WHEN KENNY ROGERS spotted Wanda Miller at an Atlanta restaurant in 1993, it was love at first bite—for the silver-haired singer, anyway. Miller, 30, then a college student moonlighting as a hostess, recalls that Rogers was "very nice" but didn't suspect she'd caught his eye. "Later," says the Valdosta, Ga., native, "I got this message from my boss that said Kenny had called me. Since they're always playing jokes on me, I threw it out." Luckily for both of them, the Gambler didn't fold 'em just yet. "She had the most beautiful smile," says Rogers, 58. "I just had to meet her."

His persistence paid off. On June 1, after a four-year courtship, Rogers and Miller, the daughter of Tina and Charles, a railroad engineer who bears a resemblance to Rogers, were wed on the singer's ranch near Athens, Ga. With 150 guests looking on and rain beating a quadrille on the roof of the estate's iris-bedecked, 90,000-square-foot barn, Miller glided up a runway in a white-satin sleeveless gown with a pearl-beaded bodice and 10-foot train. Rogers didn't just say, "I do." He sang it. "I'll give you the future," he crooned from a new song the bride inspired, "if you'll forgive me my past."

While it was Miller's second marriage (her first, to an Englishman, ended in 1994), Rogers had taken four brides before, the last being former Hee Haw regular Marianne Gordon, and fathered three children—Carole Billingsley, 38, an art-gallery sales rep; Kenny Jr., 33, who scores films; and Christopher, 15. The bride's mother—at 56, two years younger than her new son-in-law—didn't like the age gap at first. "But as time went on we learned to love him," she says. "And Kenny is making Wanda so happy."

Kenny is also having a Wanda-full time. Says her twin sister, Tonia: "They are like high school sweethearts. Kenny is so young at heart." As Kenny's brother Randy, an executive for the Kenny Rogers Roasters chain, puts it: "Just the other day he was bungee jumping and parachuting. I think that's strictly Wanda."

KYLE SMITH
MARISA SALCINES in Athens

  • Contributors:
  • Marisa Salcines.