In his poem, ‘Harlem,’ Langston Hughes asked, “What happens to a dream deferred?” This Charlotte couple discovered the answer to that question.
They had been planning their dream vacation for a while. They wanted to go to Paris, France. They looked forward to gourmet meals at sidewalk cafés, sipping fine wines and champagne, and seeing the sights of Paris. Then the world shut down because of the pandemic, putting their plans on hold. As countries started to reopen, they realized that a dream deferred is not forgotten. Instead, it expands. Paris shares their story.
Bride: Paris Johnson, 38, construction architect, native of Hampton Roads, Virginia
Groom: Michael Johnson Jr., 39, bank executive, native of Brooklyn, New York
Current Residence: Charlotte, North Carolina
Wedding Date: November 11, 2022
Venue/Location: Canopy by Hilton, Charlotte, North Carolina
Michael and I went to undergraduate school together at Hampton University, an HBCU in Virginia. However, while we were there, we did not hang out or interact, but our friend circles did. Later, when we had conversations about our undergraduate years, we realized that we were in the same places, at the same time, with the same people. Our first interaction, however was on social media.
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Neither of us used Facebook and Instagram very often, but when you see someone send you a friend request and they have one hundred mutual friends, you feel like you know that person, although you don’t. That is how we got to know each other. We had been Facebook friends for years but only knew each other’s names in passing and had a lot of mutual friends. That changed in February 2019.
He was living in Charleston then, and I was here in Charlotte. I had just taken on some construction work on a couple of projects in Charleston when he reached out to me on Valentine’s Day to say, “Hello and Happy Valentine’s Day.” I told him, “Thank you.” We just started communicating via social media.
He was the minister of music for a church here in Charlotte, so he had to be here every Sunday and one day during the week for rehearsals. I would travel to Charleston to visit construction sites to make sure our work was going as planned. After a while, we decided that we would date. For the first year, we were dating long-distance, between Charlotte, where I was, and Charleston, South Carolina, where he was.
Our first date was pretty cool. It was a two-day process. He sent flowers to my office on the first day. It was supposed to be a surprise, but because there was a lot of construction around my building, the florist had to call and tell me that flowers were coming in and ask how to navigate getting into the building. Michael was a little upset about that because it was supposed to be a surprise. We had dinner at Paco’s Tacos in South Park the next day and went to a popup selfie museum.
It was one of the most comfortable dates I had ever been on in my life. It was like being with an old friend, although we were really just getting to know one another. It was not the traditional, get dressed up, put on your Sunday best, go to dinner, and go through all the normal questions and pleasantries date. It was a jeans and T-shirt date, which was great. It was a seeing how relaxed you can be and how much fun you can have kind of date. The conversation was genuine and fluid. One of the most intriguing things to us was how much our circles intertwined; we had not known it. It took away all the stress.
Things progressed quickly from there. By the end of 2019, I suggested that maybe we should consider moving him to Charlotte permanently. He had mentioned that he liked it here, and this was a place he wanted to possibly put down roots. So, I started putting the bug in his ear, “Maybe you should start looking at some jobs here.” I felt that Bank of America would suit him well based on what he was doing in Charleston as an executive running a Fortune 500 company.
At first, he told me no. He had applied to Bank of America some years ago and never heard anything back, so no. I kept pushing it and asked him just to do it for fun. What was the worst that could happen? When he applied, they reached out to him, and he started working there right before the pandemic began in 2020. It was nice knowing that he was here. He was stationary, and we were together. Then the world shut down.
I say that 2020 was the best year of my life. I am an introvert through and through. Being able to stay home in my personal space and having him here was nice. Even before the pandemic began, I believed our relationship would be long-term. That is why I started suggesting he look for a job here. Our schedule was working, but I wanted to see him every day.
There were several things that convinced me that Michael was the one for me. One was his faith. We are both believers, but his faith has given me more faith in people and in life. That was really inspiring for me. He is also an amazing dad who has primary custody of his five-year-old daughter. That was huge. We do not hear enough about all the good dads. Michael is definitely one of them.
Michael says my diligence is one of the reasons he believed I was the one for him. When I am focused on a task or goal, I must see it through, no matter the circumstances or narrative. Variables may change, but I will persevere until I see it through. I think that has rubbed off on him and contributed to him staying driven. We provide balance to one another. He also said my smile was an added bonus.
We got engaged on New Year’s Day 2022, right after the ball dropped in Paris, France. It was perfect. We had been planning a trip to Paris for a while, but it had gotten pushed back due to COVID. We finally said, “Hey, other countries are starting to request vaccination records and to open back up for persons coming from the United States. Let’s see what the rules are going to be and if we can make this happen.” We did not want to push this trip off any longer.
