Today in the Love Always Wins Marriage Series I’m featuring a couple with one of the most unique love stories I’ve yet to come across, Al & Donna Ricks. Al and I worked together for several years in my former life and I had the privilege of getting to know him and meeting Donna. Al is one of the most kind and thoughtful people I know. His love for his family is evident when talking with him, especially his grandkids! I introduce to you, Al & Donna Ricks’ marriage story!
1. How long have you been married?
In September, 2014 we will have been married 40 years.
2. Tell us about your love story.
We enjoy telling people that we were married without ever having a date – and it’s true. We were good friends in college, but did not date. Al joined the Peace Corps immediately after college, and was assigned to Ethiopia. As the old saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” He proposed by tape recording from Ethiopia, then waited six weeks for the return mail to bring an answer. Donna was working in Cedar Falls, and when Al got home, he immediately took employment in southern Iowa. So, for the next several months we would meet to plan the wedding, but never to “go on a date” like going to a movie or going bowling. We were married in September – and it stuck!
3. Tell us a bit about your wedding (color, location, attendants, etc). Is there anything you would change?
We were married at First United Methodist Church in Cedar Falls. Our wedding colors were forest green and emerald gold (very popular colors then). Relatives and close friends served as our attendants. We held the start of the events a few minutes to make sure that Donna’s grandmother had arrived. The ceremony was presided over by the pastor of the church and a favorite college professor. The professor’s wife (also a college teacher of ours) sang. After the ceremony we all went to the church basement for a “traditional” reception of cake, punch, and homemade mints, while the aunts unwrapped and displayed our gifts – just the way it was done in those day! What would we change? Being able to open our own gifts!
4. What is your favorite wedding memory?
For Al: Having communion with family and wedding attendants in the chapel of the church prior to the actual ceremony.
Donna’s: Having family and close friends all in attendance was and remains very special. Additionally, Al thought he was clever by asking the best man to hide his car so no cans could be tied to it nor rice thrown on it. Little did Al know that the best man, who went to get the car following the reception, plotted to throw rice all over the inside!
5. What is the key to making your marriage successful?
Trying to be supportive of each other’s careers and life choices in our marriage. We have had very distinct careers – but have tried to find ways to make sure we have been supportive of the other in following her/his dreams. Also, keeping a strong focus on faith and family.
6. What are some of your favorite things to do together as a couple?
Now we enjoy every minute we can get with grand kids! After retirement we moved so that we could be closer to them. It has been wonderful. We enjoy spending time with our family. We also like to work in our home and in the kitchen (sometimes together – and sometimes it is best to keep a bit of separation!) We sing in the church choir and we both play in a bell choir. We enjoy traveling as time and resources permit. We have season tickets with a couple who have been friends for 35 years to the Des Moines Civic Center and enjoy seeing a variety of plays/shows each year.
7. What would you tell the younger you on the eve of your wedding day?
Al: Be ready for lots of surprises! At 24 I thought I rather had life figured out. Boy, was I wrong about that! There have been so many surprises in the “script” – but they have been ok, and, ultimately, I believe they’ve been in God’s keeping.
Donna: I would agree with Al’s take on this. Our marriage and lives have gone in many directions that we could never have predicted!
8. What does LAW (love always wins) mean to you as a couple?
Through the years – the ups, downs, the routines and the challenges, the joys and the sorrows, there’s that bedrock sense that “we’re in this together.” That’s a commitment we made 40 years ago, and by doing so we’re not walking through life alone.
9. How did you know your spouse was the right one for you?
Al: I knew from the way she “hit it off” with my parents. They had it figured out before I did.
Donna: My best friend was Al’s girl friend his senior year of college (I am a year older). When he went to the Peace Corps she told me they had decided to halt their relationship since he was leaving. She told me he and I would make a good team. Seed planted! Al and I had been good friends for several years. Marrying your good friend with like backgrounds, goals, and beliefs seemed the right thing to do. No regrets!
10. What is your best marriage advice for couples soon to be married or considering marriage?
Keep some laughter going. There are more than enough serious challenges along the way. You’d better be able to still be friends at the end of the day. Interjecting some laughter and fun into the relationship really helps.