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Always in Search of Happy Endings
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Skye Curtin, 20, and Austin McCormick, 22, met in college. They spent their first two years together tending to Ms. Curtin’s parents and her siblings. They were married Dec. 1 in Hickory Flat, Ga.CreditAudra Melton for The New York Times
By Tammy La Gorce
Dec. 21, 2018
Though Skye Curtin loves fairy tales, she knew her wedding to Austin McCormick would have no pixie dust or fancy details. She knew she wouldn’t be fussing over cake icing or place-card fonts. Ms. Curtin, who works four jobs and has a long commute to classes at the University of North Georgia, simply had no time, or money, for the little things.
“I absolutely was that little girl who wanted a perfect Cinderella wedding,” said Ms. Curtin, who is from Canton, Ga. “But when Austin proposed I knew we’d have to keep it modest. So our mind-set has been: We just want to get married.”
Even at their young age — Ms. Curtin is 20, Mr. McCormick, 22 — they have already completed a crash course in staying together in sickness and health, for richer or poorer.
Ms. Curtin and Mr. McCormick met in 2016 at a University of North Georgia church group meeting a few weeks into her freshman year. She couldn’t find a friend to go with, so she went alone and joined an acquaintance, Hunter Thompson, who had gone to high school with Mr. McCormick in Jasper, Ga. Mr. McCormick crossed the room to to say hello.
“He acted like he was coming over to see Hunter,” said Ms. Curtin, an elementary and special education major aiming to graduate in 2020. “But he actually wanted to get to know me.” After the meeting, Mr. McCormick, then a sophomore, walked her back to her dorm and they discovered he lived in the room just below.
The wedding party awaited photographs after the ceremony. “It’s kind of a common theme in the military to marry young,” the groom said. “We know we’re ready.”CreditAudra Melton for The New York Times
Despite being in the same building, they didn’t see each other again for three weeks. “Our schedules just didn’t align,” she said.
A second chance meeting, also through a friend of Mr. McCormick’s, this one from the National Guard, was less fleeting. Mr. McCormick, who is still a reserve member, joined the Guard in 2014. The friend, Anthony Thomas, was also studying at University of North Georgia while serving. He invited Ms. Curtin, Mr. McCormick and another friend to have breakfast with him at the campus dining hall in late September 2016.
As Mr. McCormick approached the table, Mr. Thomas went to introduce him to Ms. Curtin. “I was like, ‘We know each other,’” Mr. McCormick said. When the breakfast table conversation turned to Disney movies, a flip switched in the normally shy Ms. Curtin. “Skye is a huge Disney fan. I said that I had never seen the movie ‘Frozen,’ even though I really had, because I wanted an excuse for us to hang out again. I said, ‘We’ll have to watch it together.’”
He didn’t waste time. That afternoon, he screened the movie in their dorm’s common area.
“That was kind of the beginning of everything,” he said. “We ate dinner together that night, and then I just started saying that I hadn’t seen other Disney movies so I could watch them with her.”
By November, they had many Disney plots as well as each other’s schedules memorized; Mr. McCormick invited Ms. Curtin to meet his parents, Christine and Terry, in Jasper. “My dad is a 30-year Army vet and a 30-year police vet, and my mom is an Army wife, and they’re both tough as nails,” said Mr. McCormick, who has two brothers, one older and one younger, and an older sister. And though his parents are not easily charmed, he said, they liked her instantly. “She just lights up a room when she enters it. They noticed that right off.”
“I absolutely was that little girl who wanted a perfect Cinderella wedding,” said Ms. Curtin. “But when Austin proposed I knew we’d have to keep it modest. So our mind-set has been: We just want to get married.”CreditAudra Melton for The New York Times
Ms. Curtin’s bright spirits would need reviving a few months later. In February 2017, her father, Kennon Curtin, fell into a coma caused by respiratory acidosis, a lung condition. Ms. Curtin was home from college for the weekend, as she was most weekends, to teach a class of 2-to-4-year-olds at the nearby Woodstock School of Ballet.
