Their marriage is a thoughtful creation of a family - Darrick and Ashley Coward
Ashley and Darrick Coward
Their marriage is a thoughtful creation of a family
While many weddings are the first step to a future family, the marriage of Darrick and Ashley Coward brought together an instant family of seven. Every step of their courtship and wedding reflected the concern of two parents who put responsibility to their children first. In fact, those strongest priorities shaped their growing bond before they realized they were falling in love, Ashley said.
Raising two boys, now 7 and 9, dimmed her dating expectations, Ashley said. She was very busy as a mom and nurse practitioner. She did like Darrick when they met through mutual friends and she learned he was the father of children who are now 3, 8 and 9 years old. But his routine was similar: work (for UPS), school, ball games, home, meals, baths, repeat.
She accepted his invitation to go to a Razorback game and it was while ordering an enormous cheeseburger afterward that Ashley knew she was already feeling comfortable enough with him to throw out the silly date etiquette. “I thought, ‘I’m eating this whole burger,’” she said. When he suggested they share a chocolate shake, she said “yes!”
“She was not embarrassed at all,” Darrick laughed. “Our relationship is founded on chocolate malts!” Ashley declared.
It was on Halloween that Darrick realized he had fallen, hard. Ashley found out he was stuck at home, having a sick day. In between taking one son to a pumpkin patch and bagging treats at church, she made a run to his place (in Mansfield) and left a package of soup and crackers at his door. “I had to ask our friends where he lived,” she said.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Darrick recalled of her thoughtfulness. That’s when he realized they already wanted to take care of each other.
Soon, they carefully (and prayerfully) introduced their children at casual activities. When one of his sons acted up one day, Ashley totally related. “I have one just like him,” she said.
Blending families isn’t easy. It’s not perfect. But Ashley believes strongly, “Our kids are not ours. They’re His. God allows us to take care of them.”
The couple felt very certain by the time they decided they must marry. They planned a ceremony to include all five children.
Ashley and Darrick talked with the children about promises made before God. They wrote personal, age-appropriate vows for each one about being a loving family, to which each child answered, “I will.”
Each person poured a bit of colored sand into a framed sand sculpture, to visually symbolize becoming one family.
They married at the Loft at Stone Oak, which has a relaxed style OK for energetic kids. It all worked due to planning, Ashley said. She worked through some creative, reasonable strategies with wedding consultant Mary Ann Sandifer.
A “kid wrangler,” their familiar caregiver, got them ready. Boys wore dress shirts and bowties, short pants and tennis shoes. Formal on top, fun on bottom! Lakynn, the youngest and the only girl, was all pro in a pretty dress and floral crown.
All the kids loved having a photo booth at the reception. Ashley is sure there is at least one of their offspring in every photo.
“I just wanted it fun, bright and happy,” she said. The meal was catered; many desserts or appetizers such as cupcakes and crudités were made by family cooks or the bride herself.
Their first year as a family has passed in a blur. The gang now masters things like four game nights a week. Sometimes all kids are at home; sometimes with their other parents, but the Cowards are at every ball game, regardless. Two are on the same team. It helps!
Darrick is dedicated to church attendance as a family and Sunday meals at his mom’s. Ashley loves it – and her. They’re trying for a yearly family vacation and a couple vacation. It’s all a matter of faith and having priorities – and being a family was theirs, from the very start.
This article appears in the July 2018 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith magazine.