When Friends Fall in Love

Torie and Jotham maintained a casual friendship for many years. They stayed connected through a mutual friend until a snowstorm gave them a reason to change roles. Torie shares their story.
Bride: Torie Bethea, 34, employed- Spectrum Corporate, native of Greensboro, North Carolina
Groom: Jotham Bethea, 34, entrepreneur – healthcare and restaurant, native of Winston Salem, North Carolina
Current Residence: Charlotte, North Carolina
Wedding Date: April 22, 2022
Venue/Location: Magnolia Woods Events – Huntersville, North Carolina

How They Met

Jotham and I met in 2007 during my freshman year at North Carolina Central University. His childhood best friend, Ryan, was also attending, and we lived in the same dorm. As a result, we got to know one another pretty well, eventually becoming friends.

I met Jo when he came to visit Ryan one weekend. I popped into Ryan’s room to say hello, and he introduced us. Not long after, we became friends on Facebook, but we didn’t exchange phone numbers for more than eleven years. He was just Ryan’s friend.

By 2018, I was living in Raleigh, and Ryan and Jo were roommates. I would see Jo from time to time, usually because of our mutual friendship with Ryan, but occasionally we would bump into one another while out locally. I was visiting them in December 2018 when it started to snow. I spent the night there before going to Greensboro to see family and then back home to Raleigh. Jo reached out to me on social media when I got home to ask if I had made it home before the weather got too bad. I messaged him back that I had just walked through the door. After talking back and forth, he sent me his phone number. I didn’t think anything of it and sent him mine.

We had been platonic friends for years, but after a few conversations, I realized that Jo was flirting with me. I asked Ryan if Jo had said anything to him about me, but he said no. Eventually, we started Face Timing, and Jo’s intentions became clear. I asked Ryan again if Jo had said anything about me. He said, “He has always liked you and thinks you are pretty.” I asked Ryan why he had not told me this sooner. He said, “Well, he hadn’t said anything recently.”

Their First Date

Photo Credit: MACnificent Images, LLC

We went to the movies on our first date. We saw Aquaman and got something to eat. Since we had known each other for so long, everything was kind of casual. Joe was very much into movies, and it was something we both enjoyed.

I was a little nervous because the dynamics of our relationship were obviously shifting from being just a friend of a friend to dating. I was comforted knowing he was somebody I’d known for years. It was just a change of pace.

After spending more time together and having many phone conversations, we got to know one another on a different level. We learned about our families, childhood stuff, our interests, how previous relationships have gone, and what we learned from them. We also learned what we were expecting moving forward into a new relationship. We realized we were on the same page about what we wanted. Our long friendship before we started dating made it easier since we were already comfortable with each other. Being able to talk and communicate took us a long way.

This is “The One”

I don’t know that there was a specific moment when I realized that he was the one for me. But I did realize how at peace I felt while being around him. Everything felt very organic. We weren’t trying too hard to impress each other. Everything just felt right. It felt good to be in such a peaceful place.

I know that he started to realize that he felt a need to include me in his decision-making. He wasn’t just thinking about himself anymore. Now he was considering me and how it may affect us.

The Proposal

Photo Credit: MACnificient Images, LLC

We officially started dating in 2019 and engaged on May 29, 2021. It was Memorial Day weekend, and we planned to go to the beach to spend some time with one of my grandmothers. Then we changed our minds and Jo came up with the idea of having a cookout. He asked me to invite my friends and said he was going to invite his.

I didn’t follow directions because I didn’t invite many of my friends. He and my brother had gotten really close while we were dating. He told me that my brother and sister-in-law would be coming. I invited my old roommate and her husband and some cousins.

Jo kept asking me, “Did you invite your friends? Who did you invite?” I was like, “Really, didn’t you tell me this is a cookout?” I didn’t think was a big deal. Since I wasn’t following directions, he ended up reaching out to my sister-in-law and made her invite some people.