“I was driving home, and I saw an ambulance ahead of me driving into my driveway,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.” Mr. Curtin was rushed to the hospital. The rest of the family, including Ms. Curtin’s mother, Jeanette, and her three younger siblings, entered crisis mode.
“Skye just kind of swooped in and took care of everybody,” said Mr. McCormick, who joined her. While Mrs. Curtin held vigil at the hospital, he and Skye stayed in Canton with her two brothers, Bryce, then 8, and Elijah, then 4, and her younger sister, Abby, then 14.
“I hadn’t known Skye that long, but I liked being there,” Mr. McCormick said. “Her little brothers really started to look up to me.”
Ms. Curtin, in the grips of worry about her father, started nurturing a potent combination of love and gratitude toward Mr. McCormick. “I was just so thankful to have found someone who pretty much dropped everything to take care of me and my family,” she said.
Guests sign and decorate Christmas ornaments at the wedding reception.CreditAudra Melton for The New York Times
Mrs. McCormick said her son, as a child, learned selflessness from his father.
“When my husband and I first got married, he was 25 and I was 21, and he had just gotten out of Desert Storm,” she said. “Terry was used to taking care of people. He passed that on to Austin. When we heard what was happening with Skye’s family, we kind of figured that’s how he’d respond.”
By the time Mr. Curtin emerged from his coma in March, the younger Mr. McCormick had become a fixture at the Curtin house. When he dropped out of University of North Georgia in 2017 to start a career as a firefighter, they supported him, just as he had supported them during the medical crisis.
“Austin’s got a good head on his shoulders,” Mrs. Curtin said. “When Skye first brought him home, he just kind of stepped up.”
And he already knew he was in love with her daughter.
“I like to say that within maybe a month of us watching ‘Frozen’ together I knew I wanted to marry Skye,” he said. Reservations about their ages never entered his mind. “It’s kind of a common theme in the military to marry young,” he said. “We know we’re ready.”
Ms. Curtin was just 18 on June 16, 2017 — the same age her mother was when she married — when Mr. McCormick proposed at an outdoor gazebo in downtown Canton. They were out strolling with friends from the university after dinner at Olive Garden when Mr. McCormick suggested they stop to take pictures.
The bride, who works four part-time jobs and attends college, has a playful moment during the reception. The groom is a firefighter.CreditAudra Melton for The New York Times
“I said I needed to do one special pose, and I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me,” Mr. McCormick said. He had bought a princess-cut three-stone ring shortly after Mr. Curtin was released from the hospital.
Through tears, Ms. Curtin said yes. “I went to hug him and he picked me up like something out of a movie,” she said. The rest of the summer was just as romantic: day trips to the beach, followed by nights holding hands through still more Disney films.
Fall would prove less enchanting. In November, Ms. Curtin’s mother, who had quit her job as a manager at the local Publix supermarket to spend more time with her still-recovering husband, had a stroke. The family, and Mr. McCormick, again raced to the hospital.
“It was a very emotional time,” Ms. Curtin said.
Ms. Curtin had by then decided to move out of the dorm and back home to help take care of her father, who remains disabled and unable to work, and younger siblings while commuting and hour to and from college. Mr. McCormick, who was hired by the Smyrna Fire Department in October, also moved into the Curtin house.
“We didn’t even really think about it, we just did it,” Ms. Curtin said. Just as automatically, she took on more work to help the family financially. In addition to teaching ballet, she spent weekends as a cashier at the Publix her mother had managed in Canton. She was also student teaching 24 hours a week at Riverview Elementary School in Dawsonville, Ga., as she was fulfilling her college graduation requirements, and commuting to classes another 15 hours.
A young guest dives into the wedding cake. Natalie Durham, a local wedding planner and the owner of Arranged to Eat, befriended the bride and soon learned of what Ms. Curtin’s family had gone through. Ms. Durham then worked to have the couple’s wedding essentially paid for by local vendors.CreditAudra Melton for The New York Times
Natalie Durham met Ms. Curtin at the Publix checkout line.
