By Travis S. Taylor | May 13, 2016
"There are only two wedding anniversary dates that I remember: mine, and Matt and Michelle's! I remember because every year for the past five years, Matt and I have planned a time for him and his bride to return to the Fox Theatre for their wedding anniversary to reminisce about their reception that took place in the Egyptian Ballroom. I was thrilled to host them again this year, with a little help from my colleagues Travis and Dominic." – Jennifer Farmer, Assistant General Manager, Affairs to Remember Caterers.
This year, I had the great honor of meeting Michelle and Matt. It was around their fifth anniversary, in April, when they returned to the Fox Theatre once again for a special afternoon that Jennifer had planned for them. Part of their anniversary celebration was giving me an interview, letting me make some photos for them (all the ones in this article), and a behind-the-scenes tour by Dominic of parts of the Theatre they'd not seen on previous visits. Quite fun!
The interview was conducted via email, but before we get into the Q&A, allow me please to share with you a warning that Vikki Locke used to offer her Atlanta morning radio show audience: Mascara Alert!
I'm a sensitive guy, but I don't cry at the drop of a hat. However…
When I arrived at the office the day after I'd sent Michelle and Matt my questions, I found Jennifer at her desk in tears. She told me what she was reading and I thought, "Oh, how sweet," not expecting to have the same reaction. Well, a little while later, I'm back in Jennifer's office, wearing a broad smile and wiping my eyes. This truly is a romantic story!
Now, grab a tissue and a cup of coffee…
What is your first Fox Theatre memory?
Michelle: Going to see The Sound of Music with my sister and parents shortly after we moved to Georgia in the early 90s. I thought it was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen then, and it still evokes those feelings in me today each time I'm at the Fox Theatre.
Matt: I never was much of a Broadway fan, but I let a girl talk me into going to Phantom of the Opera, soon after I moved to Atlanta, after I finished college. I was absolutely blown away by the grandeur of the Fox.
What makes returning to the Fox every year for your anniversary a special occasion?
Matt: Michelle and I, like many other couples in Atlanta, live busy lives with aggressive career ambitions and chaotic social calendars that don’t allow much time for impromptu reflections on where we've been, where we're going, and all the blessings that God has granted us with.
Our traditional anniversary trip to the Fox is a time for us to be still and reflect on all of these things. As simple as it may sound, having that designated time each year, where the expectation is that we simply sit and talk, is a welcome reminder to cherish what truly matters in life.
How did you meet?
Michelle: Basically, I started out as Matt's boss. (I guess some things were never meant to change.)
Okay, true story...Matt and I officially met after he moved into River Walk Townhomes in Athens, where I worked and lived for three years when in college. He was getting his graduate degree at University of Georgia (UGA), and surprisingly had some extra time on his hands. So...he got a job as a leasing assistant in my office. This is where I came to know Matt's humor and infectious personality.
But, before we ever met face-to-face, we had spoken on the phone a few times when he initially called to lease an apartment. Come to find out, years and years later, both of us remember exactly where we were and exactly what we were doing when we spoke to each other that very first time.
I was sitting in the back office of River Walk, and as it turns out, Matt was standing ever-so-still under a pecan tree in bare feet and overalls, trying to keep a very rare cell phone signal in Tifton, Georgia. What a sight, I'm sure.
His phone call was one that I got tens of times a day from various people inquiring about apartments. But for some reason, I always remembered this one. I remember having so much fun during our conversations and never really wanting to hang up. I wondered who this guy was and got excited whenever he'd call the office to finalize move-in details.
As with any good story, there's always a catch.
We were both dating other people.
This same story went on and on for years.
We reconnected after college in the "big city"—Atlanta—on Matt's birthday. And we've basically been inseparable ever since. Matt became my best friend—the person I went to for everything important...and unimportant. We introduced our friends to each other and really became a staple in each other's lives.
After a few years—and a few "lessons in love"—I finally saw what had been in front of me all along. Who wouldn't want to spend a lifetime with their best friend? Especially the kind of best friend who knows the ups and downs (and sideways) of you...and loves you FOR these things instead of despite them. It's a dream come true!
Matt: Barefoot. In Liberty overalls. No shirt. Wad of Copenhagen long-cut in my mouth. That's an accurate description of me at the exact moment that Michelle entered my life.
