A Wedding Story: Couple wins contest after detailing hardships

Sometimes, something borrowed and something blue doesn’t always make for a fairy tale wedding.

In Michelle Williams and Darnell Hall’s case, a contest-winning wedding worth up to $30,000 with all the fixings will do the trick.

The two won the PattyCakes Wedding Cake Competition, which offered a free wedding for those unable to afford one.

And for the couple of two years, it came at a time when they needed it -- money was tight, bills were piling up and they were feeding five kids on one income.

But it wasn’t just the hardships that won the two the contest.

Patty Green, owner of Atlanta-based PattyCakes Creations and contest sponsor, said she was most impressed that groom-to-be Hall wrote the entry letter.

“His overall humbleness, his desire to really be married, and his love for her … and them wanting to get married and do all of this before February, that was just wonderful for us to partake in,” she said.

But Hall, 34, said he was just being sincere and thinking of his fiancée when he wrote the entry.

“When I wrote it, I wasn’t thinking about the contest,” he said. “I was just telling my story.”

Hall’s letter to Green begins with him touting his affection for Williams, making for a sweet story. But when the couple's financial hardships are detailed, reading it may just bring you to tears.

Hall writes of how he and Williams, 29, have set aside savings for the wedding, but every time they turn around, a bill or other financial roadblock, such as Hall losing his job, arises.

“We have been planning this wedding for almost two years now, but we keep having to put it off because of money problems,” Hall stated in his entry letter. “It hurts me the most because I am a man who can’t take care of my family the way that I want to.”

Hall, who was working as a police officer in Macon, had relocated to Atlanta to be with Williams. The couple, parents of a 3-month-old,  soon started planning for a wedding. This will be the second marriage for Hall, who has four children from a previous relationship, and the first for Williams.

But just as things seemed to be going well, Hall, a father of five, lost his job.

Not soon after that, the couple found out Williams, a staff sergeant with the U.S. Army, would be sent to Korea for three years in February 2011.

In order for them to be overseas together, they would have to be married -- something that didn’t seem foreseeable with their finances.

Hall said every time they turned around, something more pressing came up, forcing them to put their wedding on hold.

“We’re not trying to have a $50,000 wedding,” Hall said. “We’re trying to have it where the family can enjoy [the wedding] and it not be a financial burden. We sat up crying every night.”

On June 23, Hall and Williams decided on going to the courthouse to marry.

The very same day, they spoke with LaMeeka Edwards, the owner of Cakes by LaMeeka. She overheard them discussing money matters and told them to write to Green about their situation.

“I called him the next day, gave him the information, and he called Miss Patty,” Edwards said. “And here we are.”

That night, Hall wrote the letter, the couple’s last cry for a dream wedding. One day later, the couple was told they had won the contest.

“After reading his letter, then I understood why he didn’t want to go to the courthouse,” Edwards said.

Williams said Hall's letter surprised her.

“I didn’t know he even submitted it,” she told the AJC. “I read it after he submitted it and he brought me to tears because it was so true the way that he told it.”

The wedding will be held at the Clarkston Conference Center at DeKalb Technical College on Sept.12 and will include wedding attire, a private reception, a photographer and a wedding cake.

Still taken aback by the win, Hall said he considers it a blessing.

“I’m still trying to get over it myself,” Hall said. “It’s like a dream come true."