“Skye was just this sweet girl who had such positive energy, I would always go right to her register,” said Ms. Durham, the owner of Arranged to Eat, a local wedding planning business.
Just before Christmas last year, she noticed Ms. Curtin’s engagement ring. “Of course I asked when she was getting married, and I gave her my card and told her to call me,” Ms. Durham said.
Ms. Curtin started following Ms. Durham on Instagram. “I really loved her florals. The way she did things was exactly what I wanted,” she said. When Ms. Durham emptied her cart at Ms. Curtin’s register the next time, she again urged Ms. Curtin to call her for help with wedding planning. Ms. Curtin confided that she barely had money to pay for a bouquet, let alone a professional planner.
“That’s when I found out what a difficult time she had been having,” Ms. Durham said. Among other things, she learned the couple were marrying in December to take advantage of the Christmas floral arrangements the church would already have in place, thus saving a good amount of money.
Ms. Durham took to social media to drum up support for her favorite cashier’s dream wedding.
“My business partners, friends and even complete strangers donated services and money,” she said. By late summer, she estimated she had the makings of what would have been an $18,000 wedding, including what she called “heavy appetizers” for the reception provided by a fellow Publix associate, Phyllis Sterling Angle. The wedding was essentially paid for.
“What I love about Disney is how good always wins and love never fails,” the bride said. “That’s how this wedding feels.”CreditAudra Melton for The New York Times
This fall, Ms. Curtin picked up a fourth job, as an assistant to Ms. Durham. “I call her my ‘mom boss,’ because she’s so loving and every time we work together someone asks if we’re mother and daughter,” Ms. Curtin said. “Between the wedding and the job, she’s made me feel so blessed.”
On Dec. 1, at the Hickory Flat Church in Hickory Flat, Ga., Ms. Curtin and Mr. McCormick were married by the Rev. Matthew Nelson, a Methodist minister, and Preston Jones, Mr. McCormick’s youth minister at Jasper United Methodist Church. Ms. Curtin, in a white satin floor-length gown with tulle overlay and sequined top that her grandmother Janice Hargraves bought for her at David’s Bridal, walked arm in arm with her father to an altar strung with red bows.
The maid of honor, Abigail, and five bridesmaids, wore steel gray gowns; Mr. McCormick, in a tuxedo, stood with his best man, Trevor McKey, and five groomsmen in red bow ties and suspenders. Ms. Curtin’s mother, who has recovered from her stroke and has gone back to work at Publix, was in the front row.
“Some people spend a lifetime looking for what we have, but we get to spend a lifetime appreciating what we have,” Ms. Curtin said to her 160 guests.
“I hope, Skye, that every day I will be the best man I can for you,” Mr. McCormick said. After a prayer, Mr. Nelson pronounced them married.
Ms. Durham filled the church with fresh-cut greenery, pine cones and red roses for Christmas; a tree had been decorated by parishioners. “I wanted it to look like a winter wonderland,” she said. Which was fitting for a couple who found love after watching “Frozen.”
Ms. Curtin was reminded of the movie that brought them together as they made their way to the reception room.
“What I love about Disney is how good always wins and love never fails,” she said. “That’s how this wedding feels.”
And then she danced with her father as the song “Cinderella,” by Steven Curtis Chapman, filled the room.
Margaret Waage contributed reporting from Hickory Flat, Ga.
ON THIS DAY
When Dec. 1, 2018
Where Hickory Flat Church, Hickory Flat, Ga.
Encore After the couple said their vows, while still at the altar, Mr. McCormick, who plays the guitar, debuted a song he wrote for his bride. “You’re truly an angel/Perfect for me,” it went, in part.
A Dream Deferred The couple is delaying their honeymoon to — where else? — Disney World until Ms. Curtin graduates from college. They said they will continue to live with her parents until they save enough to buy their own house.
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