Couple’s impromtu nuptials becomes county’s first wedding of 2009

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By Alice Du Pont

Each year they're splashed all over the front pages of newspapers and are often the lead story on many broadcast news shows. The cuties are the first babies born in the new year.

This year, Towanda Betts and Sean Burnett made history, too. They are first couple in Gadsden County to tie the knot in 2009. It wasn't originally planned that way, but according to the couple's friend, Pam Harrison-Tribue, things just worked out that led to a New Year’s wedding.

"They originally planned to go to the courthouse and get married on Dec. 31. As they were finishing up their premarriage counseling on Dec. 30, the minister told them that he could marry them following Watch Night services," Harrison-Tribue said.

Betts mentioned the minister's suggestion to church member Carolyn Bush, who said her church family would love to plan a wedding for the couple. The ladies in the church came together to make the wedding a memorable event.

"It wasn't very difficult. Weddings are my passion. I've planned a lot of weddings and I had a lot of things already and knew people who had things so it was a matter of calling them and pulling things together," Bush said.

"I'm still in shock. Our families knew we were going to get married but no one knew we were going to have a wedding," the bride said.

After the couple picked up their marriage license New Year’s Eve, Bush called Betts and asked her to stop by her house. Betts said she was still protesting a wedding because she hadn't planned one.

"When I got there she had (wedding) dresses laid out all over the place. I must have tried on about six before I chose one. Then they told me I could leave," she said.

Betts had to leave because there were so many things left to be done. Bush and her group of volunteers had only a few hours to find a veil, a wedding cake, floral arrangements, a flower girl, a ring bearer and a vocalist.

Around 6 p.m., Betts got another call from Bush wanting to know the names of the groom's parents.

WWhat are y’all doing over there?" Betts asked.

"We're doing programs," Bush replied before hanging up the telephone.

Sometime during the day, someone had called Betts' sister, Tori, in Atlanta. She was driving in for the wedding. She arrived during the Watch Night service, which began at 10 p.m. A church member met her at the door and told her she needed to go directly to Bush's house. Bush was at home ironing Tori's dress for the wedding.

Breakfast is always served following the annual service at St. Paul PB Church in Gretna, the site of the upcoming nuptials. This year was no different, except that while worshipers ate, most of the women of the congregation were busy decorating the church for the wedding.

Harrison-Tribue said it took about 30 minutes to turn the sanctuary into a wedding chapel.

"It was a beautiful ceremony. The church was beautiful; everything was terrific. I can't thank my church family enough. They showed us a lot of love by doing all that they did for us," the bride said.