Ten Years Later…

December 2023
Written By: 
Ashley Daniels
Photographs by: 
Mark Roberts

Reflections from my love story on the eve of my 10th wedding anniversary

Our outdoor wedding at the seawall at Belin Memorial United Methodist Church.

I know everyone has their own love story—one that uniquely leaves an imprint on your heart forever. But as I draw closer to my 10th wedding anniversary in April, and in the spirit of our special wedding issue, allow me to share a bit of mine here. 

Bradley Daniels and I first met two years before we were officially supposed to, but neither of us knew that. Let me explain what that means. 

Mutual friends of ours had told me that he would be a good match for me. I was a divorced, single mom of two boys at the time, but hadn’t given up on the thought of love. When I saw that he was at a March of Dimes chef event (he was an executive chef at the time) about 12 years ago, I assumed my mutual friend matchmaker had also clued him on the plan. After a glass of wine, I semi-boldly walked up to his booth and introduced myself, thinking there would be some sort of light bulb connection or acknowledgement or a, “Yes, I’ve been waiting for you all my life.” Instead, there was a blank stare, then a polite smile as if to say, “I have no idea who you are or don’t want to, so I’ll just politely smile.” I ran away from his booth faster than Cinderella at the ball. 

(His side of the story is that, indeed, no one had told him about the matchmaking plan, so he had no idea who I was, but he wouldn’t have minded getting to know me. But I ran away and he couldn’t find me, plus he was busy “cheffing” that night).

Two years later, I was walking around the lake at The Market Common with the boys, who were biking and scooting, and happened to run into that mutual friend, who I hadn’t seen in a while. We chatted for a bit before parting ways and, later that night, I messaged her on Facebook that it was nice bumping into her earlier. She replied that she agreed, then saw that in our past thread, two years ago, she had messaged me about setting Bradley and me up, but never followed through! She apologized and made up for it by setting up a “blind” double date at Gordon Biersch, which awkwardly turned into her, Bradley, and I because the sitter for her kids called in sick. 

We all laugh about it today because every piece of the timeline, including this one, is integral to our unique love story. After Bradley’s sly two-week wait time to call me for a second date, we were inseparable. About six months later, he proposed on one knee in front of a waterfall (I can’t remember the fall’s name – I call it “our waterfall”) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on a cold February day (no, not Valentine’s Day) while we were visiting his parents with the boys. The ring was perfect. A beautiful vintage-like, Asscher-cut diamond style set with three stones: the central one for me and the two flanking that representing the two boys. 

Bradley and me after our “I dos” with Kipton and Brady, and our adjoining tattoos (right) that are the exact longitude and latitude location of the seawall, where we were married. 

We married on a cloudless afternoon on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, in front of the cross at the seawall that overlooks the marsh at Belin Memorial United Methodist Church. Just immediate family attended, along with two of Bradley’s best friends from college. Colorful, live Easter flowers and palms from the Sunday prior still adorned the cross. An acoustic guitarist played the wedding march as I walked toward the cross, where my handsome future groom stood in a very Southern navy blue blazer, ivory linen slacks and pink bowtie and my two sons held hands in pink polos and seersucker pants. 

Escorted by my dad, I carried  a bouquet of deep pink roses in front of my ivory, Victorian-esque gown trimmed in a taupe ribbon belt accented by a silver brooch. A birdcage hair piece was pinned to my hair styled in finger waves.

We wrapped up our wedding day at Frank’s Outback for an informal alfresco reception with family, nibbling on passed hors d’oeuvres, sipping champagne, laughing, and slow dancing to Frank Sinatra. 

That’s my love story. But it’s only the beginning. Ten years later, wedded bliss has evolved into greater parental duties over three sons and a deeper love for each other. My husband Bradley is my best friend and my soulmate, and I cannot wait to see what awaits in our next chapter. Happy anniversary, honey!