Love Lift Us Up

by | Feb 1, 2011 | Bridal

Story by Holly Ruppel

When Brenda and Thomas Irmer met 11 years ago, neither had any idea they would ever be married to each other. They were both married to other people, and between them, had three children.
At the time, Brenda, who works as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at Millard Henry Clinic and Thomas, who is full-time military and works as a communications staff sergeant in the Arkansas Army National Guard, were just friends. They enjoyed hanging out together, and offered a supportive ear to each other through some difficult times, but never saw their relationship as anything more than platonic.
After some time, Thomas and his wife divorced and he was deployed to Iraq to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004-05. During that time, Brenda and her husband divorced, too.
When Thomas returned home, he and Brenda started hanging out with each other a little. Brenda’s divorce had left her in low spirits.
“I was at my lowest,” she recalled. “I didn’t think I could do anything by myself.”
At this crucial point in her life, she decided to do something to empower herself and started going to a women’s self-defense course at River Valley Martial Arts. Brenda wanted a friend to accompany her to the classes, so she asked Thomas to go with her. He’d always wanted to learn martial arts, he said, and he wanted to be there for Brenda, so he went along and started taking classes, too.
As Brenda’s inner strength increased, so did the couple’s feelings for each other. The pair was soon spending more and more time together, and they began to realize their feelings for each other were stronger than just friendship.
Because of the failure of their past relationships, both Brenda and Thomas were hesitant to take the next step in their new relationship. Brenda was scared to make the leap to getting married. She and Thomas did some soul searching, and after some introspection and much discussion between them, they decided to take the chance.

Thomas said he and Brenda asked themselves, “Can we walk side-by-side in this world together?”
“I just can’t think of anybody that I’d rather do that with,” he said.
He indicated he felt confident taking that chance with Brenda.
“She was still standing here next to me after knowing all my faults,” Thomas said of Brenda.
“He was there for me,” Brenda said, “while I was there for him.”
One thing that made it easier for the couple to take a chance on marriage is that they had become best friends.
“If anything else,” Thomas said, “you hope to marry your best friend.” He marvels at the fact they didn’t realize it sooner.
“For ten years, I didn’t realize I’d been looking at my best friend,” Thomas said.
Their families are the most important part of their lives, Thomas and Brenda said. Thomas has two daughters, Amber, 22, and Anna, 20, and Brenda has a son, Will, 7. The couple loves spending time with their children and their extended families.
To make their engagement even more special, Thomas waited until a visit to his family to ask Brenda to be his wife. They were together to celebrate his uncle’s 50th birthday and his mother and father’s wedding anniversary.
“It was very important to me to have my family (there,)” Thomas said.
Brenda said she was so caught up in the celebrations, she had no idea Thomas was going to propose.

“The fact he proposed on that day made it even more magical because I didn’t know,” she said. “I got the biggest surprise of my life.”
The pair agrees that martial arts played a key role in their blossoming relationship.
“That was our central interest,” Thomas said. “It did bring us closer together.”
Since they both had traditional marriage ceremonies in the past and it didn’t work out, Thomas and Brenda knew they wanted to do something different.
Not only did the couple break tradition with their wedding bands, choosing silver instead of the gold ones they had both worn before, but they chose a singular venue for the ceremony: the River Valley Martial Arts dojo.
‘What better place in the world,’ they thought, ‘than the one which helped them fall in love.’
Thomas asked owner/instructor John Terry to officiate the ceremony. Brenda said she knew they were getting married, but she didn’t know which date and didn’t find out until the morning of the wedding.
On May 28, 2009, still wearing their white karate uniforms, Thomas (a 3rd stripe white belt) and Brenda (a yellow belt) exchanged vows after completing their class for that day.

The couple’s families were present for their vow ceremony, but their fellow students also stayed to witness the exchange.
“It’s nice to know that our fellow karate students were willing to stick around and celebrate with us,” Brenda said.
To celebrate at the dojo, John had arranged yellow smiley face cookies that Brenda and Thomas said put smiles on their own faces. Things were put together quickly and he didn’t have time to get a cake, they said.
Later, the couple had a casual reception with family and friends at Brenda’s parents’ home, where they had an oriental lantern and Japanese cherry blossom wedding cake designed by Michelle Myers.
For now, the couple is enjoying their time together and with their families, especially since Thomas is scheduled to be deployed again at the end of the year and will be gone for about a year.
Brenda and Thomas both admit they’ve let their training at River Valley Martial Arts slide in the recent past, but they would both love to rededicate themselves to their training.
It did finally bring them together, after all.

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