Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online

Chapel of Love

Chapel of Love


Danielle Spoon and Chris Ross


Fort Smith – July 23, 2011


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Danielle Spoon believes she and Chris Ross may have been destined to marry since the day they met in Norma Hopwood’s ninth-grade geometry class at Coleman Junior High in Van Buren. A year ago this month, they they fulfilled that destiny in a flower-filled wedding chapel created by their families and friends in the Fort Smith Convention Center.


Chris and Danielle dated throughout high school and college and he proposed to her before they began their senior year at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, where they graduated in May 2011.


Chris first popped the question to Danielle – in frosting – on a decorated cookie he presented her during what she believed was a surprise party for her 21st birthday. But the party’s real surprise was going to be Chris proposing to her in front of about 50 of their family members and friends gathered for the occasion at a Fort Smith restaurant.


When Chris handed Danielle the birthday cookie, at first she didn’t notice it had “I love you, will you marry me?” written in frosting. So when she saw Chris drop to one knee and hold out an engagement ring, she was so surprised, it took her a few moments to be able to say yes.


The couple decided to wait until the next year to get married.


“We wanted to be finished with college and Chris knew I had always wanted a huge wedding, so he wanted to give me a year to plan it,” Danielle recalled. “At first, I didn’t realize how much time and work it really would take. But it took every bit of a whole year and the help of lots of family and friends.”


The first thing the apparel studies major wanted to do was shop for the perfect wedding dress. Three weeks later, she got lucky by finding a lovely gown with a removable train that converted the gown into a shorter dress for the wedding reception party and dance.


Every step was special 

To make the shoes she wore with her dress special, Danielle attached to the pumps by hand jewelry given her by some of the most important women in her life – her mother, several aunts and both of her grandmothers, Betty Bell and Lorraine Spoon. Her grandmother Betty died just a few months after she and her husband, Gene, attended their grandaughter’s wedding.


Danielle and Chris wanted a nice church ceremony and a reception area with enough space for a dance floor and dinner buffet for more than 400 guests. They did not want the ceremony and reception at separate locations.


Their solution was to rent two rooms at the Fort Smith Convention Center. 


Danielle’s mom, Robbie Spoon, accepted the challenge of making one of the bare rooms resemble a church.


“We worked very hard to make a blank space seem like a chapel,” Robbie said. 

“My nephew, Drew Defffenbaugh, cut out and created a 10-foot wooden cross to serve as the backdrop for the ceremony. It was the focal point of the ceremony room – along with a lot of flowers.”


“I know nothing about flowers and am not the least bit interested in knowing about flowers – and I know that sounds wrong, since my mom’s a florist, but it’s true,” Danielle said. “So, I put mom and her designer in charge of all of that, and they really did look wonderful.”


Robbie said the wide variety of plants and flowers used for the wedding and reception included fresh hydrangeas, snapdragons, larkspur, ginger, gardenias, dahlias, lots of roses and tropicals, and orchids flown in from Hawaii. Her floral designer, Jan Pendergrass, also made a large Razorback out of red carnations for the groom’s table and a topper of hot pink carnations for the 4-foot-tall, revolving cupcake tower made by Danielle’s uncle Dan Deffenbaugh. The cupcakes were served in addition to a traditional wedding cake.


“My favorite part of the wedding was having Steven Smithson, our former youth pastor at First Baptist in Van Buren who now pastors a church in Louisiana, come back to marry us,” Danielle said. “He did our pre-wedding counseling, too, but since he was in Louisana we had to do it by Skype. That seemed a little strange at times, but Chris and I really appreciated and enjoyed it.”


Planning the wedding while finishing her last year of college turned out to be more involved than Danielle had expected. But with the help of her family and friends, everything turned out just as she hoped it would.


“Chris and I just wanted everyone to have fun and everybody seemed to really enjoy dancing and visiting at the reception party. The food was great and so was the wooden dance floor. Oh, and Mrs. Hopwood, our ninth-grade geometry teacher, was there taking credit for Chris and I first meeting in her class. She also gave us one of our dearest wedding presents. It looked like an ordinary glass pie pan, but in a hand-written note with it she said since Chris and I had first met in her class, it seemed she should give us a ‘pi’ dish for our wedding. Now, every time I make a pie in that pan, I’m sure Chris and I will remember Mrs. Hopwood.”


Chris teaches physical science at the same junior high where he and Danielle met – except the remodeled building is now named Van Buren High School Freshman Academy. Danielle is a substitute teacher in the Van Buren School District as she continues to look for a permanent teaching position.







Bride's dress – Low's, Brinkley, Ark.

Bride's cake – Jenifer Olienyk, friend of the bride

Groom’s cake and cupcakes – Sweet Boutique, Van Buren, Ark.

Catering – Golden Corral, Fort Smith

DJ – Sam Bradley, Van Buren, Ark.

Flowers – Williams Florist & Gifts by head floral designer Jan Pendergrass

Bridal bouquet – Robbie Spoon, mother of the bride

Harpist – D'Ann Brumett, Van Buren, Ark.

Invitations – PAC Printers, Van Buren, Ark.

Jewelry – Helzberg Diamonds, Tulsa

Venue – Fort Smith Convention Center

Rentals – Unforgettables, Fort Smith

Signs – Don Moore Signs, Fort Smith

Travel planning – David Sims, Great Escapes Travel, Van Buren, Ark.

Tuxedos – Beau's, Fort Smith

Photography – A Moment Captured Photography by Shannon Walker


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