Though Clemma and Sterling Elmore have been married for nearly 60 years, the sweet couple never had a proper wedding until just this past year. The Wewoka, Oklahoma-based pair previously took part in a Notebook-inspired vow renewal ceremony that left nary a dry eye in the little white church house that members of the community refer to as “Our Place to Gather.”
Wedding photographer Stacy Welch-Christ of Mary Evelyn Photography, who was also responsible for the couple’s engagement photo shoot that went viral in 2016, tells The Knot that the vow renewal ceremony was largely Clemma’s idea.
“She had never had a real wedding and Amber, her granddaughter, called me one day and said she wanted to come over [because] she had something to ask me that she knew would melt me,” Welch-Christ says. “Clemma wanted a renewal with a real wedding dress. She wanted to be married in our little white church house that we call ‘Our Place to Gather’ and she wanted her kids there, my husband Ryan to officiate and all of our little girls to be her little mini bridesmaids. She wanted real flowers with fall colors and for all of us to feel like family.”
Welch-Christ, who calls herself a “family person,” was quick to agree. She and her family had long been acquainted with the Elmores, and she even considered Clemma and Sterling to be her surrogate grandparents, having lost her own years before. (Welch-Christ’s photography business, in fact, is named for both of her late grandmothers).
On the day of the renewal, it “rained the whole day,” Welch-Christ says, but even the weather couldn’t dampen the mood of love and family that gave the special occasion such a glow.
The couple exchanged touching vows inside the church, with Clemma donning a gorgeous long-sleeved lace gown from Moliere Bridal and Sterling wearing a crisp white dress shirt and light brown slacks with matching suspenders from Sharpes of Ada.
“I have loved you for more than 60 years. You are my best friend, my companion and the love of my life,” Clemma said as part of her vows. “I cannot imagine my life without you. You are the best husband and a wonderful dad. No one can ever replace you. I love you with all of my heart.”
Sterling, in a sweet reference to The Notebook, quoted the Nicholas Sparks novel in his vows: “You are every reason, every hope and every dream I have ever had and no matter what happens to us in the future, every day we are together is the greatest day of my life. I will always be yours.”
The couple has seen each other through sickness and health, with Sterling standing by her through her colon cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as the death of both her parents.
There was one other, equally somber occasion which called for some recognition at the renewal ceremony. In addition to the young bridesmaids and one young groomsman, the bridal party also included an honorary groomsman: the Elmores’ grandson Brandon Smith, who passed away at an early age.
“I’m so excited for them and what staying together and sticking through the tough things means to them, and the example it gives all of us,” Welch-Christ says.
The ceremony also included some lighter moments, including several sweet kisses that Welch-Christ captured covertly throughout the day. One particularly touching image shows Clemma sitting in the passenger-side seat of a faded blue pickup truck, with Sterling leaning in to kiss her.
“They spend every day together, and when we went to give her a day of being a bride at Moliere Bridal, Clemma said that as she was leaving that Sterling told her he already missed her,” the photographer says. “Of course we all melted because it’s just so sweet that they still enoy each other and being around each other that much. They rarely spend any time apart and love being together and spending their days side by side.”
When asked what advice she has to give to couples hoping to go the distance with their marriages, Clemma’s wisdom is simple: “You have to work in a marriage and show respect for each other and show your love for your spouse. We tell each other through the day, ‘I love you.’”
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