Normally, “taking the leap” — at least in terms of marriage — is meant metaphorically. Yet Jennifer Garner and her husband Greg Haggett took their leap literally on May 26, 2012, when they jumped from a plane some 30,000 feet above an empty field in Cedartown, Ga.
Garner, a native of Centre and avid hockey fan, met Haggett in 2009 when he flew into Huntsville from his home in Boston to watch a Huntsville Havoc game with some mutual friends he’d made when he played for the Havoc years ago.
“I was 30 years old with no prior marriages,” Garner says, “so saying I was looking for Mr. Right is an understatement.”
Little did Garner know at the time, but she’d found her man.
After that weekend they kept in touch, talking on the phone and through Facebook.
“We just had this crazy connection,” Garner says.
Haggett returned to Alabama to celebrate Garner’s birthday and help with some charity work. Garner is an active volunteer with the American Cancer Society as a member of Team Angela, which was founded in honor of her sister who died from cancer.
“Little did we know that once he came to Alabama, he would be here to stay,” Garner said. “Greg left his family, his career, his hockey — he left it all to stay here and start his life over so he could see what would come of us. We both had experience with long-distance relationships, so we knew that neither of us was willing to go down that road again.”
In 2011, Garner went with Haggett to the tiny town of Norwood, N.Y., to meet his family over Thanksgiving. Even though she was battling “the most monstrous cold ever,” just after sunrise Haggett snuck into his childhood bedroom where Garner was sleeping to wake her up. With tears in his eyes, Haggett proposed.
“I was in total shock,” Garner says. “I would marry this man because he is the most gentle soul that I have ever met. And not only that, he is truly the best friend that I’ve ever had.”
Back home in Alabama, the two settled on a date — May 26 — Haggett’s birthday. But that was the easy part. With five siblings, Haggett has a rather large family and coming up with a place to accommodate them all left Garner “overwhelmed.” It was a bittersweet time for Garner, who was elated over getting married, but saddened that some people very close to her wouldn’t be able to attended, namely her sister and her uncle Randall, who had died of cancer in January.
One day while driving into work, Garner had an epiphany — they could have a skydive wedding. So she pulled into the Lowe’s parking lot, called her best friend Leah, with whom she’d gone skydiving with years before. They both loved the idea.
However, Garner said Greg wasn’t too thrilled with the idea.
“He said that he’ll do whatever I want,” she recalled. “I remember him telling me that it could be cool, those were his exact words.”
So the date was set, the airplane reserved, and — after a lot of searching, asking around and posting pleas on Facebook — they even found a preacher “crazy” enough to jump with them and perform the service. Greg Locklear, who also happened to be their neighbor, was willing to the plunge with them.
The couple awoke early that Saturday morning because Garner wanted a sunrise wedding.
That’s when Haggett started to panic.
“He [was] livid,” Garner said, “which is very unlike him. He doesn’t understand why we’re not having a backyard wedding. He is on the verge of having a full-fledged panic attack.”
But after a lot of coaxing, Haggett “cools his jets,” gets on the plane and their skydive wedding goes off without a hitch … which is saying a lot, considering all that could go wrong with such a wedding. And while to some it might seem unorthodox, it was just the kind of wedding that Garner wanted.
“It wasn’t very sentimental, but I didn’t want sentimental,” she said. “I wanted to have so much going on that I never thought about all the loved ones I’ve lost that weren’t there to spend this very special day with me. It was a bittersweet day, but I married my best friend.
“It’s so rewarding to be the power couple and have such a solid relationship. And, yes, I’m bragging.”
Easter surprise - Ashley and Randy Burrage
Ashley Burrage was ready for a wedding proposal. It was almost Easter in 2008, but just because it was a holiday didn’t necessarily mean it would be
After all, “the man did not propose to me on Christmas or Valentine’s, although my nails were done and I was ready,” she joked.
At the time, Randy lived on a big ranch-style property and Ashley always parked in the same place. One morning, she pulled up and noticed a little plastic Easter egg hanging 20 feet from a tree branch on fishing line with a note attached — “open me.”
Inside the egg, Ashley found the first of many clues that took her on a romantic scavenger hunt around the farm. Each note also held a clue to the next location, along with a short memory or important moment from their relationship, even a few short poems.
Randy met Ashley at her car with an Easter basket, following her to each clue to make sure she didn’t lost.
“He wouldn’t tell me what was going on,” Ashley said, “but I kinda figured it out halfway through. But like a little kid, I got so wrapped up in the process of my treasure hunt that I was just excited about figuring out the clues and finding my next egg.”
The last egg was the biggest, and when she opened it, the letter inside described everything Randy loved about Ashley and that “it was God’s plan for us to be together.” The end of the note said, “Will you marry me? Turn around.”
