Do you ever wonder what happened to your first crush? If you met them today, would the feeling still be there? This couple reconnected 30 years after they met in middle school.
Bride: Vontriece Neal, 43, chief operating officer- banking, Native of Kannapolis, N.C.
Groom: Billy Neal, 44, truck driver, Native of Kannapolis, N.C.
Current Residence: Concord, N.C.
Wedding Date: July 22, 2023
Venue/Location: Grand Bohemian Hotel – Charlotte, N.C.
How They Met
(Billy) The first time I saw Vontriece was on our first day of seventh grade at Kannapolis Middle School. At that time, I was more concerned with what was going on in the hallways than in the classrooms. I guess you could say that I was not living up to my full potential. I saw her walking down the hall and it was over. She was gorgeous, with long hair and a beautiful smile.
(Vontriece) I will never forget that day. I was on my way to band class, and there he was, looking at me like I was a bag of Skittles. He had beautiful dark skin, wavy hair, a nice smile and a unibrow that everyone talked about. He was the nice-looking bad boy of the school.
He came to a complete stop when he saw me, but I kept going to my class. Everybody would tell me, “Billy Neal really likes you. I think he’s got a crush on you.” But he never said anything to me during all the years we were in school together. When he was sixteen, he got up the nerve to walk the five miles to my house hoping to see me, but when my father answered the door, Billy was not able to get a single word out and my dad shut the door in his face. In 2020, thirty years after our first meeting, we reconnected and began to develop a lasting relationship.
Billy and I had been Facebook friends since 2017 but had never spoken on social media. In 2020 I suffered a near death experience after contracting Covid-19 and developing blood clots. After I finally recovered, I got dressed up, took some pictures and posted them on Facebook. He responded to me by messenger, saying, “I didn’t want to be disrespectful to anyone. I don’t know if you are still married or dating anyone, but I think you are beautiful.”. I told him he wasn’t being disrespectful.
We texted one another for most of that day before he picked up the phone and called me. He told me that God told him I was going to be his wife. I was like, “Yeah, right!” He told me about his life and the things that had happened over the course of the last 30 years. He told me he had experienced a near death experience of his own. He had passed away for eight minutes, and when he woke up, it was with a newfound peace in life. He had a greater understanding of his purpose in life and had felt led to me from his very first crush. He didn’t want to miss the opportunity now, considering I was single.
(Billy) They say I am a medical miracle. An accident in 2017 resulted in an artery being severed in my arm. I passed away for eight minutes before I was revived.
There were several coincidental encounters before Vontriece and I reconnected. I was on Facebook live in May of 2020 when I saw her name pop up. I said, “Hey Vontriece,” but she hurried up and got off. Then I saw her sitting in the drive-thru of a restaurant where I was eating in June. I said hi and kept walking. When I saw the pictures she posted on Facebook, I said, “Man, I’m going for it.”
(Vontriece) We continued to talk and text every day for about a week before we went on our first date.
Their First Date
(Vontriece) There was a strong connection on our first date. We went to Stats Restaurant and Bar in Charlotte around the time of my birthday. We sat outside, talking and dancing. Although it was too early for us to call it love, other guests kept commenting that we looked like black love.
He was a complete gentleman. He opened the car doors and helped me with my seat. He was dressed appropriately and looked very nice. It was like I was with someone I had always known. I had never forgotten who Billy was. He was somehow lodged in my memory.
(Billy) She was so down to earth. It had been a long time and when I saw her, I saw her in the same way I did as a kid. She had always been a good girl and I wasn’t sure she would want to have a drink, dance or things like that. But she was game. It blew my mind. It was like my soul had always known her. Maybe in a past life I had known her, and my soul would not allow me to forget her.
This is “The One”
(Vontriece) At first, I tried to fight falling in love. I had divorced after being married for thirteen years and was enjoying dating again. Billy had also been in a prior long-term relationship. In addition to our medical traumas, his mother and my father passed away in 2019. I wanted to be sure we had both healed.
After about two and a half months, I could not hold back my feelings any longer. Billy is very smart and came to me with a plan. He told me about his career plans and life aspirations, and he did everything that he told me that he would do. I accepted him for who he was, and our love blossomed.
I think it surprised a lot of people that this “regular guy” could hold a conversation with me. “What do they have in common?” But he’s very intellectual and is a great speaker and writer. Our conversations are very powerful. We have a lot of things to talk about.
I spend a lot of time at my job talking about work, and to be able to come home and just be me and talk about regular things with someone was awesome. We definitely connected. I was able to reconnect with people from our past that he had kept in contact with and build new friendships. It was the conversations we could hold. With me he can reveal a level of innocence that is refreshing. I still see the handsome guy who still looks at me like a bag of Skittles.
(Billy) I knew she was the one the day I saw her picture on Facebook. I am a spiritual person and I know when my Creator is speaking to me. I was told that she was the one and when I was told that, I believed that and stood on it.
