Debbie and Allen Beck got married on April Fools' Day, wearing black T-shirts with cow skulls on front, red chili peppers on back.
And that wasn't the most unusual thing about their 1995 wedding.
We've all heard of a surprise party. They threw a surprise wedding.
The couple invited 40 friends and relatives to a Saturday cookout, then gathered them in the living room to break the news.
Everybody find a seat. We're going to get married.
“My mother cried,” said Debbie, 54. “His mother just about had a stroke. And our daughters thought it was an April Fools' joke.”
But Debbie made it clear this was for real as she put a box of tissues under her mom's chair and stood with Allen beside his brother Leroy, a Methodist minister who was in on it. They said their vows, cut a carrot cake and let the kids go swimming in the backyard pool.
Once guests got over their shock, the party was great fun – just like Debbie and Allen had been having since they met on a blind date in 1992.
The couple live in Lincoln County now, but that first date was to a seafood restaurant in Jupiter, Fla., near where they used to live.
They both ordered the hottest wings on the menu, then talked so long they were kicked out at closing time. When Debbie got into Allen's car, his cassette tapes were the same as hers: Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire and Alan Jackson.
Usually, Debbie wouldn't get in the car with a man she'd just met. But since she was carrying a gun, she figured she'd be OK. She was a state police captain but didn't tell Allen for several weeks because the job had scared off too many guys.
Allen, 60, a retired land surveyor who races motorcycles, was not intimidated. He gave Debbie a tiny, gold handcuff charm for their first Christmas. After three years together, they talked about marriage.
“Allen remembers all the NASCAR drivers and team owners and who is in first place,” Debbie said. “But he has a terrible memory for other things.” She didn't want him forgetting their anniversary. So they picked the next available Saturday that fell on a memorable date: April 1.
They made the wedding a surprise so no one would bring gifts, and to avoid the fuss, frills and stress of a traditional wedding. They had both done that before – twice each, in fact. “Third Time's a Charm,” it said on their cake.
Fourteen years later, Debbie and Allen's marriage has lasted longer than any of their others. Allen says it's because they don't try to change each other. Debbie credits the art of compromise.
“I finally learned,” she said, “there are some things not worth fighting about.”