With Their Wedding, a Place of Pain Becomes a Site of Love

In December 2020, Courtney Beneé Archie left New Orleans to accept a contract nursing position in Newport News, Va. At the time, she was a nurse anesthetist at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, La.

Her work hours had been reduced and she needed a change of scenery.

It was the first year of Covid, so there were few places to go out. In April 2021, Ms. Archie, 39, decided to sign up for Tinder which is where, three days in, she connected with Kermit Ashleigh Lewis, 40.

It was a photo of Ms. Archie in hunting regalia that first caught his eye. “I hunt too, and don’t meet a lot of women who hunt,” said Mr. Lewis, who goes by Ashleigh. “She was glammed up in another picture, and I thought, ‘How could she do both?’”

Mr. Lewis, who grew up in Chesapeake and lived in Virginia Beach at the time, is a chief gunner’s mate with the U.S. Coast Guard, based in Portsmouth, Va. His first marriage ended in divorce.

Ms. Archie grew up in Baton Rouge and received her bachelor’s of science degree from the School of Nursing at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, and a doctor of nursing degree at Louisiana State University in New Orleans. She now works as a nurse anesthetist at Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News, Va.

For a week, they texted from work by day and talked by phone late into the night, often while Ms. Archie cooked.

“We were like high school kids on the phone,” Ms. Archie said.

A week later, they had their first date at Monsoon, an Indian restaurant in Hampton, Va.

“Ashleigh was so different, so attentive,” said Ms. Archie, who is taking Mr. Lewis’s name. “He really listened to me and asked me so many questions.”

When Mr. Lewis dropped Ms. Archie off at her apartment, she brought him a to-go meal she had made: smothered turkey necks with gravy, rice and collard greens.

“That’s something my mom would do,” he said. “I thought, ‘Who is this woman?’ She had that southern charm I just love.”

Both said they knew they had met “the one” that night.

She met his family a month later, and a month after that, he met hers. In August, Ms. Archie and her miniature husky, Piper, moved in with Mr. Lewis and his French bulldog, Stitch. “Dogs were hesitant, but they quickly realized neither was leaving,” she said.

Mr. Lewis organized a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii for Valentine’s Day 2022 with a couple who are good friends. On the beach outside of Lava Lava Beach Club, on the black lava rocks, he got down on one knee and proposed at sunset.

[Click here to binge read this week’s featured couples.]

Two months before their wedding, the couple, who now live in Chesapeake, took part in an Iroquoian wedding ceremony at the 30th annual Corn Harvest Powwow and School Day, an annual gathering for the Cheroenhaka Nottoway Indian tribe of Southampton County. The outdoor ceremony was officiated by the groom’s father’s cousin, County Chief Walt “Red Hawk” Brown on tribal land in Courtland, Va., to honor the groom’s deceased father and his Native American ancestry.

They were married Jan. 7 in front of 250 guests at the New Orleans Board of Trade, an events space near the French Quarter, by Apostle Kenneth Diggs, a founder of the Eternity Community Church in Frisco, Texas, who is also the bride’s uncle.

Ms. Archie had an unusual request when she approached their wedding planner, Audi Brown. She deliberately chose a venue near the French Quarter not for its famed joy and merriment, but because it was where many slaves were bought and sold.

“For that area to be filled with so much hurt and suffering and blood and tears,” Ms. Archie said, “wouldn’t it be nice to celebrate and bring love and happiness back to that place where our ancestors didn’t have that?”

While Ms. Brown has a strict “no plantations” policy, a Black bride who said she wanted to “reclaim the narrative,” was something new and different. She was persuaded.

Given the bride’s love of Disney films — “The Princess and the Frog” is a particular favorite of the couple — the wedding had a fairy tale theme. (The fact that the groom shares a first name with a famous frog, too, isn’t lost on them.)

“Ashleigh is so kind, and tries everything to make me happy,” said Ms. Archie, adding, “Our wedding was truly like a fairy tale.”