05/07/09 — Love & marriage: Students test-drive life's next step

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Love & marriage: Students test-drive life's next step

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 7, 2009 1:46 PM

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Bethany Dale, left, and Eric Powell, seniors at Faith Christian Academy, enjoy punch at a reception following the double mock wedding ceremony they shared with Ms. Dale's twin sister, Brittany, and Seth Denlinger. The annual event is part of a home economics and family living curriculum for seniors at the school.

The candles were lit, guests were seated and the wedding processional began for the double ceremony.

Grooms Eric Powell and Seth Denlinger were positioned in front of the chapel. Jack Edwards escorted twin nieces Bethany and Brittany Dale -- their dad had to work -- down the aisle as mom Dana Dale took photos.

Officiating was Dustin Mitchell, a student called to the ministry but not yet licensed.

No matter. Because at the end of the day, as the bulletin said, "Our new address is still at our parents' houses."

That's because for the four 17-year-olds, Tuesday's mock ceremony was all part of a home economics lesson at their school, Faith Christian Academy.

At the end of the ceremony, Mitchell pronounced "that they're friends" and suggested the couples "exchange a friendly kiss," at which time each accepted a chocolate candy from their attendants to hand their faux spouses.

Teacher Della Stocks said she does this every year -- from the planning and preparation to the ceremony and reception that follows. Her senior girls, and teacher Eddie Smith's senior family living class, participate in the "annual senior wedding."

"We start off the year talking about how to be a good husband and a good father," Smith said. "We go into chapters on dating and marriage -- dating right so you can marry right."

"We make it as real as it can be," Mrs. Stocks added. From proper etiquette to all a wedding entails -- budgets, flowers, writing engagement stories and the planning and preparation of the actual event. Sometimes they even have a shower, registering at Target and contributing the gifts to the home ec room.

"We try to go through the whole thing and use a lot of resources that we have at the church," said Walter Sloan, Faith headmaster. "They learn the business side of it."

It is handled as realistically as possible, even down to involving family.

"Usually the father is there to give the bride away but this (year) the father works and couldn't get off," Mrs. Stocks explained. Other parents and grandparents, as well as high school classmates, witness the ceremony.

While it is a "mock" ceremony, there is no mocking the institution of marriage and everything is done seriously and sincerely, the teachers said.

Just ask the mother of the brides.

"Mrs. Stocks made it so real and my husband, Harold, had to work, so my brother gave them away," Mrs. Dale said. "We did everything just like a real wedding, the preparing, we had to give them a budget. The girls came home and asked, 'Mama, how much money can we have for a wedding?'"

The "something borrowed" just might have been the dresses -- one loaned from Mrs. Dale's sister-in-law, the other belonging to the school. Donna Scharadin, whose son, Ryan, was a best man, said she had contributed a veil previously but it wasn't used in this wedding.

Even though she knew it wasn't real, Mrs. Dale couldn't help providing the traditional tears.

"We had a rehearsal (Monday). I'm emotional, I cry at the drop of a hat, and with graduation coming, I'm already teary-eyed," she said. "Today I kind of had myself prepared, just thinking, 'OK, it's only pretend.' But it still gives you a sadness, realizing that you know it's coming. And they're so beautiful coming down the aisle."

Bride Brittany called it a "wonderful experience."

"I didn't know all the work that goes into a wedding," she said. "It really takes a lot. I did all the stuff together with my sister so that was really fun. It was a big learning experience and really opened my eyes to a lot of things."

Groom Eric said he was nervous but has been at the school since eighth grade, which made it easier as he looked out over the crowd.

"That lightened things up a bit," he said afterwards. The process, though, also taught him a bit more about what to expect when his own wedding day arrives, he said.

Hopefully that will be true for all the students, Mrs. Stocks said.

"We don't have a textbook on that subject, really," she said.

And yet students in her classes prepare one of sorts, required to complete a "big notebook" outlining their own wedding plan and preferences. It has become a popular tradition, one that serves the female students into the future.

"I have had a lot of girls come back and say, 'I pulled out my wedding notebook when I started planning my wedding,' including my own daughter," Mrs. Stocks said.

Mrs. Scharadin can attest to that.

"My daughter's been through it and now she's planning her wedding (in June)," she said. "It's fun for them and gives them experience, and gives them an awareness of what a wedding is."

For the most part, the students in the private school have grown up together, making the event even more intimate and special.

Parents like Debbie Denlinger, mother of a groom, were behind the teachable opportunity.

"It was exciting," she said. "I hope that he's going to be getting married one day. I'm glad it's not real at this point, but you do hope at one point they meet the right person."

Katie Stevens, a junior, has attended previous ceremonies, and enjoys the annual event.

"Some of my senior friends have shown me their books," she said.

"It really gets them prepared for life. It's just fun watching them do it and getting ready."

Junior Drew Floars said his cousin was in the wedding and his sister, Kaitlyn, played the piano for the ceremony.

"I thought that having twins getting married, that was kind of different," he said.

Classmate Nathan Sulli-van also appreciated the practical application.

"Things are progressing in their life," he said. "It's an aspect they have to learn how to partake in. It was cool, and it got us out of class."