People sometimes stumble across the love of their life in the most random of situations, and that’s what happened when Cindy Roddenberry and Courtney Sotherland met for a routine business lunch in 2011. The two were store team leaders for Target in Baton Rouge just meeting to get to know one another. And did they ever.
“It was an immediate connection,” Courtney says. Within six months, it was Easter weekend and they stuck to that theme for the engagement. “Cindy had made this little Easter egg assortment,” Courtney says. “The smaller eggs each had a little note in them about why she chose me and why she loved me. Then the big egg was my ring.”
They celebrated afterwards with lunch at the Londoner Pub, the site of that first fateful meeting. Eventually, the couple moved to Atlanta’s Ormewood Park neighborhood where they now reside. But when it came to planning the wedding, they hesitated.
“Neither one of us thought that we would have the opportunity to have a traditional wedding,” Courtney explains. “And growing up in the South, that’s something that was very, very important to me and something that kind of hurt when I realized that I wanted to marry Cindy because I just didn’t think that I would have that opportunity when I realized I wasn’t going to marry a man.”
They talked about going off to California and eloping, concerned about how much acceptance they would receive from their friends and family. “It was almost fear-based—if we don’t even put ourselves out there then we can’t be rejected by family or friends,” Courtney says. “But both sets of our family and parents really encouraged us to have a special wedding, an actual wedding.”
So they booked the Payne-Corley House, a restored farmhouse on four acres of land in Duluth. And the concerns about acceptance were all for naught. Typically around 20 to 25 percent of people decline wedding invitations, but nearly all of the 80 people invited were there to celebrate the couple.
“Everyone from Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, Florida, just everywhere along the Gulf and Southeast [came],” Cindy says. “It was amazing.”
After the ceremony and the couple’s first dance (“One and Only” by Teitur), the party was on, with the brides’ family members, many of whom were in Special Forces, hitting the dancefloor with abandon. “They were just dancing with unabashed joy. There have never been so many lawnmowers being cranked on a dancefloor,” Courtney says laughing, referring to the dance move for those who are lacking in moves.
Making the commitment of getting married changed the couple in unexpected ways, with Cindy saying it changed the way she viewed Courtney. “The love was always there and very intense,” she explains. “But my desire to be a good person and a good partner became very clear to me, and that I had that level of accountability and love in the relationship, I wanted it to be everything that she wanted it to be and that we had talked about and dreamed of, individually and separate.”
For Courtney, it was a passing moment as the reception was winding down and the couple was getting ready to leave for their hotel.
“[Cindy] was standing next to me talking and her sunglasses were on the floor and I thought, ‘I am now responsible for making sure she always has her sunglasses,’” Courtney says. “I don’t know what it is, but that was something that really resonated, with the fact that, ‘I am now married. I am now responsible for you.’ It was something as simple as a pair of sunglasses.”