Does absence really make the heart grow fonder? Dana Mahan and Steve Bearden would answer a resounding “Yes!”
After four and a half years apart, the long-distance sweethearts finally tied the knot September 9, 2017 in Springtown. The pair met at Parker University - a Dallas chiropractic school - in 2012.
“He was at the end of his program and I was just beginning mine,” says Dana, who earned her undergraduate degree in business law and kinesiology from the University of North Texas. “And we were both dating other people.”
Required to adjust another student’s spine as part of his clinical training, Steve quickly formed a friendship with Dana, his quasi patient. The pair shared a love of boxer dogs, old trucks, working out and Ducati motorcycles.
“He’s incredibly hilarious and keeps me laughing,” says the 31-year-old describing what attracted her to the one-time University of Oklahoma offensive lineman.
After breaking up with significant others, the couple went on their first date to look at the elaborate Christmas displays and eat dinner in Grapevine.
“We walked down the main strip and it was freezing,” Dana remembers. “But it was too early in our relationship to hold hands or do any cuddling.’‘ The following month, Steve moved to Tulsa to work in another chiropractor’s office, “and that was the beginning of our long distance relationship,” she explains.
After graduation, the newly-minted chiropractor moved to the little mountain town of Evergreen, Colorado to open his own practice. At the same time, Dana transferred to a school in Georgia and found herself even further away from her new beau.
“We decided early on we weren’t quitters and set up guidelines to make it work,” she says. “It not only worked, we became stronger and closer than ever.”
Unable to communicate in person, the separated lovers became really good at talking out their problems. Their list of ground rules included never getting off of the phone angry and never cussing at each other.
“It was important to remember that we never intend to hurt each other,” Dana explains. “And we always apologize. It’s never one person’s fault.” The couple also visited regularly.
“We never went longer than 10 weeks without seeing each other,” she continues. “It gave us something to look forward to and rejuvenated us.”
Between rendezvous, the pair spoke on the phone, texted every single day and sent each other packages, love notes and little gifts. But Dana’s favorite way to connect with her boyfriend was their “long distance dates.” “Steve would go to a Buffalo Wild Wings in Colorado and I would go to one in Georgia on a Saturday night - usually to watch a UFC fight - and we’d text and send pictures to each other,” she says describing the ritual. “We’d order drinks together, wings together and talk about the fight all night. It wasn’t much but we both looked forward to it.”
Friends were naturally curious about the arrangement.
“Initially, everyone told us it wouldn’t work because it never does,” says the native of Rio Hondo in south Texas. “I just never got caught up in the negativity.”
Dana finished her studies in Georgia and was planning to begin a three-month internship in Santa Rosa, California when the unexpected occurred.
After dinner with her parents, Deena and Skip Mahan who live outside McKinney, they all decided to drive to downtown Grapevine and view the Christmas lights.
“As soon as we parked, I saw a park bench surrounded by Christmas trees and wanted to take a picture,” Dana recalls.
As the perky brunette sat down to pose for the photograph, her beau came towards her and started fumbling with his cowboy boot. As her parents stood by, Steve pulled out a ring box.
“He just said simply, ‘Dana, will you marry me?’” she recollects. “I was in shock. He always said he would never propose on Valentine’s Day or Christmas because girls expect it. So hearing those words on Christmas Eve was a surprise.”
The new fiancée was eager to start wedding plans but postponed choosing a dress and finalizing other decisions.
“I wanted my focus to stay on chiropractic school and the patients I was treating,” Dana explains.
Her March graduation coincided with another major life event. Dana broke her wrist in a car accident and the injury required surgery. The operation, performed by a specialist, dipped into the wedding budget.
But, thanks to finding the perfect venue, the couple and their guests enjoyed a wedding that was affordable, stylish and homey. Oak Knoll Ranch in Springtown was a little farther away than other places they considered.
“But, as we were driving, we came over a hill, turned a corner and you could see this bright red barn off in the distance,” the bride says painting a picture of the rustic setting. “An old fashion chapel was right next door. We fell in love with it on first sight.” The white shiplap chapel, furnished with repurposed pews and stain glass windows, was the setting for the brief, Christian-based service officiated by pastor Eric Johnson.
For her walk down the aisle, the bride chose a silk Dupioni wedding dress by Paloma Blanca. The sleeveless, draped V-neckline featured a beaded insert. Side pockets, in the full, box-pleated skirt, concealed a blue, embroidered handkerchief given to the bride by her mother. She also wore her great grandmother’s bracelet and a single pearl necklace - a birthday present from the groom.
A hand tied bouquet of bright red roses popped against the white ensemble. Her bridesmaids wore knee-length, one-shoulder cocktail dresses fashioned from gold sequin material. Their hairpieces were a gift from the bride.
Custom-made black suits, designed for the groom and groomsmen, reflected the wedding’s red, black and gold colors. The groom wore a red vest. Gold vests were chosen for the groomsmen.
The couple’s eight nieces and nephews participated in the wedding as ushers, sign carriers, lector, flower girls and ring bearers.
Diverting attention away from the wedding party, was Dana’s 11-year-old boxer, Cain. A cherished part of the family, the crippled pup limped down the aisle using a wheel chair on his back legs.
“I went through a lot of tough times with Cain,” the dog lover adds. “At first he didn’t like Steve and chewed up his belt and wallet. Now we’re like mom and dad.”
Wearing batman socks, the canine stole the show, the bride admits.
During a cocktail hour following the ceremony, guests enjoyed music from a self-playing piano and wandered through the paneled barn looking at the vintage décor.
In the dining room, white tablecloths, with black and gold runners and pearls, showcased various arrangements of rose-filled vases, lanterns and candle centerpieces. A buffet-style menu of barbecue brisket, sausage and salads was served. Dessert was a three-tier Italian cream cake, decorated with cascading red roses and a black silhouette image of a kissing couple with their dogs.
After dinner, friends and family danced to old country standards by George Strait, Alan Jackson and Merle Haggard.
Ingrid’s, a small German restaurant in Oklahoma City, provided the groom’s favorite German chocolate cake. Fresh strawberries covered the single-layer sheet cake. After a final dance to Lady Antebellum’s “Heart of the World,” a phalanx of guests held sparklers as they bid farewell to the newlyweds. “We used my truck as a getaway car,” Dana says.
The new Mr. and Mrs. Bearden put off a honeymoon so the bride could study for her state certification exams. They currently reside in Oklahoma City close to the groom’s father, Larry Bearden.
But living in The Sooner State is only temporary, the native Texan promises. The chiropractic duo agreed to one additional ground rule. “We’re moving back. I told Steve he has to marry me and bury me in Texas,” Dana says with a chuckle.