This love story starts a decade ago in a Winn-Dixie in eastern Kentucky. Kristina Hall worked in the office. Clinton Stacy was a stockboy.
"I honestly don’t think we spoke to each other more than two words the whole time that he worked there," she recalled.
Last month, some 10 years later—after other relationships, jobs and marriages—they would meet again at a grocery store. A judge and two witnesses would be waiting, next to an assortment of snack cakes and candy.
The couple started dating in March. By November, Clinton Stacy proposed to Kristina Hall. They talked of a small wedding, a quaint, no-fuss ceremony. He wanted nothing big, "just to be married" to this woman he loved.
So he picked up the wedding license on Dec. 26, purchased it for $35.50. The license expired in a month, but he and she felt no rush.
Every Thursday and Friday, they went to the courthouse in Hazard to make it official. But each time, the docket was chock full, the county's two judges swamped in lawsuits. Sometimes holidays closed down the courthouse. Nasty weather hit, shutting down roads and canceling court.
The deadline was upon them. He didn't want to lose the license, to forfeit the money. Penny-pinching helps, he said, and $35.50 can buy a good deal of groceries.
"We thought, you know, 'We are just going to have to chalk it up as a loss,'" Stacy recalled. "Maybe it's not just meant to be at this time."
So on Jan. 24, Hall, 35, and Stacy, 29, went shopping at their go-to grocery store, Food City, in the Morton Boulevard strip mall in Hazard.
In the parking lot, Stacy thought he saw Perry District Judge Leigh Anne Stephens. He followed inside, strolled through the meat section and spied her in the produce aisle.
"She cut down the organic foods aisle, so I kind of flanked her from the rear there and come in the front," said Stacy.
He tapped her on the shoulder, introduced himself, and said he had “a little situation." The judge said "Yes. Let's do it." But she couldn't remember the ceremony offhand.
"We get here, and she’s here, and it just seemed like fate had stepped in," the bride recalled.
A flurried few minutes followed. Stacy retrieved the marriage license from his car. The judge had her secretary fax over the ceremony. Someone readied a bouquet of roses. The deli manager was recruited to serve as a witness.
Meanwhile, Stephens found the perfect spot. Aisle 4 normally serves as a the candy, snack cakes and seasonal section. Paper mache arches hung overhead and the aisle was already adorned for Valentine’s Day, with all things pink and red and heart-shaped.
The bride walked down the aisle, the store’s canned country and pop music playing through the loudspeakers. Grocery carts and surprised shoppers gathered around.
Greetings, an invocation, a few Bible verses, vows and the ring ceremony. Judge Stephens's secretary had sent over the extended version of the ceremony. The event stretched lasted roughly 30 minutes.
Stacy gave his new wife an open-mouthed kiss in the middle of Aisle 4 to an eruption of hoots and hollers.
"After it was all said and done, we all went back grocery shopping," he recalled from the site of the ceremony on his sixth-day anniversary.
The pair even passed Judge Stephens a few times in the aisle. The deli crew went back to work and the couple drove home, husband and wife.