A month or so from graduating from Georgia Southern University and being accepted into the graduate program at the University of Georgia, I was back home in Tifton for the summer, working at the familiar Nursery (landscaping plants, not children) before moving to Athens. Cell reception at the Nursery was spotty at best, but there was a certain pecan tree at the front of the Nursery that for some reason seemed like an amplifier for cell signals, and it turned out to be the only reliable place there for cell reception. Standing under this pecan tree and surrounded by hundreds of Crepe Myrtles I'd just potted, I phoned River Walk Townhomes in Athens to put an apartment on hold for graduate school. The young lady I spoke with sounded beautiful (we all know there's such a thing as a pretty voice), but also possessed an elegance and intelligence that made the conversation stick in my mind.
Thanks to a graduate assistantship I'd been awarded at UGA and the financial assistance it provided in return for very little effort on my part, I found myself with tons of free time—something I had not been accustomed to thus far in life, where my working days began in the tobacco fields of South Georgia and continued as I worked full-time to put myself through undergraduate studies in Statesboro.
Mostly out of boredom, I began looking for a part-time job to supplement my graduate assistant stipend. Lucky for me, I didn't have to look far—River Walk was hiring for part-time help, so I applied and was hired as a Community Assistant. It was at that time that I was reintroduced to that lovely voice I'd heard on the phone and the young woman possessing it. Michelle was my boss at River Walk, which might explain why I usually respond to Michelle by saying "Yes Ma'am" and do as I'm told!
At the time, I was dating a terrific young lady and Michelle was in a relationship of her own, so we weren't able to become very close during my stay at UGA. Regardless, I'd grown to respect this young woman and even then placed her on a pedestal because of her elegance and beauty. When graduate school ended, we both moved to Atlanta where the rigors of getting accustomed to a brand new career in a brand new and intimidating big city removed Michelle from my life temporarily. We reconnected a year later on my birthday and so started what quickly became the most meaningful friendship in my life. She was always there when I needed her, never refusing a request, regardless of how difficult or trivial it may have seemed...a devotion that I certainly reciprocated. Our times together were full of laughter and were valuable to me beyond measure.
Michelle became my best friend that year, and although feelings were always there, we seemed on a see-saw of bad timing that kept us from becoming more until nearly four years later. When she was single, I was dating someone…when I was single, she was dating someone. Regardless, as soon as we had reconnected, I can recall having conversations with my friends and family, repeatedly telling them "There's something about Michelle that feels like home." Michelle became a symbol to me—an unreachable peak at the top of a mountain that, despite my best efforts, I wasn't sure I'd ever reach. Despite being my best friend, I felt her to be out of my league! In early April of 2009, my courage finally caught up with my heart and I confessed to her on a friendly Thursday night dinner at Wisteria that I had honest, true feelings for her. We both left dinner that night not quite knowing what the future held, but we quickly learned that our journey together was destined to be a long, rich one. I knew I loved her from the start, and a few months later knew I wanted to be with her forever.
How did you propose?
Matt: With the ring selected and her parents' blessing, I finally settled on the perfect way to pop the big question. Michelle had told me multiple times that the Fox Theatre was her favorite place in Atlanta and that, since childhood, she’d dreamed of getting married at the landmark location. With the help of a lady at the Fox named Shelley, I put a plan in place that many thought I was incapable of, and even I have to admit it was pretty good!
On Friday, February 5, 2010, Michelle and I began strolling from her nearby townhouse to dinner at The Livingston Restaurant in the Georgian Terrace across the street from the Fox. Under pretense of wanting to purchase tickets for a concert that weekend, Michelle followed me over to the Fox, only to find the box office closed! A Fox employee (Shelley) was lingering around the Arcade, so we approached her as she stood beside a side-door propped open. Shelley gave her permission to check out the ballrooms in the empty building, and upon entering the Egyptian Ballroom, we found the room completely dark except for the stage lights, which shone brightly on a table at center stage adorned with four dozen long-stem red roses. At this point, Michelle was oblivious as to what was going on, but I was able to convince her to join me on stage to investigate the surroundings. After some prodding, Michelle eyed the flowers and noticed the card attached, which read, "I hope you say 'Yes'… Otherwise, I'm about to make an ass of myself."
As the magnitude of what was happening dawned on her, I did the best I could to place her on the literal pedestal she deserves by dropping to a knee, offering my gift, and asking for her hand in marriage in return. Thankfully, she said "Yes." We ended the evening on the main stage of the Fox Theatre, accompanied by no one but Shelley, our own echoed voices, and the warmth of the occasion.