We had been talking about marriage before and had even looked at rings. I still did not connect the pieces when he asked me to invite my friends and family. We have cookouts all the time. The thought crossed my mind when he asked me what I was planning to wear and said that he needed to get an outfit, but I brushed it off. I didn’t want to believe that it was happening and then it not happen. Then I would have been upset and there would be no one to be upset with except me.  

Before we started eating, he took a moment to make a little speech. I immediately started to cry and turned away for a second. He was like, “Where are you going?” I told him I was not going anywhere. I just had to take a minute to pull myself together. I didn’t want to miss anything. He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

The ring he had chosen was one of the last sets of rings I had tried on. He had already talked to my stepdad and my biological father and asked them for my hand. He had also planned a dinner with our parents the next day, so we had our parents over altogether to celebrate with them.

Wedding Planning

Photo Credit: MACnificent Images, LLC

Wedding planning wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It was like a long to-do list. There was always something that needed to be done.

 We spent a lot of time online looking for venues. We only toured one venue before finding one that we liked. It had a bride and groom suite and a covered patio where the wedding could be held, so we didn’t have to worry about unexpected weather events. A couple of my bridesmaids gathered hotel information. Most of the other vendors were people that I had known. The most difficult part of planning was the guest list. Both of us have large families and lots of friends. Trying to decide who to invite without breaking the bank was a real challenge.

We had a partial wedding planner. That experience did not go as smoothly early on as I had hoped, but the wedding went very smoothly, and no one knew about the early bumps. Sometimes it felt long, but it also went by quickly. The best part of wedding planning was getting to the day of the wedding and knowing that we would be walking down the aisle and whatever stresses we had encountered were about to be over.

Their Wedding

Photo Credit: MACnificent Images, LLC

We had a traditional wedding with 140 guests. We did a memorial tribute for a few of our family members who had passed away. Other family members carried their pictures into the venue and placed them on a special table. That was a special moment for me. We had an adult ring bearer and flower girl.

Writing our own vows was important to both of us. I was anxious to hear what he had to say. We had said much of it to each other before, but at that moment, there was something a little different. It just solidified everything. Saying our vows was my most memorable moment of the ceremony. We also braided a God knot. It is three cords that we braided together and represents the unity between us and God. Ryan was our best man, and he held the center ring as we were braiding.

Jo says his most memorable moment from the wedding was watching me coming down the aisle. At that moment it became more real that he was really doing this with his person. Jo and I did not do our first look together because we wanted that moment of seeing each other for the first time to be when I came down the aisle. Instead, I did a first look with my bridal party and both my dads.

We really enjoyed our reception. Everybody had a good time celebrating with us. Our guests still tell us how much they enjoyed the wedding and the reception.

Photo Credit: MACnificent Images, LLC

The Honeymoon

We went on our honeymoon about a month ago. We spent about a week at an all-inclusive resort in Aruba. We had thought of going to Hawaii but decided that the cost was excessive. We knew we wanted to be at a beach and Aruba kept coming to mind.

We had a great time just relaxing and enjoying our time together. We didn’t do any excursions. We had been on go-mode for over a year. This was our moment to just breathe, enjoy each other and absorb the fact that we’re newlyweds.

Even though we experienced some stressful moments during wedding planning, our love for one another never wavered. We didn’t have any arguments or disagreements throughout the process. That was continuous confirmation that we were doing the right thing with the right person.

Advice to Others

Utilize the people that are there to help you. We did not ask our wedding party to help us as much as we should, and trying to do everything myself left me stressed. I even took on the responsibility of florist and decorator. I’ve learned in hindsight the degree to which brides typically rely on their bridesmaids to keep everything going smoothly.

I would also say be intentional about the person that you are planning to marry. Make sure you feel that sense of peace when you are together and keep communication open. Trust your gut.

Photo Credit: MACnificent Images, LLC

Their Vendors

Photographer: MACnificent Images, LLC – Rodney 
Videographer: Creative Impressions Media, Corp – Curtis Jr.  
Venue: Magnolia Woods Events
Caterer: Savory Moments Catering
Cake: Sweethang’s Pastries, LLC
DJ: DJTrellz – Montrell  
MC: DPtheMC – Devin                              


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