My Two State Wedding

By Marsha Tennant

My Two State Wedding

The story I am about to share is the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth…so help me God!

My nuptials, in April 1969, took place in two states, in one afternoon. My husband, Randy, and I started our journey in Norfolk, Virginia, and ended it in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. We had the paperwork started in a Virginia courthouse and finalized it in an office over a barber shop in North Carolina.

The morning of April 4th, I met the prospective groom in the parking lot of the Little Creek Naval Base. (So much for not seeing the bride before the ceremony.) I was wearing a cream-colored, knit mini dress with an empire waist. It was piped in navy blue. Pappagallo pumps completed my outfit. Randy sported his one and only suit. It was gray with tiny white stripes. His starched Gant shirt and sandy blonde hair made him look like Robert Redford to me. Love and lust were filling the salt air. Be still my heart!

We were on a tight timeline. We only had the weekend to get married, go on a honeymoon and return to our respective locations. A Monday morning Shakespeare exam was waiting for me in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Randy had a three day pass and had to return to his Coast Guard Cutter as well. If we didn’t meet these obligations, I would fail the course, and Randy would be AWOL.

You could not make up what happened next. After a big breakfast at a local dive we headed to the health department to get our required blood tests. That was done without fanfare or problems. Our next stop was the courthouse in Norfolk. We had our birth certificates and blood tests in hand. All we had to do was pay the marriage fee and wait for the Justice of the Peace to call our names. NOT TO BE! When we walked up to the clerk’s window to complete the process, she looked at me and said, “Young lady, you are not twenty one.” My heart stopped. One month and one day away from my birthday and I could not get married in Virginia. She went on to say that if I got a note (really) from my parents, the license could be issued. The problem was that our parents did not know we were getting married. We were eloping. I started crying, but Randy was calm and asked where we could get married. The clerk laughed, because she saw many young servicemen nuptials, and told us we could head over the state line. In North Carolina I was of legal age. We would not need a note from my parents. Yes, she really said that!

Road trip! We arrived in Elizabeth City in the late afternoon. Another blood test was required so we repeated the process. The next stop was the courthouse. We walked up to the clerk and presented our documents. We had a GO! She was kind and gave us directions to the Justice of the Peace. She told us the office was located above the local barbershop. We were presented with a plastic bag of household samples and a card that said “Congratulations.”

By now it was late afternoon and we knew small towns closed up tight on Fridays. We made it to the office just after 4:30. The sign on the door said 9:00 am-5:00 pm. Randy presented our documents and paid the ten dollar marriage fee. The Justice of the Peace said we needed a witness. His wife was usually there but she was out shopping with her sister. We did not know a soul in this tiny town. Bingo! His friend was downstairs getting his hair cut so he could come up after he was finished. The Justice of the Peace was sure he would not mind doing it.

At 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 4th, 1969, our two state wedding took place. We left Elizabeth City as Mr. and Mrs. Tennant. We had two hundred dollars to our name. We were hungry and exhausted. Our reception was at Shoney’s, somewhere between the two states. We sat down and eyed the menu. My new husband told me I could order anything on the menu. Ahhhhh. TRUE LOVE!

About this writer

  • Marsha Tennant Marsha Tennant is the author of the children’s book, Margaret, Pirate Queen. She was recently published in AARP Bulletin and Mary Jane’s Farm. She and her husband retired and moved to the beach from Calabash in an attempt to downsize and spend time with their new grandson. A second Pirate Queen book is circling while porch sitting these days!

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One Response to “My Two State Wedding”

  1. Rose Ann Sinay says:

    Two hundred dollars and a great story to tell! Enjoyed your essay:)

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