Laura Smith never thought she’d meet her future husband at Meet the Teacher night at Edgewood Elementary, but then again she never thought her wedding would take place during a pandemic either. None of that would mean her story wouldn’t be more full of love and support from family and friends than she could have imagined though.
It all started in the fall of 2018 when Laura was teaching a third-grade student named Graham Corscadden who had lost his mom to cancer a year and a half earlier. At the Meet the Teacher night at the start of the year, she noticed Graham’s dad Eric was cute. What she didn’t know at the time was that Eric noticed her too—and that she wore no wedding ring.
Throughout the year Laura attended some of Graham’s sporting events just as she did for other students. Each time, she and Eric talked some and enjoyed the other’s company. Three weeks before school let out, Eric took the risk of asking her out. “I was surprised in a good way,” Laura says. They started dating, but Eric waited until the school year ended before he told his boys.
“How would you feel if I dated Ms. Smith?” Eric asked Graham and his younger brother Liam.
“For real?” Graham replied. “She really cares about me.”
“Graham and I had this bond to begin with,” Laura recounts. “It was neat to see how God was able to have Graham learn to trust me in that way (as his teacher first).”
After Eric proposed in October 2019, the couple thought about having a small wedding with just family at a nearby destination like Toccoa Falls in Georgia, but they decided to simplify by keeping the festivities in Homewood. Plus, Laura had been involved at Dawson Family of Faith ever since she herself was a fifth grader at Edgewood and wanted to get married in the church that had meant so much to her over the years.
From there Laura and Eric set a date of the Saturday that would kick off Spring Break, and the RSVP list grew to around 200. In other ways, though, they planned to keep the celebration simple, with Laura’s sisters and niece as the only bridesmaids and Eric’s sons as the groomsmen along with a reception at Dawson.
Just over a week before the wedding, Laura had started to hear that schools in other states were closing due to the COVID-19 outbreak. “But didn’t think it would happen here,” she recalls. “On Friday the 13th my students and I said we’d see each other on Monday, and in the back of my head I thought, ‘This better not affect my wedding!’”
But affect it it did. That same day Alabama announced schools state-wide would be closed for three weeks. Churches started cancelling their Sunday services. And the permitted event size shifted from 500 to 50 to 25. But March 21 was the date Eric and Laura had planned on since October for them to become a family of four. They didn’t want to change it. “I definitely shed tears and went through frustrations, but I tried to think the most important part was to be married and start our new family,” Laura says.
For Laura, the hardest parts of changing their wedding plans were texting their guests to tell them only family could attend the ceremony and realizing the time and money her family had invested in many of the wedding plans—including the order of 100 Auburn-colored shakers—would be gone. That and her grandparents, who are older and have health issues, decided it was wisest not to come.
But other parts of the wedding would go on as planned. Their wedding party was already small, and minister Andy Cartee had told them he was willing to do the wedding in a backyard if need be. The ceremony could still take place at Dawson just with extra space between the guests in pews and a shorter program than planned originally. The pianist was still in, as was their photographer Hillary Gamble and hair and makeup artist Madeline Hulsey. Alyce Daniel Designs simply scaled down the floral order. “It was almost like the Lord knew that all of this was going to happen and was already prepared for that,” Laura says.
At the end of the day, Laura wanted to get married and prioritized the top three things she wanted to go on. She wanted to feel like a bride in her white dress with her hair and makeup done. She wanted family pictures with the two boys to document the memory of the day. And she really wanted to exit the church in the 1984 Auburn fire truck they’d planned to leave in that Eric had driven when he was a firefighter in Auburn (he now works for Tuscaloosa Fire Department). And indeed she got all three and more.
As added surprises, family friends offered to video the ceremony so others could watch it, and some of Laura’s friends came to sit on the front steps of the church during the ceremony and were actually able to both be in the sanctuary for the ceremony and cheer them on with Auburn shakers as they exited the church. Plus, other friends had parked their cars in front of the church to take part in the celebration. “It was still incredibly special, and honestly I feel like I was able to enjoy every detail,” Laura says. “Everybody was rooting for us, and it was touching to me seeing how much people love and care for us and spent time praying for our family.”
The reception moved to a place of extra importance to Laura—the Sutherland Place home where she was brought home from the hospital and grew up. Baker Joni Dial scaled down the white cake they’d originally planned, and her parents catered Taco Mama for everyone. Dancing hadn’t been a part of the plan for the Dawson reception, but in her parents’ living room she and Eric danced to “Beyond” by Leon Bridges and she and her dad to “What a Wonderful World.”
The next day Eric and Laura left not for Costa Rica as originally planned but for a beach house on Anna Maria Island that remained open for the whole week. Seven days later they returned to Liam and Graham to start a new chapter, not just as a family but with school taking place at home for the remainder of the year. Luckily, Laura already knew what it was like to be Graham’s teacher. “We are being quarantined all together, and now I am taking on that role as mom and I am also a teacher,” Laura told us just after returning from their honeymoon. “It was perfect timing for us to start our family together and start a new normal since what I really wanted was to bond as a family of four.”