Wedding bells ring while parade goes by
John and Emily Henderson’s wedding in December 2008 lasted all of 10 minutes.
It was just the two of them and a justice of the peace who was on a lunch break from her full-time job with the FBI Academy.
The couple, both wearing jeans, recited their vows at Lunga Park at Quantico Marine Corps Base. The justice of the peace wished them a wonderful life, and that was it.
“We’re like, wow, that’s it,” recalled John Henderson, 29, a captain in the Marines who lives in Spotsylvania County. “We’re married.”
The plan all along was to eventually have a traditional wedding with family and friends, after John completed a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.
Five years later, that finally happened on Saturday night at the Inn at Fredericksburg Square on Caroline Street—during the Fredericksburg Jaycees Christmas Parade, no less. The setting had significance, as the two had gotten engaged five years earlier after being part of a military-themed float at the parade in downtown Fredericksburg.
THE FIRST DATE
John and Emily met at a uniform shop at Quantico, about half a block from John’s barracks.
Emily Camacho was a sales associate, and John found himself buying rank insignia he didn’t really need just to talk to her.
They ran into each other at the gym one day and exchanged numbers, but not before Emily admitted she had forgotten his name.
They text messaged for a little bit, and Emily surprised her future husband by asking him on a first date to Starbucks. She was an hour late, but the two ended up talking until the place closed.
John proposed just three months later.
John’s original plan was to ask her to marry him at the Fredericksburg Christmas Parade on Dec. 6, 2008.
He would be riding a float sponsored by McLane Mid-Atlantic, where Emily’s mom worked. Emily’s stepfather, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Richard Allen, would also be on the float.
The engagement, however, didn’t go down quite like John had planned.
He arrived downtown in his dress blues with a box of three-dozen roses. The engagement ring was attached to a white rose.
But Emily, who handed out candy alongside the military float, didn’t give John a chance to pop the question. She was ready to leave as soon as the parade ended.
“My hands felt like they were about to fall off” it was so cold, Emily, now 25, recalled.
So John waited until a dinner that night with Emily and her parents at the Log Cabin Restaurant in Stafford County.
Restaurant staff brought out the flowers, but Emily didn’t immediately see the ring. Her mom told her to check out the two white roses, to which Emily responded: “The white flowers are just as beautiful as the red flowers.”
Then she saw it.
“And I was like, ‘Isn’t there a question that’s supposed to come with this?’ ”
The couple was legally married by a justice of the peace just 11 days later, shortly before John headed off to California to prepare for his Afghanistan deployment.
“I knew we were going to get married no matter what, so why do we have to wait?” he said in an interview.
An official wedding was eventually scheduled at the National Museum of the Marine Corps for December 2010.
Several months before the big day, while John was still in Afghanistan, Emily’s stepfather unexpectedly passed away from a heart condition at age 39. The wedding was put on hold.
A couple years went by before Emily’s mother, Shannon Allen, scheduled a trip to New York with her daughter. Their destination was Kleinfeld Bridal.
Emily bought her dress, and “I was like, well, this is happening next year. It just kind of went from there.”
The timing worked out well.
Emily, who graduated from UMW in 2012, got a full-time job this past January, putting the couple in a better financial position to schedule a wedding.
They booked Fredericksburg Square for Dec. 7, the day after their engagement anniversary. To top it off, they learned the ceremony would take place the same day as the Christmas parade.
Emily said she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I kind of like the way we’re doing it because a lot of times the wedding is more important to people than the actual relationship,” she said. “We’ve got that down.”
COMING FULL CIRCLE
More than 100 relatives and friends attended the formal ceremony on Saturday, with drums and other noise from the parade in the background.
John, who was in uniform, took a deep breath just before Emily walked out in her dress—a far cry from the pink shirt and jeans she wore at their wedding five years ago.
What was actually a renewing of vows had all of the characteristics of a first-time wedding, complete with a pastor, groomsmen and bridesmaids.
Not to mention tears.
“I still feel emotional because I know her dad’s been looking down on her,” Emily’s mom said after the wedding.
For Emily and John, the wait was worth it.
“I still felt like we got married for the first time,” Emily said.
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402