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2018 Southern Bride

Bridal magazine produced by the Houston Home Journal in Perry, Georgia.

A Picture Perfect Sign

A Picture Perfect Sign Story by Donnell Suggs Photos by Shannon Archibald A picture is worth a thousand words and this one tells the story of a blended family bonded by their individual stories and the power or lack thereof of the distances between us. Taken at the Retreat at Southern Bridle Farms in Perry, the bride and groom, to the right at the top of a short staircase, are surrounded by their wedding party. People came to contribute to the blessed union from far and wide. In some cases from as far as Colorado, in the most extreme case from across seas. In order to pull off a twenty-two person wedding party it takes more than just a few invitations. At the bottom of the staircase are five children; three boys in grey suits and two girls in silver dresses. They were keys to the union, more on that later, and very important to the wedding itself. Two of the boys were junior groomsmen and the youngest was the ring bearer. The girls were junior bridesmaids. “It was a storybook wedding,” said Danielle Gates Welch of her wedding to former United States Air Force veteran John E. “Jed” Welch IV. “I wanted a beach wedding but our location was perfect.” The Retreat was the first place she and Jed visited and there was only one opening in the calendar. The venue is quite popular and there are not always accommodations for couples looking to get married there. “I’m a “sign” person and I wasn’t budging on my day,” said Danielle who was set on getting married on November 11, 2017, Veterans Day. “This was the big wedding that we both wanted,” she said. Veterans Day is important to both of the Welch’s. Danielle loves the number 11 and Jed knows how important it is to recognize the sacrifice our military makes every day. Two of the groomsmen came to the wedding from Iraq. “They took leave and paid thousand of dollars to fly over from Baghdad,” said Jed about two really good friends that he made while working as a contractor in the Middle East. “They were both active duty, in fact everyone on my side was or is still in the military.” Jed joined the Air Force right out of high school. It may not have been his first choice but it was most certainly a family- 14 Southern Bride 14-15 Welch pages.indd 2 2/14/18 3:08:10 PM

friendly decision. “I wanted to go to college but after I got hurt my basketball scholarship interest dried up so I made the decision to go into the military. It was not a stretch for Welch to become a military man. In fact it was probably another sign. Jed came up in a military family, “I’m third generation military, it’s like the family business,” he said with a laugh. His father, mother, and before them, his grandfather and great grandfather have all served in the United States military at one point of their lives. “All of my uncles on my dad’s side and both maternal grandfathers as well,” added Jed who retired after 20 years of service in 2014. “It’s just what we do.” He played his high school basketball at Liberty High School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and over at the rival high school, Freedom High School, another star athlete was also making a name for himself on the gridiron, athlete and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Another “sign”: Danielle, like many other women on the planet Earth, has an affinity for The Rock. “He’s my celebrity crush,” she said. “Everybody loves The Rock,” acknowledges Jed. Danielle on the other hand was the exact opposite in regards to how she grew up. Born in Florida, moved to Texas as a teenager and then to Georgia, she’s a warm weather girl through and through and has no connection to military life, except for her having moved around the country before settling in Georgia. The aspect of having to adapt to different situations and new surroundings are something the Welch’s have in common. Jed and Danielle use to take dates like these when they first met almost three years ago. They were just friends then but according to Danielle anyone that crossed their path just knew that they were a couple, “I use to say ‘No we’re just friends’,” said Danielle, a Florida native. “I believe you need to be friends first.” “We met through mutual friends and we started dating and became best friends,” added Jed, who grew up all over the country due to his family’s involvement in the military. “He won me over,” says Danielle about the friendship that ultimately became her marriage, “and it grew from our friendship.” The two came into their relationship slowly and carefully after having both been married and having children. They were determined to do things much differently this time around. “We were both married at the courthouse the first time around so we wanted to do this our way,” said Danielle. “I always thought it would be cool to get married on November 11 and it worked out perfectly.” Sometimes when the five kids are at school and the chores around the house are done and there’s that little sliver of time and space for the two of them, Danielle and Jed like to go to lunch together. “Our days consist of running errands, fixing things around the house, laundry and whatever the kids need done,” said Danielle, who describes herself as a self-employed full-time mom. “From 3pm on its homework, sports, whatever they need.” At times a table for two at a local chain restaurant in broad daylight in middle Georgia can feel like date night at a five star restaurant in the city of lights. For two people that believe heavily in getting back the energy that they put in, a break in the action that is their everyday lives is well earned. Every November 11(Veterans Day) from here forth will be Danielle and Jed’s wedding anniversary; a day of celebration in the Welch’s blended family. Southern Bride 15 14-15 Welch pages.indd 3 2/14/18 3:08:39 PM

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