In the world of high profile romance, fans love to combine the names of lovestruck celebrities. First there was Bennefir (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez), then Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) and TomKat (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.)
So when Bandi Powell began dating Brandon Potter, the similarity of their names was a quirky coincidence friends couldn’t resist. The Texas A&M sweethearts became known simply as “Brandi.”
“It’s always been something we thought was pretty cool,” Bandi admits.
Even their high school nicknames — BPow for her and BPot for him — were alike and sewn on the back of letter jackets.
“We like to say God knew we were supposed to be together even in high school!” she boasts lightheartedly. After a three-year courtship, the couple married on August 13, 2016. It’s a love story that began over a volleyball net on campus.
“One weekend, when the club volleyball team didn’t have a tournament, a group of us went out and Brandon and I got to talking,” Bandi recalls. “We had a lot in common but I had just gotten out of a long relationship and I wasn’t looking for another one.”
When the semester ended, the college freshman returned to her Houston home and Brandon traveled to Minnesota where he worked a summer internship at his uncle’s firm. The college friends spent the next three months having long conversations on the telephone.
“It was great because we got to know each other on an intellectual level,” she points out. “I think that’s one of the best things that could happen.”
Before Brandon started his senior year at A&M, the finance major flew to Houston and asked Bandi to be his girlfriend. When he graduated in May 2014 and moved to Fort Worth, the pair continued the relationship through letters and planned weekend visits.
Rockefeller Center in New York City became the setting for a surprise marriage proposal on January 8, 2016. Having graduated from A&M a month earlier, Bandi was in the Big Apple to celebrate the milestone with her mother, Monica Powell, aunt, best friend and Brandon’s mother, Sally Potter.
“It was our last day there and we were on top of Rockefeller Center at night to see the skyline and take pictures,” she explains.
The awestricken tourist was about to text a photo to her beau back home when she noticed bright lights rounding the corner.
“It was a videographer with Brandon,” the bride-to-be says remembering the moment her boyfriend proposed. “I was on Cloud Nine. He coordinated everything with his mom and my mom.”
The festivities continued at a nearby restaurant where the small gathering enjoyed a bottle of champagne. “Brandon and I stayed another day to tour Central Park and see the Broadway play ‘Wicked,’” Bandi adds. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”
After returning to Texas, the new college graduate moved back to Fort Worth and began planning that would eventually include 400 guests. She opted not to marry in her hometown, Houston, because most of Brandon’s family, as well as her own relatives, live closer to the Metroplex.
And her fiancé wanted the Franciscan friar he knew while attending St. Andrew Catholic School to perform the ceremony.
“Brandon’s priest growing up was Father Luke (Robertson) and he just loved him,” Bandi continues. “After finding out he was now pastor at St. Maria Goretti in Arlington, we decided to marry there. The date was available and it’s a beautiful church.”
For the reception, the couple chose the Omni Hotel in downtown Fort Worth because it suited the “simple but elegant” event they wanted. The venue’s mix of Texas charm and ultra-modern design served as the backdrop for Bandi’s bridal portraits.
Originally, the excited bride-to-be planned to wear her mother’s wedding gown because of its dramatic, long train.
“It was a dated style with long sleeves and big shoulders so we had it altered,” Bandi explains.
But after trying on the redesigned dress, “it just didn’t have that special feeling and I knew it wasn’t the ‘one,’” she says with regret. Her mother agreed and a search to created the perfect vision for her wedding day ensued.
At the bridal salon, Bandi thought she wanted a lace dress but kept spying a floor display with a very different silhouette.
“Our consultant insisted I try it on and it was just perfect,” she says remembering her “yes to the dress” moment. “It looked like someone threw glitter on me.”
The strapless ball gown by Enaura featured a sweetheart neckline with heavily beaded bodice and natural waist. The full a-line skirt shimmered with a peek-a-book layer of sequined tulle. A sheer, cathedral length veil fell over a hair comb encrusted with enamel flowers and rhinestones.
Bandi didn’t wear her mother’s dress but she saved the lace sleeves removed during the alteration and sent them to a New York jewelry maker. The silversmith transformed the pearl and lace material into two cuff bracelets.
“I put one on and I gave the other bracelet to my mother on the morning of my wedding,” says the fair-haired 23-year-old who also wore a diamond teardrop necklace that was a birthday present from her father, Leigh Powell.
For her bouquet, the bride carried a round, hand-tied bouquet of white hydrangeas, with blush colored roses and gladiolas. Her eight bridesmaids walked down the aisle carrying a smaller nosegay with the same flowers. Their long, navy dresses featured a halter neckline with sequined bodice, keyhole back and flowy skirt.
Wearing an above the ankle pink dress with pink sequin top and a band of rosebuds in her hair the flower girl, Avery Graham, held a princess wand with ribbons.
The groom wore a black tux with matching vest and tie. Each groomsmen sported a similar tux in grey with a charcoal grey vest and navy tie. Cooper Powell, the bride’s nephew, served as the ring bearer in an identical grey tux.
Following the 2 p.m. Nuptial Mass at St. Maria Goretti Church, out-of-town friends and family had time to relax in their rooms before the reception began with a 5 p.m. cocktail hour at the Omni. Two specialty drinks were offered at the bar—Potter’s Punch and Brandi’s Candies.
The menu for the sit down dinner featured chicken, steak, potatoes and salad.
“We didn’t want the commotion involved with a buffet,” explains Bandi who trusted her mother with other wedding details like the flower and lantern centerpieces.
Lights glowing from the underside of a table skirt showcased a five-tier wedding cake decorated with a cascade of pink hibiscus blooms, the bride’s favorite flower.
On the groom’s table, vanilla and chocolate cupcakes paid homage to the couple’s favorite sport. White golf balls and tees sat atop green piped icing that resembled blades of grass. A cutout of a bride and groom next to a golf cart whimsically announced Mr. and Mrs. Potter and was placed on a small, chocolate cake in the center of the dessert table.
“The party favors were real golf balls with our names and the date of the wedding on them,” the bride says. “We’re very active people — love all kinds of sports but one of our first dates was on a golf course.”
After dinner, the Omni’s grand ballroom provided ample space for an evening of dancing. For their first dance, the new Mr. and Mrs. Potter swayed to a recording of “Giving It All To You” by the country music duo Haley and Michaels.
At the end of the evening, friends and family gathered in the lobby of the hotel with illuminated fiber optic wands as the newlyweds descended the escalator. The following day, Bandi and Brandon left for a honeymoon in St. Lucia.
Married almost a year, the young bride doesn’t mind giving advice to the newly engaged. She cautions other couples not to get wrapped up in all the “little stuff” that might happen during wedding preparations. Remembering why you’re getting married is important.
“You want everything to be perfect but, at the end of the day, it’s about the marriage,” Bandi reasons adding that communication is key to making a relationship work. “In making decisions now, it’s not just about me anymore. You have to consider someone else and how it affects them.”
Still in their early 20s, the newlyweds defied statistics showing most young men and women are waiting until their 30s to marry.
“We were ready and mature for our age,” Bandi insists. “That summer we spent apart talking on the phone made a difference. Now we can talk through anything.”