her back for alterations, just for practice. Once she’d picked and measured, Kendrick swooped in to buy.
“OK,” admitted Jamica. “I’m naive.”
Kendrick sent all the invitations by e-vite:
“I didn’t want to leave a paper trail.”
He hid the dress at his brother’s house. He bought a $20 video camera on Craigslist. He told his apartment complex never to call Jamica about packages that arrived.
The hardest part:
“Making sure everybody kept their mouth shut. Thanksgiving was awful. I was sitting in her family’s kitchen, waiting for somebody to let it slip.”
So on the big night, Dec. 4, he walked her into Mimi’s Cafe in Cary, where their families were waiting with menus raised to their faces, and launched his speech. After all this time – the weird moments she decided to ignore, the little voices she decided to disregard – Jamica finally knew.
“I did what any girl would do,” she said. “I put on lipstick.”
The Dec. 5 wedding went off perfectly. Kendrick even managed to prepare a joint Christian-Buddhist ceremony, respecting both their faiths. I’ll spare you all the details, fellow grooms, because by now you’re disappointed that Kendrick didn’t mess anything up. It gets worse. He’s planning to take her to France next year. France!
“I got a lot of ‘You have wrecked it. How am I supposed to do my anniversary? How am I supposed to get married and not hear about you?’ ” Kendrick confessed.
The thing is, a few months before Kendrick started planning all this, he found out he had stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma. He did chemotherapy. He did radiation. For months, he couldn’t move or even leave the apartment for fear of his compromised immune system.
He’s fine now. Clean bill of health. But to Kendrick’s mind, his wedding plans can’t touch the way Jamica helped him through that dark time, lugging all the groceries up to the third floor.
Sure, Kendrick. Rub it in. You’ve earned it.