It is not unusual for little girls to while away countless hours at slumber parties dreaming about the wedding that awaits them in the future. In a common scenario, Prince Charming rides up on a white horse to carry them away to a life of “happily ever after.”
It is unusual, however, for a little girl to grow up to plan her wedding as one-half of an award-winning country duo. Heather Kinley of The Kinleys, CMT’s November Showcase Artist, is in the frantic whirlwind of final plans for her Dec. 2 wedding to Mark Mendenhall, a Nashville-based pharmaceutical representative.
Heather and her twin sister, Jennifer Kinley, have come to know a lot about weddings this year. In May, Jennifer said her “I dos” with singer-songwriter Adam Hughes. The women talk about their respective romances, about their musical career and about growing up in Philadelphia, on CMT Showcase throughout November. The popular 30-minute series airs Fridays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 12:30 p.m. and Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. (all times Eastern).
Country.com recently accompanied Heather to a Nashville bridal salon, to be fitted for her wedding dress. For a day of wedding-related errands, she brings along Jennifer, her mother, the groom’s mother and the groom himself (briefly).
The salon is lined wall-to-wall with wedding and attendant dresses of every style and color, and since the store has just opened for the day, only a couple of other brides-to-be are shopping. While the women disappear into the fitting room, Mendenhall relaxes on a sofa. He remembers the first time he met his future bride, less than a year ago, introduced by Jennifer and Hughes.
“Last December 7, Adam called and invited me to go see the girls and meet Heather,” he says. “He took me over to [music publisher] Acuff-Rose, where the girls were writing. We walked into the room and we sat there for 20 or 25 minutes, and nobody ever introduced us. Later, Adam and I went to lunch and he was like, ‘So, what do you think?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know, nobody ever introduced us.’ Then we met later on that night at their show, and it’s been magical ever since.”
The romance blossomed quickly. By Christmas the two had grown very close, and both knew that their relationship was getting serious. In January, shortly after Hughes proposed to Jennifer onstage at a Kinleys New Year’s Eve show, Mendenhall also asked Heather to marry him. She agreed without hesitation. Jennifer, full of her own happiness, was likewise thrilled for her twin.
“It’s romantic,” she says. “It shows how much they love each other, and they really do. They clicked from the minute they met and haven’t been apart since.”
When the couple announced their engagement a little over a month after meeting, their parents had some preliminary concerns. Watching their children grow closer over the course of the year, however, has erased those concerns.
Mendenhall’s mother, Carol, remembers her son telling her his news. “Last Christmas, he told me, ‘Mother, I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but I’ve met the girl I’m going to marry, and I love her very much,’” she says. “I was a little concerned to a point, as anybody would be, but on the other hand, I knew he meant what he said. I know what a great marriage is. It is the greatest gift.”
Heather’s mother agrees. “The girls’ father and I have been married 47 years,” she says. “I have a gem. Heather used to say, ‘I wish I could find somebody, Mom, that I could fall in love with.’ I said, ‘When the right one comes along, you’ll know it right away.’ She called me up about two weeks before Christmas and said, ‘Guess what, Mom? I found the right one!’ She brought him home at Christmas, and I could tell she was crazy about Mark, and the same with him.”
Ten months later, nothing has changed. Heather and Mendenhall will formalize their union at their wedding ceremony. Many things remain to be done. With the wedding only four weeks away, any anxiety about the relationship has been replaced with concern that the event go off without a hitch.
After the salon’s seamstress, Kathy, pinned, measured, and made alteration notes for both Carol’s and Heather’s dresses, the Kinley twins shared more details about Heather’s wedding. A local priest will preside over the traditional Catholic Mass, to be held at a Nashville church. During the service, Jennifer and Hughes will sing “Let It Be Me” by The Everly Brothers, of whom both Kinleys are great fans.
For “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue,” the bride will wear her mother’s wedding ring, her new dress, her sister’s earrings or a necklace, and a blue garter.
Decorations will be in line with the Christmas season, with accents of burgundy and hunter green. The sit-down dinner reception will feature a three-tiered cake and dancing. Following the celebration, the couple will honeymoon in Hawaii before returning home to celebrate the holidays with their families.
“I just think it’s going to be a wonderful time,” she continues. “Christmas is my favorite time of year, so everything is perfect because that time last year is when we met.”
Despite the flurry of details yet to be settled, Heather is thrilled at the prospect of marriage. “I’m gaining so much,” she says. “A partner, a friend. Incredible happiness, completion, peace. My other half has now joined me, and there’s something solid and secure and warm and wonderful about that.
“It’s going to be a month of happy celebration,” she says with a laugh. “It’s going to be the best month of my life.”