Country's Joe Nichols Marries Longtime Sweetheart
09/10/2007 AT 08:00 AM EDT
"Right now I feel like the happiest man in the world," said the grinning groom, who happily surrendered his status as one of country music's most desirable bachelors for the woman he calls "the love of my life."
The singer and the Texas beauty, both 30, exchanged vows at dusk in Savannah, Ga., on the 267-year old campus of the Bethesda School for Boys.
Gathered in the school's tiny Whitfield Chapel were nearly 100 friends and family members from Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee as the bride's father, Max Singleton, proudly walked his youngest child down the aisle lined with white rose petals and candles.
Nichols and Singleton's on-again, off-again courtship began in 1995, when she first saw the handsome 18-year-old from Arkansas singing in her father's Texas club, the Rio Palm Isle in Longview.
College and careers prevented a long-term commitment until this spring, when the duo decided it was now or never.
"The timing was always wrong, but in hindsight, it was probably right, because we weren't ready then," Singleton said before the ceremony. "Now is the right time. I'm so sure, I'm not even nervous."
The bride wore a form-fitting halter bodice and backless ivory sheath by Vera Wang, while the groom was in a shadow-striped black suit custom-made for the occasion.
After tying the knot, the new Mr. and Mrs. Nichols took a romantic ride in a horse-drawn carriage while their 100 guests were transported by trolley to the nearby Mansion on Forsyth Park hotel for the reception.
Following a champagne toast, cake-cutting and dancing – their first number was "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" – the couple drove through a shower of rose petals in a 1938 Buick Special McLaughlin, off to a brief island honeymoon in the Florida Keys.
When they return, the newlyweds will live in the Nichols's log home north of Nashville before the singer hits the road again to promote his latest album, Real Things.