Scott Stanley gently placed his left arm around wife Heather’s shoulder as the minister began a sermon about the many forms that true love can take. As the sermon progressed, Heather moved closer into her husband’s embrace.
Sunday’s sermon held special meaning for the couple as they listened with the rest of the congregation at Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church. Heather and Scott, along with two other couples, were renewing their wedding vows.
For the Stanleys, the ceremony was actually the third time they had spoken wedding vows to each other during their seven years of marriage.
Heather met Scott in Florida as she was starting her service in the U.S. Air Force and he was close to mustering out. Then, about a year later, through kismet or maybe just luck, they were in the same town at the same time shortly after Scott was discharged. And they started dating.
A year after that, Heather was being transferred to Alaska.
“The Air Force doesn’t help pay for your fiances to move,” Scott said. “So we had a sort of Air Force engagement.”
Scott popped the big question exactly one year from when they started dating. And they were married three days later.
But the true anniversary, Heather said, is marked from the next year, when they had a small ceremony at Red Rocks with their families. So their first wedding with a justice of the peace was followed a year later with an outdoor ceremony amid Colorado’s spectacular scenery.
Why the need for a third?
Heather said that when she saw the church was offering parishioners the chance to renew their vows, she thought it was a great idea for her and Scott. It was a chance for them to recommit themselves to each other after a tumultuous year.
“This last year’s been pretty rough,” Scott said.
The couple, along with their two children, 4-year-old Katie and Madison, who turns 2 in April, moved from Oklahoma to Colorado after Heather’s tour with the Air Force ended.
Yet that move created tensions. The family had planned to live with Heather’s parents, but after only a couple of months, it was clear that the arrangement wasn’t going to work for anyone.
Heather said two adults, two kids and two pets were a bit too much to bring into her parents’ home. The pain is visible when she mentions the strain that the brief stay created in her relationship with her mom and dad.
The couple have also had to deal with medical issues with Madison, who suffered from a brachial plexus injury when she was delivered, necessitating two separate surgeries.
While Heather enrolled in nursing school, Scott had to close down his business installing satellites and selling cell phones and start installing solar panels to make enough money to support the family.
“It’s been a rough year,” Heather confirmed.
Heather knows she wouldn’t have been able to make it through the last year without Scott, a sentiment Scott echoes about his wife.
And both said they’d have been hard pressed without their new family at Columbine Unitarian. The church has been a refuge, something Heather and Scott would never have thought a year ago when they first set foot in the church.
“I had a bad experience with the Baptist Church,” Heather said.
But the couple have found a home in the Unitarians’ message of compassion and love regardless of race, creed or sexual orientation — a home, they said, that has helped support them through this past year.
“The ceremony is a way for us to bind our relationship to the church,” Scott said.
So before their new family, the couple spoke their vows to each other for a third time and affirmed what they have known through all the years and all the miles: They are in love.
Contact Ramsey Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.