(Billy) My family was planning a memorial party honoring my mother on her birthday. I had already gotten the ring; I just didn’t know when I was going to ask her. My mother is very important to me, and I know my mother would have loved her. Vontriece reminds me so much of my mother. I didn’t want to take away from my mom’s memorial, so I asked my brother and sister if it would be okay to ask Vontriece to marry me at the party. They assured me that mom would have loved it.
At the appropriate time, I asked the DJ to turn the music down. I told Vonriece how much I loved her and that I didn’t want to go another day without her in my life. Then I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. She started to cry and said yes.
(Vontriece) We had talked about marriage once. I told him that I never thought that I would ever get married again, but if I did, I hope it would be with him.
I was not expecting a proposal that day. There were a lot of people at the memorial party. One by one, they had all stood and shared their remembrances of his mother. I was struck by how much she sounded like me.
When Billy stood up to speak, I thought he was continuing to talk about his mom. Then he paused and said, “I just want to say this in front of all the people I love, Baby, will you marry me.” It took me a minute to realize what was happening.
I knew we would get married one day but didn’t know that would be the moment he proposed. A few days later, I was surprised to find out that we were expecting a child. At age forty-one, I thought I was past my childbearing years and that I was likely going through pre-menopause.
(Vontriece) I’m a natural planner and coordinate many things at work. I am also a control freak. I thought, “I have done this before and know that some of it is a waste, but I wanted to make sure Billy had the wedding he deserved, since this was his first wedding. So, instead of me planning our wedding, I called SDS Events, who came highly recommended. I told them that I wanted our wedding to be as grand as our personalities and decided to step back and let them handle it. Their team delivered. I got everything I wanted, an epic wedding. It was well worth it.
(Vontriece) Our wedding was on the lawn of the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Charlotte. The weather was perfect. We had about one hundred and sixty guests. Our colors were black and gold.
We paid homage to our ancestors by having special guest light candles in their memory. Photos of Billy’s mother and my father were placed in seats of honor. We had a sand ceremony and jumped the broom. Our son was supposed to come down the aisle in a truck that looks just like his dad’s and say the bride is coming, but he fell asleep and didn’t get a chance to participate.
My most memorable moment was when we shared our vows. We had written our vows. I remember the promises that he made to me, and the way he looked at me. I knew that he meant every single word that he was saying. They were not aspirational or too extra. They were just right. The cute part was Billy wrote his vows on notebook paper. When he was ready to share them, he tapped on his best man, who was his brother, to pass them to him. We were suddenly back in seventh grade, when guys wrote notes to girls and had a friend pass them. I will never forget that moment.
(Billy) My most memorable moment was watching her enter the venue and walk down the aisle. She blew me a kiss and I just lost it. That moment still replays in my mind.
(Vontriece) Billy cried like a baby. Once I got down there and held his hand he calmed down. He still cries when he watches the videos. I guess it was the moment he had been waiting on for thirty years.
(Billy)The reception was everything and so much more. We did performances. She and her girls had a dance routine and me and my guys had a singing routine. We sang ‘Wipe Me Down’ and ‘Forever Mine’ by the O-Jays. Then I serenaded her with ‘Rock With Me’ by Bobby Brown.
(Vontriece) I hired a choreographer to help us with our routine. We wanted to keep it respectful with just a hint of sexy.
(Vontriece) We are still contemplating a honeymoon. We are thinking about spending a couple of weeks in Africa. One of our guests gave us trips to Orlando and Las Vegas, so we have several options. Right now, we are enjoying being kid-free and spending some intimate time together. We enjoy being around each other so much that this feels like a vacation at home.
We are now a blended family with eight children. There are four younger ones, who are stair steppers, and a couple of young adults who can fend for themselves.
Advice to Others
(Vontriece) If you are contemplating marriage, do not make that decision out of fear of being alone or based on your partner’s potential alone. Take your time and breathe. When planning your wedding, don’t do more than you are comfortable with. Don’t worry about what others think about your day. That is between you and your future spouse. Let your personalities stand out and enjoy your day.
(Billy) You have to know your mate before stepping into marriage if you want it to work well. Don’t try to figure each other out while you’re going through this process of planning a wedding, being engaged and getting married. You should already know each other.
Wedding Planner/Coordinator: SDS Events
Wedding Photographer/ Videographer: Cythia Ndelo Photography + Cinematography
Venue/Food: Grand Bohemian Hotel- Charlotte
Decor: Royal Angels- Charlotte, NC
360 Photo Booth: Panoramic Photos NC LLC
Bridal Gown: New York Bride and Groom – Charlotte, NC
Tux Attire: Mr. Tuxedo
Bridesmaid Attire: SHEIN
Hair: The Qween Effect
Makeup: ILuvRedd Beauty – Jada Smith
Alterations and Custom Dance Attire: Lotti Ann Williams – Kannapolis, NC
Dance Choreography: Shainyce Jones