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Hot Springs Life & Home magazine September 2012 : Page 40

Walk A Walk in the Park Park Historic Downtown Hot Springs provides a backdrop to a classic June wedding for Emily Fretz and Graham Rucker.

A Walk in the Park

Denise Parkinson

When Emily Fretz was attending Hot Springs High, Graham Rucker was busy leading Lakeside’s golf team. Thanks to a bit of serendipity in the form of mutual friend and golfing buddy Grant Shiver, introductions were made, a crush was formed, and the only thing that remained was for Graham to realize he had a secret admirer.

Whether Grant divulged the news in the discreet circle of the putting green or elsewhere matters not: Graham got the message, and he and Emily became a happy couple. In fact, their happiness in those days was interrupted only by brief, passionate spats about whose football team would win. “When you win three games a year, you have to at least beat Hot Springs,” Graham explains, laughing, as Emily adds, “We didn’t have a lot to brag about.”

Another bit of serendipity -- a golfing scholarship -- brought Graham to Arkansas Tech at Russellville, where Emily had already decided to pursue a nursing degree. Over the course of college, the pair determined they liked being on the same team, so Graham formulated a plan: a plan that, if patented, could ensure this Marketing and Public Relations student’s future career.

Graham and Emily had chosen wedding bands and an engagement ring custom designed by Lara’s Jewelers in Hot Springs, so a surprise proposal would require strategy. “It was October, and we had four golf tournaments at school,” Graham recalls. “After the tournament, we came home to Hot Springs for the weekend. I suggested to Emily that the Arlington might be starting to build their gingerbread house and that they just might be giving out free candy….” To Graham’s relief, Emily did not pause to consider that a gingerbread house baked before Halloween would grow rather stale by Christmas.

As the two strolled down the Promenade toward Arlington Park, Graham produced a gift-wrapped parcel (he had hidden the ring in his pocket). “I knew Emily wanted the Michael Buble Christmas CD,” he says. Expecting the CD, she discovered instead a Bible. Graham explains: “I had it engraved ‘Emily Lane Rucker,’ but when she saw it, she just thanked me -- she didn’t see the engraving! So I said: look at the name.”

Emily was overcome with surprise. She looked up to find Graham, ring in hand, proposing, and immediately said yes. “He wrote the sweetest note on the inside of the Bible and said it will be something that our children and grandchildren will be able to read,” Emily says.

Later, during another venture downtown, Emily and her mom Shannon Fretz were shopping at Casa Bella near Hot Springs Greenway Park. Emily spied the Farmer’s Market Pavilion and they walked over to explore the site. “We had already decided on an outdoor wedding,” she explains. She wondered if the Pavilion had ever hosted a wedding before, and contacted the Friends of the Farmer’s Market.

Emily and Graham were the first couple to reserve the Pavilion for a wedding and reception. They may have started a new tradition, for within a week two more couples decided to wed there. With catering by Belle Arti/The Regency (“They did a wonderful job,” Emily exclaims) and flowers by Phillip Evans of House of Flowers, the space was transformed for a summer wedding under the stars.

“Flowers were my biggest priority,” Emily states, “And Phillip Evans turned the pavilion into something amazing.” Emily chose a roseate palette with pops of chartreuse green -- exotic pink ranunculus and Austin English roses contrasted with green and ivory hydrangeas. Family friend Meg Meredith created a three-tier Italian cream and white cake with raspberry filling and ivory butter-cream frosting that featured ranunculus, hydrangeas and Austin roses between each layer. Emily surprised Graham with a groom’s cake that Meg crafted to resemble a golf ball lying in green grass.

Emily’s bridal gown featured a sweetheart neckline with ruched bodice and floral detail at the waist. The ivory skirt, embellished with floral applique, fell to a scalloped lace hem. Another Emily -- Emily Walker of Salon 70 in Hot Springs – styled the bride’s hair and makeup.

Emily chose summer-y comfort for her bridesmaids, and she may have started another trend: Old Navy provided the cocktail length sleeveless dresses. “I wanted something casual -- not stuffy,” she explains. “The dresses were flirty and fun.” Back Porch Monogramming crafted monogrammed waffle- weave cosmetic bags as bridesmaid gifts.

The wedding party of 200 enjoyed classical violin and guitar performance during the nuptials and dancing afterward at the reception. Good friend Grant Shiver was front and center, toasting the happy couple. “Our wedding coordinator, Randi Slick of Signature Events, works with deejay Chad Holsted of Lubas Link – he provided all the mics and uplighting as well as the photo booth,” Emily recounts. “Randi handled every detail and made everything truly fun!”

After walking down the aisle with her father Greg, Emily joined Graham as the Reverend Mark Palfreeman, their minister throughout college, performed the ceremony.

Escaping Arkansas’s record-breaking heat wave, the newlyweds honeymooned in Vail, Seasons,” Emily sighs. “It was perfect tee shirt and shorts weather.” Back home in Russellville and gearing up for Autumn, Graham is working at John Daly’s Lion’s Den Golf Club in Dardanelle while Emily is already established as a Registered Nurse at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center.

“She works in the Emergency Room – she’s amazing,” says Graham, set to graduate in Spring, 2013. They visit Hot Springs as often as they can.

“Graham was already like a son to my mom and dad,” says Emily. “And his parents, Todd and Janis, thought of me as a daughter -- we’ve been a part of each other’s lives for so long.” In a similar way, their shared hometown waits like an old friend until the next time they stroll hand-in-hand down the Promenade to Arlington Park.

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