We went through a travel agent to ensure we had everything we needed to meet protocol and ensure we were safe. Unbeknownst to me, Michael had a side plan to propose to me in Paris.
We went to an elegant New Year’s Eve dinner. Everyone was dressed in sequins and all things New Year’s. There was live dancing, and the energy level was amazing. It was one of the first times I have been out on New Year’s Eve because I am usually either at church or at home. It was nice to be celebrating with a lot of people. After we got to the dinner, I told Michael, “You know, if we went home tomorrow, this trip was already perfection.”
My name is Paris, so I have always studied everything I could about Paris, France. One of the things I had wanted to do on this trip was put a lock on the bridge containing the locks of love, but I had learned that they had been taken down because their weight was causing structural damage to the bridge. Another place I wanted to see was the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. As an architect, it is one of my favorite cathedrals.
We went on a tour of the Basilica before dinner. I was surprised to find the locks of love had been placed on a fence around the Basilica. Michael and I put our lock on the fence and made a recording expressing our love for one another. I was beside myself because I thought I would never get a chance to do that.
Paris does love, and they do it on a whole other level. As soon as people saw Michael had gotten down on one knee following the countdown, everyone in the restaurant started celebrating with us and bringing out champagne and sparklers. There was indescribable energy the entire night.
When I first saw him kneeling in the aisle, my initial reaction was that he was in the way because a waiter was coming. I had not seen the ring box yet. I just saw him get down like he was getting ready to tie his shoes. I was motioning to him to get out of the aisle when I saw the box and was super ecstatic. We had been talking about marriage, but not in depth. It was on our radar; I just did not expect it so soon.
Wedding planning was easy. I had been afraid to start wedding planning until I talked to my best friend, Rachel, who had used SDS Events for her vow renewal. She said they were awesome, and if you are busy, Shawon is really hands-on. She involves you when you need to be involved but allows her team to handle the day-to-day calls and setting up.
I had no real idea of how to plan for a wedding. The only thing I had in mind was a Pinterest board that I started during the seven-hour flight home from Paris. She did everything from recommending the venue to giving me a list of vendors that could make my wishes come true. We had an initial meeting where she learned what I wanted my wedding to look and feel like. She was so detailed and thorough. Halfway through the planning process, it was clear I could trust her enough to say, “whatever you say goes.”
We had eighty guests present for our wedding and streamed it to those who could not be in attendance. Both of us have extremely large families and large communities, so we could not have everyone in attendance. Our theme, ‘A Night in Paris,’ was subtle yet impactful. Our colors were black and gold, with lots of candlelight. We wanted it to be like dancing in the streets of Paris. As soon as I told Shawon what I wanted, she said she had the perfect person to bring my idea to life. Charlotte Luxury Rentals did just that.
Our wedding party was very small. He had a best man, and I had a maid of honor. Our daughter was our flower girl. We wrote our own vows, but things got so emotional we did not exchange them, instead opting to share the traditional vows. On our first anniversary, we plan to cut our anniversary cake and exchange the vows we wrote.
We took our first communion together and braided a three-strand cord. The most memorable moments for me were walking down the aisle, seeing Michael waiting there, and having our families on the dance floor together. Most of our relationship was during the time of COVID, so there had not been a lot of opportunities for our families to get together. It was a great culminating moment.
We had a big sparkler send-off. The rain from earlier in the day had stopped, so everyone was able to get outside to participate. It was beautiful.
We are still planning our honeymoon. Our wedding was in November, followed closely by Thanksgiving and Christmas. We promised to draw straws on January 1 to determine where we are going. Right now, there are two places on the table. One choice is Nairobi, Kenya, to visit the giraffes. The other is Monaco for the Formula One Races. By the end of the year, which may be for our first anniversary, we plan to go on our honeymoon.
I would definitely use a wedding planner, especially SDS. I would also encourage you to be open to all ideas. One of the things that made my experience working with SDS great was realizing that I did not know what I did not know. I had never planned a wedding before and did not know all of my options or what is trendy. Her team did an excellent job fitting my personality into the plans.
Please take a moment to congratulate Michael and Paris and wish them continued love and happiness in the comment section.
Wedding Planner: SDS Events –Shawon McClure
Venue: Canopy by Hilton SouthPark
Photographer: Jaxon Photography
Décor: Charlotte Luxury Rentals
Lighting & Pyro: Optimized Sound
Video and Streaming: J Alexander Films
Cake: The Wow Factor
Bride’s Dress: Bedazzled Bridal
Bride and Flower Girl Hair: Royalty Beauty Bar – Kristie Lavae and Ashley Mitchell
Makeup Artist: Whitney Elise
Harpist: Beste Toparlak
Custom Monograms, Signage & Stationary: The Taylored Design Co.