MARCO ISLAND — Third time is a charm. After tying the knot (supposedly) twice, in broad comedy sketches created as fundraisers, Dale Rod and Donna Melton walked down the aisle for real Friday on Marco Island.
But old habits die hard, and the couple turned their wedding reception into a casino night/auction charity event, raising money to assist the work of the Wishing Well Foundation, which grants wishes for children with life-threatening diseases. The festivities were held at the San Marco Catholic Church Parish Hall, and Dale and Donna swear that this time, they really are married.
“Everyone thinks it’s a joke,” said Dale Rod. “Nobody believed this time, it’s for real.” Of course, most couples don’t sell tickets to the reception on the Internet, and raise money, other than in the traditional sense of squeezing wedding presents out of acquaintances and distant relatives.
“This is the funniest thing we’ve ever done,” said Donna (Melton) Rod, quite a statement from the perpetrators of “Bubba and Belle’s Hillbilly Wedding” and a previous Eye-talian version, as well. “But the Wishing Well Foundation really needs funds, and that’s the closest thing to our hearts.”
The wedding ceremony itself was held at the Wesley United Methodist Church, and immediately afterward, the bridal party headed to “Vegas on Marco,” with blackjack tables, a roulette wheel, and slot machines set up at the San Marco Parish Hall. Steve Reynolds served as DJ, emcee and auctioneer, taking bids on items including a Harley-Davidson emblazoned slot machine, a flight in a 1941 Stearman biplane, and a rug valued at $4,000.
For the new couple’s first dance as actual, genuine marriage partners, he arranged the wedding party in a circle with linked hands around the pair, and spun “You Take My Breath Away.” The group included many of those who stood up for Bubba and Belle at the fake nuptials, including best man Chris Hadac, who reprised his roles as “Duane Pipe” and “Achin’ Johnson.”
“When I first came to the island, I was speaking no English,” said the German native. “Dale took me under his wing.”
“We’ve been in all the weddings,” said Tracy Gudgel, who had portrayed a pregnant bridesmaid. “The fake weddings were much more planned. We had no rehearsal for the real one.”
Another island couple much in the public view, Cindy Love and George Abounader, head of the YMCA and the Charter Middle School respectively, said they were delighted to see Dale and Donna get hitched for real.
“They’re both great. Dale’s on the board at the Y, and they both help out with a lot of causes and fundraisers on Marco,” said Love.
Several of the bride and groom’s children from previous relationships were on hand for the festivities, including Dale’s daughter Sabrina Rod, adorable in a white dress mirroring that of the bride. Dinner was catered by Kretch’s, with melon, fruit, piña colada chicken skewers, meatballs, egg rolls, and dessert, of course, was wedding cake.
Having seen Dale and Donna in action, the only question left after their most recent wedding is – how will they top it?