As a landscaper since age 9, William Herring always understood that plants require patience, maintenance and time. It was a lesson that he also learned about relationships years later when he met Sasha Charles, the woman who would later become his wife.
The couple agree their first encounter in January 2017 was inauspicious. While studying at Eastern Michigan University, the two were on the same dating app, though both say they were busy and seldom used it.
“We met on the app,” said Herring, “and it [the progression of the relationship] was very, very slow. We talked on there for weeks, maybe months, just sending one-word messages back and forth.”
Charles recalls a similar lack of urgency on her end. “We had the driest conversations. He’d be like, ‘Where are you from?’ A week later I would text back, ‘Evanston.’”
Their first official date at a nearby Benihana steakhouse presented its own set of challenges. The two were seated side by side at a noisy communal table surrounding the teppanyaki grill. Charles, who is deaf in one ear, was positioned on the wrong side of Herring.
“I was doing the laugh,” she said. “I was playing it off, playing it cute. I was self-conscious and didn’t want to tell him at first.” It was not until their third date that Charles told Herring of her disability and confessed that she hadn’t heard a word he said at dinner.
Still, the two found a way to communicate. Herring said they discovered much about each other that evening and made a powerful connection. “We found out we were both raised in single-parent households most of our lives,” he said. “We were both raised a lot by our grandparents.” Those similarities, he added, “created the bond we have today.”
When she was 12 years old, Charles lost her mother to colon cancer and her grandparents, together with her aunts, whom she calls her “TTs,” and her uncle stepped in to help fill the terrible void. “My family really encompasses the idea that it truly takes a village,” she said.
Herring, who grew up with his mom, Beatrice, recalls his grandparents also playing a pivotal role in his life. His grandfather prepared his breakfast each morning and taught him the value of saving and investing for the future. It was his grandfather, said Herring, who encouraged him to launch his own landscaping business the summer after fourth grade.
Louie and Williams Lawn Care is now a thriving company Herring continues to own and operate in Belleville, Michigan. It is not too far from the quaint one-bedroom farmhouse the couple share on a pristine five-acre parcel of land. There is plenty of room for their rabbits and chickens and space to grow sunflowers, fruits and vegetables. Two oversized dogs, Sage and Titan, bunk in the house with them. Charles, who works as a special education resource teacher at a local elementary school, said she and Herring have plans to expand their dwelling in the future, but for now it suffices.
Although the couple have put down roots in Michigan, Charles said having their wedding in her hometown of Evanston, where her father, Louis, and grandparents still live, was always part of the plan.
She chose the Woman’s Club of Evanston for its convenient location and enduring Old World charm. The couple opted for a Bridgerton theme, encouraging their guests to dress in the style of the popular Regency-era drama.
Charles said she didn’t notice any powdered wigs among the guests at the Sept. 10 affair, but many of the ladies wore long gloves, gowns with square necklines and elaborate up-dos. Her own dress was a glittering white strapless design accessorized by a dramatic bejeweled collar. Herring wore a bespoke burgundy and ivory suit. “One of my buttons fell off because I was dancing so hard,” he recalled, “but other than that, it held up great.”
Bridgerton was the inspiration for the celebration, but the couple went off-script for other elements of the ceremony.
One empty chair in the front row beside Charles’ father was wrapped in fairy lights to emit a magical glow. It was marked with a sign that read “mother of the bride.” “That was all lit up for her,” said Charles.
In a nod to their ancestors, the two exchanged vows and then jumped over the broom, a custom initiated by slaves in the American South who were not allowed to wed legally.
The couple also planted a bright purple orchid in a cachepot provided by Charles’ father and sprinkled it with water blessed by Pastor Steven Johnson, Charles’ uncle and their wedding officiant.
The “unity plant” is a symbol of their life together, according to Herring. He admitted to being a little nervous transporting it from the ceremony to their home. “We have to treat this right,” he said of the orchid. “It represents our marriage.” Happily, he has the right training.
Editor’s note: The Evanston RoundTable is pleased to present “They Do,” a glimpse into the love stories and commitment celebrations of local readers and their relatives.
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