Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online

Claire Stovall and John David Clayton - May 21, 2016

Claire Stovall and John David Clayton - May 21, 2016

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For an early start, they liked coffee

Claire Stovall and John David Clayton fell in love over cups of coffee and on their wedding day, they linked arms and toasted ­– with coffee. They like feeling ready for an early start. These college students, both 20, decided to marry while they are still undergraduates.

That’s “early” by today’s attitudes, even though the couple and their families have been sure of their love for quite some time.

While they were seniors attending Southside High School, Claire started a before-school Bible study and John David met with her to join, offering to help with lessons. At the time, each believed the other was only meeting for the study. Their friendship grew.

Although they had planned to go elsewhere, both wound up attending UAFS where Claire is now a nursing student and John David majors in accounting and finance. While dating, love grew. Soon, spiritually, they were ready to join their lives in marriage.

The two wanted the consent and blessing of both sets of their parents. They knew Claire’s dad, Darrell Stovall, would be the hardest to convince. So they prepared carefully.

The first time he went to her dad’s office, John David proposed a plan of how he could provide for them and afford to live while continuing through college, along with list of reasons he loved Claire.

“He asked me to come back in six months,” he said.

“He was nice but said ‘I don’t want to think about this right now’,” Claire explained. They waited patiently through a school semester. Both are close with their parents and everyone seemed to accept that the young couple would prevail before long.

“My parents are advocates of young marriage, they married young,” John David said, “but I think at first they were worried if it really was a wise decision.” He also counseled with his own father, who is the pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church.

After the requested wait, Claire’s dad, who adores all his children, was won over by the couple’s even better-researched plans and resolve. “And I brought the ring,” John David said, smiling. The diamond was from Claire’s great-grandmother’s wedding ring.

With everyone on board, he could formally propose.

“We used to go to a lookout behind ABF when we were first dating and that’s where he asked me to be his girlfriend,” Claire said, so she was unsuspecting when he took her there on a drive. John David is a singer and songwriter, so it was not unusual for him to sing to her.

She was genuinely surprised by his proposal and moreso that he had arranged for a photographer to step out of hiding and capture the moment. They went back home where she found both their families waiting to celebrate with them.

With her mother Dawn’s help, Claire began arranging the simple, heartfelt ceremony the couple had dreamed of having. On May 21, they would be married by John David’s father, John, who himself had been married to his wife, Sydney, by his father Johnny.

In honor of the coffee dates when their love was brewed, the couple chose to have a morning wedding. A?guest list of more than 300 filled the church and balcony.

Friends and their siblings were their attendants. Two of their best friends sang “Be Thou My Vision” during the traditional Presbyterian ceremony. Claire chose natural, loosely arranged florals and sprigs of lavender tied at the pew ends, with delicate rose petals strewn on the aisle. The morning sun streamed through stained glass windows.

A brunch reception followed at Adelaide Hall, only blocks from the church. The floor to ceiling windows drenched the ballroom in sunshine on the happy party.

“We’re morning people, so we knew wanted to have a coffee bar. Because we are young we didn’t serve alcohol,” Claire said. Coffee with a choice of flavors, cream and sugar were served in pressed-glass mugs with biscotti.

An elegant buffet offered a colorful selection of hand-made pastries, fruits, deviled eggs, mini-quiches, sliced croissant sandwiches and a mocha punch.

Guests were seated at long, communal tables set with white on white linens and white tulips in clear vases.

Claire, who chooses healthy foods, had a sugarless cake made for the couple but served a traditional wedding cake to guests. The bride and groom’s cake was served on a heirloom plate used in many of her mother’s family’s weddings. A cake topper that adorned her parents and father’s parents cakes was lovingly used again.

The groom’s cake was styled as a guitar after John David’s love for music. They also provided a real guitar for guests to sign. The couple gave their guests CDs of favorite love songs.

Guests showered the bride and groom with fragrant, loose lavender petals as they left for a honeymoon cabin in Franklin, Tenn. Besides the area’s natural beauty, John David and Claire enjoyed whiling away a couple of hours in, of course, a coffee shop.

The couple will make their home here and complete their degrees at UAFS.

This feature appears in the July 2016 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine.

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