R&B and soul singer Avery Sunshine swore she would never marry again.
So did her musical writing partner, Dana Johnson.
Not only did they fall in love, but the Atlanta couple exchanged vows — twice.
Joel Alvarado and Karcheik Sims-Alvarado met in class when both were students at Clark Atlanta University. On their first date, they went to an Atlanta soul food restaurant and talked until 2 a.m.
For Valentine’s Day, these two Atlanta couples share their stories of courtship, love and making marriage work.
Avery Sunshine and Dana Johnson
Both Sunshine and Johnson had been married before and never were expecting to say “I do” again.
One of the big selling points to marry was when they realized their children supported the union. In fact, their children “felt it would make things kinda whole for them.”
“We weren’t looking for it,” said Sunshine. “I knew (he was the one) but it became really clear just a couple of years ago. What was clear was that we never really got tired of each other. We worked together, we did everything together and it just seemed that everyone connected to us was better for it, including us.”
They met in college and worked at the same church. She was minister of music at a church where he was a musician.
Their work took them beyond the church.
He proposed during Atlanta rush-hour traffic while both were in separate cars coming back from a meeting.
Johnson said by the time he got to the house, he had gotten several phone calls congratulating him.
“It was all planned out in 30 minutes,” he said.
“Something happened when he said we’re going to get married, it just all made sense,” she said.
They exchanged vows once at the hospital bed of her ailing father and the second time during a destination wedding in front of friends, family and, they suspect, one or two strangers.
What makes their marriage strong?
“Well, for starters, we like each other! I could say that we’re like minded and that our goals are aligned... but when I really think about it, the truth is: existing with him is easy and natural. I’m just better with him,” she said.
Sunshine’s latest project, “Twenty Sixty Four,” is a testament to their love with songs like “Kiss” and “Heaven Is Right Here.”
Blending work and love can be hard at times.
“It is very difficult,” said Johnson. “The lines between work and home are very blurry. With that said, it is always important for us to communicate and listen to each other to make sure our needs are being met.”
Karcheik Sims-Alvarado and Joel Alvarado
Karcheik Sims-Alvarado had a list of what she wanted in a man.
“I didn’t want to continue making the wrong choices as I was coming into my own and understanding who I really was,” she said. “I didn’t want to partner with someone who would take me off my path. If I’m going to have someone to roll with me, it has to be someone who can help build me up on my journey but also enjoy the ride with me.”
Her future husband ”was smart with good DNA,” said Sims-Alvarado, author of “Atlanta and the Civil Rights Movement: 1944-1968.” She admired his political and social consciousness. A bonus was ”he was also genuinely nice.”
“We respect each other dearly,” she said. “It’s about respect and being kind to one another.”
Alvarado planned a stunning proposal. He would pop the question while both attended a visit by then-South African Bishop Desmond Tutu. Tutu, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, blessed the ring and the future union.
Both say communication and respect are keys to making a marriage work.
Joel Alvarado, a higher education professional, wants their relationship to be a model for their son, Nation, to emulate.
“I want my son to embrace love and recognize its power,” he said. “I want him to find a person who will treasure his love, nurture his spirit and inspire him to be great. That is what his parents aspire to do every day.”