Love in the Fall: Michele and Charles Alley
There comes a time in a loving relationship when both people know they will be married. Michele Marsh was waiting for her love, Charles Alley, to propose. He wanted to propose. It just wasn’t happening.
One evening, he blindfolded her in the car and drove to the Movie Lounge, which had just opened. “I just wanted to surprise her with a new restaurant,” he said.
“So mean! I cried!” said Michele. Actually he was still scheming. He thought about having an aerial banner flown over a Razorback game but that was too expensive. Co-workers at Arvest Bank helped him choose halftime at the Northside vs. Southside game. (He and Michele had attended opposite schools.) His co-worker Maria Lau’s daughter was an SHS cheerleader and she became one of his key helpers.
Maria goes above and beyond in everything, Charles said. “She took off, making signs, setting things up.” Both schools’ cheerleaders were in on it.
Michele simply agreed to go to the game. It wasn’t out of the ordinary. “His parents had been asking us to come to a game and sit with them,” she said. She knew that Charles’ mom had invited her parents, too.
During the first half, Charles sat there feeling his confidence eroding. She had seen his co-workers and boss coming in. Had she caught on? “Now it seemed last-minute to me and my nerves were shot,” Charles recalls. “All of this was riding on cheerleaders – what if one of them fell or dropped a sign? It wouldn’t make any sense!”
Just before halftime, he made an awkward excuse to leave his seat. His mom distracted Michele, who wanted go along.
“I don’t get nervous about a lot of stuff,” Charles said. “But sitting down there on the field, hiding, I could feel my heart start pumping.”
Michele noticed that her dad was videotaping the cheerleaders, which she found odd. Then he rather firmly asked some ladies in front of them to sit down because they were blocking his view. Suddenly Charles’ mom, “the sweetest lady in the world,” she said, “practically shoved them down into their seats.”
Confused, then she heard and saw the cheerleaders yell “Will ... you ... marry ...”
“I turned to Charles to say ‘look what a great guy that is!’ and saw he wasn’t there,” Michele said. “And then he ran out on the field holding up the last sign that said “Me?”
She somehow found her way down to sideline, crying all the way, not hearing the applause and ‘awws’ from the crowd in the bleachers.
“It just flashed by! I think I was nodding yes even before I got there – he couldn’t remember if he got down on his knee,” she explained.
Fortunately, news cameras and hired photographers were on the scene. Afterwards, the newly engaged couple went to their favorite gathering place, Papa’s, and watched themselves on the 10 p.m. Channel 5 newscast. Then they stayed up all night choosing a date and planning their wedding.
Another football game would be a factor. They chose Sept. 21, 2013 for the wedding because the Hogs would be playing at Rutgers.
“I love fall, it’s my favorite season. To me a vintage theme is fall – simple lace and burlap, mason jars and candles,” Michele said of her wedding theme. She wanted guests to be comfortable at every part of their wedding celebration.
Charles was Michele’s partner in planning, but her number one helper was her mother, Tia Marsh, she said. As the last of four siblings to be married - two of them in 2012 – Michele said her mom is now “a pro.”
Their rehearsal dinner was held in the style of a Razorback tailgate, held at the striking Hanna Oil & Gas headquarters. Marilyn, Charles’ mom, is the executive assistant to Bill Hanna as she was to his father, Jim Hanna. The Hannas extended the young couple several gracious favors, Charles said appreciatively.
Arkansas tents were set up in the building’s attractive stone patio, Pink Flamingo Barbecue catered and guests played tailgate games. It was casual and lots of fun, Michele said.
Charles helped choose cupcakes instead of a wedding cake. She used her grandmother’s cake topper on the top tier, their small keepsake cake.
On their wedding day, Charles and his groomsmen went to shoot skeet while the bridal party got dressed together in a leisurely way, again at Hanna headquarters. Michele gave her bridesmaids monogrammed shirts and served mimosas while worrying Charles would shoot himself.
Before the ceremony, she gave him her gift of a digital camera and he sent to her a pair of turquoise and diamond earrings for “something blue,” along with a delicate diamond necklace. Instead of a “first look” they exchanged love letters.
At the altar before the bride appeared, Charles let out a huge, audible sigh that had the guests giggling hysterically.
“You can hear it on the video,” Michele said. “I had to take it all in!” he protested.
When she came down the aisle, they both began to cry. They exited the church with radiant faces.
Their reception was held at the parish hall, catered by a private group “who do this only for friends,” Michele said. “They’re amazing.”
They danced with their parents as soon as they arrived. Michele noted that this allowed those who were not able to stay longer the chance to leave (with cupcakes!) Typically, they barely remember the party. They love the “Beaty Booth” photos their photographers took, so they could see all the guests.
Their guest book was a photo book made from their engagement pictures, allowing guests enjoy the photographs as the signed the book.
To drive away in style, Bill Hanna let them take his silver Porsche. Charles practiced beforehand so he could be cool when pulling away from the reception – he said it wasn’t easy!
The couple stayed in town a few days afterwards, opening gifts, making a thank-you list and packing for their Cancun honeymoon. They recommend staying home at least a day before traveling and also liked the “all inclusive” resort, which they had saved to reserve.
“We got a huge suite with a hot tub on the balcony overlooking the ocean,” Michele said. “The room had champagne and chocolate covered strawberries and a letter that said ‘Mr. and Mrs. Alley’ – for the first time! It made me want to cry! I took a picture of it and saved it.”
Mr. and Mrs. Alley plan to go back again to Cancun someday. In the meantime they are at home in Fort Smith, where he is still with Arvest Bank and she works for ABF MultiModal. This year they have moved into a new home they chose together.