Zwei Hochzeiten (Two Weddings)
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