Zwei Hochzeiten (Two Wed­dings)

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Weddings - Story by Beth Bright

For more than seven years, Shay Clark and Flo­rian Merkel were vir­tu­ally in­sep­a­ra­ble, re­gard­less of be­ing thou­sands of miles apart.

Flo­rian is both a Ger­man and Amer­i­can ci­ti­zen, hav­ing grown up in Cologne, Ger­many, but born in the U.S. While at­tend­ing Lake­side High School from 2005-06, the two were in­tro­duced by their good friend, Lisa Beth Harst, at Shay’s sur­prise 17th birth­day party.

“She thought he and I would get along well — well done Lisa!” she said.

The night was spent play­ing bare­foot soc­cer in the muddy Lake­side foot­ball field, “back when it still had mud.”

“He played for­ward, I played de­fense,” she said. “The rest is his­tory.”

The cou­ple dated since 2006, which was no easy feat, con­sid­er­ing three of those years were long dis­tance be­tween North Amer­ica and Europe. Dur­ing the times they were in the same place, they lived with each other’s fam­i­lies.

In 2012, the cou­ple spent seven months liv­ing in a 1984 Volk­swagon Camper Van, ex­plor­ing the U.S., Mex­ico and Canada. On the last leg of their VW ad­ven­ture, Flo­rian got down on one knee at sun­set in front of the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

They have since moved to Ger­many and are each work­ing to­ward their MBA in Cor­po­rate So­cial Re­spon­si­bil­ity with dreams of work­ing with the United Na­tions.

The big day: Septem­ber 21, 2013, the first day of fall.

The dress: Ha! Did I men­tion we are stu­dents on a bud­get? I wore a $35 cream col­ored linen em­pire waist dress from H&M. The straps were rolled cot­ton and cro­cheted cot­ton lace. Match­ing lace ac­cented the base of the gown. Del­i­cate studs were looped by strands of cot­ton to cinch the dress back.

The lo­ca­tion: The tech­ni­cal an­swer is my par­ents’ liv­ing room in Hot Springs, but we had two sep­a­rate wed­ding gar­den par­ties be­fore the of­fi­cial mar­riage: one in Lev­erkusen, Ger­many, at his par­ent’s house and one in Hot Springs in my grand­mother Juanita Fer­gu­son’s back­yard.

Best Man and Maid of Honor: Flo­rian’s best friend, Lu­cas Carneiro, who also did our of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment pic­tures, was the best man. He is the best at mak­ing us laugh, and we trea­sure him al­most more than our own sib­lings. My maid of honor was the one and only, Rebekah DiGi­a­como. She hand­made and cal­ligra­phied all the in­vi­ta­tions, and sang to us

dur­ing our cel­e­bra­tion in Arkansas. What a pal!

The re­cep­tion: His par­ents, Michael and Iris Merkel, hosted the “Gar­den Party” in Ger­many and my grand­mother, Juanita Fer­gu­son, hosted the “Potluck Pic­nic” in Hot Springs.

The look: Clas­sic Bo­hemian and old coun­try vin­tage. All of the dec­o­ra­tions were fam­ily heir­looms and an­tiques from my grand­mother’s shed. Some straw­bales, quilts and burlap were thrown in for good mea­sure. We used a lot of old Ma­son jars, fam­ily quilts and my great grand­moth­ers’ serv­ing dishes. The plates and sil­ver­ware were dec­o­ra­tions in them­selves, but also mean­ing­ful. Be­cause we both try not to lead a ‘throw away’ life­style, we asked a few fam­ily mem­bers and friends if they would share their cut­lery and din­ner­ware with us for the evening. The re­sult was a gor­geously colorful ta­ble set­ting alive with mul­ti­ple styles and a homey feel. The mix­ture of place set­tings rep­re­sented the won­drous

mix of cul­tures Flo­rian and I both bring to the ta­ble in our re­la­tion­ship.

Most un­for­get­table mo­ment: When Flo­rian gifted my dad a milk goat “as pay­ment for my dowry” as a joke. Re­ally funny. My Dad’s bless­ing was also very touch­ing.

The hon­ey­moon: Shouldn’t life be a hon­ey­moon? We flew back to Ger­many the day af­ter my dad mar­ried us.

Pho­tog­ra­phy cour­tesy of Kassie Pruitt and Lu­cas Carneiro

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