The road has been long and twisted that has brought us together, and although I at times wish we could have started this part of our journey sooner in life, I realize that we usually get what we deserve in the end, but only when we're ready for it. In the time before we were together, Michelle and I learned some tough life lessons, learning what it was to love right, love wrong, and together learning how to love forever. It is because of these lessons-learned that, although we're individually imperfect, we're perfect for each other and greater than the sum of our parts. Michelle is and has been my best friend, instilling within me a desire with each waking day to be a better man than I was the previous day. Of all her excellent qualities, this alone is why I always wish for her to be my wife.
With persistence, wishes do come true.
Michelle & Matt’s First Anniversary (and others since)
Jennifer: On their first wedding anniversary, Matt called to tell me—when I was still with the Fox Theatre, before transitioning to Affairs to Remember—that they wanted to return to the Fox to relive the memories they have from their reception. I thought it was such a lovely idea that I wanted to make his vision a reality and a memorable experience, so I arranged for a special table set for them in the Egyptian Ballroom.
Sure enough, he called the following year and from that point forward, it turned into a wedding tradition. Every year I add an element of surprise for them, whether it's a special marquee message or a bottle of Fox champagne. This year I beat Matt to the punch—I called him first—and coordinated a personal photo shoot of them and a more in-depth tour than what they've enjoyed before.
What’s your favorite Fox Theatre memory?
Michelle: Probably the second anniversary we celebrated at the Fox. Jennifer surprised us with a bottle of champagne set up in the Egyptian Ballroom. We were left alone to sit on the stage and reminisce the wedding, enjoying those memories all over again.
Matt: Our wedding reception, hands down. Almost brought tears to my eyes when I looked out on the dance floor and saw my parents sharing a slow dance…the first time I'd ever seen either of them dance, let alone with each other. Only at the Fox!
You've experienced a lot that the Fox has to offer and been on some tours. What's your favorite aspect of the Fox?
Michelle: The lounge area downstairs. There is so much architecture, furnishings, and decor to appreciate. I would love to have a moment to sit, enjoy a glass of wine, and just take everything in.
Matt: The ceiling of the theatre; makes you feel like you’re standing under an Arabian sky.
What is a "must do" for others wanting/planning to get married at the Fox?
Michelle: Plan out your dream wedding shots inside various areas of the Fox with your photographer and make sure you schedule enough time the day-of to capture them all; there won't be enough time if you only take pictures after the ceremony.
Matt: Take advantage of the location. There are terrific restaurant and hotel options within those few short blocks (especially with the Georgian Terrace right across the street), and plenty of stunning religious sites within a short walk if a religious ceremony is more to your liking. Having all of these within walking distance made our wedding weekend all the more stress-free as we had lots of out-of-town guests who appreciated being able to park their car on Friday afternoon and not have to worry about it again until their Sunday morning departure.
What is your favorite Fox Theatre show?
Michelle: The Phantom of the Opera
Matt: The Lion King
If you could be a cast member in a Fox Theatre show, who and from what show would that be?
Michelle: Sandy, from Grease
Matt: Pumba, from The Lion King
If you could put anything in lights—on the marquee of the Fox—what would you tell Atlanta?
Michelle: Be a tourist in your own city!
Matt: As an Atlanta Falcons season ticket holder, it'd have to be “Rise up!”
Happily Ever After...
I "get it". As soon as I met Michelle and Matt I understood Jennifer's connection and fondness for them. They're delightful, fun and as in love with the Fox Theatre as we are. "Thank you!", Michelle and Matt, for sharing your love for each other and your love of the Fox Theatre with our readers!
"I share something extraordinary with Matt and Michelle: we both were engaged at the Fox, both hosted our wedding receptions there, and we cherish the fond memories we have from this national landmark, loving it for its role in so many lives as what dreams are made of," said Jennifer.
About Jennifer Farmer
Assistant General Manager
Affairs to Remember Caterers
Jennifer joined Affairs to Remember Caterers in July 2015 and today serves as the company’s Assistant General Manager. She successfully served as Director of Sales and Marketing for the Fox Theatre, where she called work-home for 18 years. Jennifer earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations, with a minor in Marketing, from Berry College. She currently serves on the board of directors of Pace Cetters, a non-profit professional women's networking organization with a philanthropic arm.
Story by Travis S. Taylor
Director of Communications
Affairs to Remember Caterers
Travis manages the Communications Department for Affairs to Remember Caterers, which includes internal and external communications, media relations, website, Social Media and other Communications-related responsibilities. Travis served as a Radioman in the U.S. Navy, holds a Bachelor Degree in Technical Management with a concentration in Web Graphic Design and he is a prolific blogger.