“When I turned, I was so overwhelmed,” she said. “I saw Randy down on one knee in front of me holding the biggest diamond ring ever. He then says my full name — ‘cause that’s how it’s done — and asks me if I will marry him.”
Ashley and Randy, both of Anniston, were married in May of 2008.
Love at sunset - Drew Nelson and Jessie Young
When Drew Nelson decided he wanted to propose to his girlfriend, Jessie Young, he knew he wanted to do it in the woods.
Drew, 26, and Jessie, 27, both grew up in active outdoor families. Drew and his family, who moved to Anniston when he was 13, had enjoyed backpacking for years, but Jessie had never been. The two started dating during their freshman year of veterinary school at Auburn University. After they had been dating about eight months, Drew took Jessie on her first backpacking trip.
After the two finished their clinical rotations their senior year, they had a week off in March and decided to go backpacking along the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina. The first night they planned to stay on top of Siler’s Bald, which was known for beautiful sunsets.
“We set out on the trail, happy to be away from school, distractions and cell phone service,” Drew said. “The entire day, I kept patting my jacket pocket to make sure the ring was indeed still in the water-tight zippered pocket I had placed it in.”
They cooked dinner and shared a glass of wine before hiking to see the sunset the evening of March 6, 2012.
“I brought my brother’s GoPro camera and set it up under the pretense of getting a time-lapse of the sunset,” Drew said. “Since the GoPro doesn’t have a viewfinder, I was setting it up blind and hoping we would be in the shot.”
They stood, watching the sunset until Jessie started getting cold. They started talking about taking a trip to the Grand Canyon after graduation in May. Drew suggested stopping in Austin, Texas, to visit his cousin, a professional photographer.
“So, I said that would work out great because she could take our engagement pictures,” he said. “Jessie just looked at me funny as I pulled the ring out and got down on one knee. She said yes and began crying and laughing.”
Fortunately, the bald was high enough to receive cell service because Jessie started calling her entire family. They watched the sunset for another 30-45 minutes.
“Funny enough,” Drew said, “she didn’t complain about being cold during that time.”
Their wedding is set for May 11, 2013, on the Nantahala River, not far from where they got engaged.
From the lighthouse - Ashley Cox and Chad Robinson
It made perfectly good sense, and Ashley Cox had no reason to suspect a thing.
It was August 2012. Ashley’s family and her boyfriend Chad, were vacationing in Destin, Fla., like they had been for years. They were all preparing for a family dinner at a local seafood restaurant. Chad told Ashley they were going to leave early to reserve everyone a table.
“As we approached the restaurant, I received a call from my mother saying she had spoken with the restaurant and there was a two-hour wait,” Ashley said. “Once I told the news to Chad, he asked if I would like to ride around and see the bay while we waited.”
Ashley agreed and they started driving. Next thing she knew, they we were at a lighthouse. Ashley had never been to a lighthouse, but had always wanted to see the view from the top of one.
As Chad and Ashley began climbing the stairs, she heard their song playing — Adele’s “To Make You Feel My Love.” As they reached the top Ashley began to see rose petals scattered around, leading to a note with her name on it. The note instructed her to go outside, stand and read from a notebook that was waiting for her.
“As I went outside and began to read the notebook, I read the most beautiful marriage proposal I could have ever dreamed of,” Ashley said.
“Chad told me how God wanted our marriage to be like a lighthouse to others for God.”
When Ashley finished reading, she looked up and Chad was down on one knee.
“He asked me to be his wife, and I so joyfully said yes,” Ashley said. “It was absolutely the most amazing moment of my life.”
Asley and Chad, both of Oxford, plan to wed on April 27, 2013.
True love on Facebook - Austin Hubbard and Sarah Garner
When Austin Hubbard first met Sarah Garner, he admittedly didn’t give her much thought. It was five years ago and Sarah played on a softball team with Austin’s younger sister.
“She had the biggest crush on me,” says the now 19-year-old Jacksonville State University sophomore. “Yet I wouldn’t even give her time of day.”
Fast forward five years. Both Austin and Sarah have moved around, losing touch in the process. That was until the power of Facebook brought them back together when Austin stumbled across Sarah’s profile picture. And this time, he was paying attention.
“My, oh my, had the girl changed,” Austin says of Sarah, now a 17-year-old senior at Piedmont High School. “She had absolutely grown up into the most beautiful young lady I had ever laid my eyes upon.”
Austin wasted no time in sending a request. Moments later, he received the first of many messages the two would share. They’ve been dating for four months.
“She had remembered me, and even still felt just as crazy for me as she did way back then,” Austin says. “We reunited and have been together ever since. I don’t believe coincidence was a factor in this. It has to be divinely appointed, for she is my everyday answered prayer.”