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‘They had no idea ...’
Mock wedding teaches teens real-life lesson
Natalie Scales helps Bethany Castleberry with her makeup. - photo by Emily Saunders
The ringing of bells sounded over the wedding prelude.

The noisy signaling of class change made it difficult to hear as Bethany Castleberry and John McCord exchanged vows in front of their peers.

The mock wedding Wednesday at North Forsyth High School brought together students from five family and consumer science pathway essential classes for a big production as part of their unit on relationships and dating.

Castleberry and McCord, a real life couple, tied the imaginary knot in front of about 150 of their classmates, mostly freshmen from the modern-day
home economics courses.

“In their time together, their love and understanding of one another has grown,” said Hannah Mitchell, the wedding officiant.

Some giggles, “awws” and “ows” quietly escaped the crowd as the couple quickly peck-kissed to conclude the wedding.

McCord told Castleberry after the ceremony that some of the girls sitting in nearby chairs had “coached” him through his nerves before she entered.

“It’s going to be tough growing up,” he said, reflecting on the experience. “I’m just thinking about how nervous I would actually be.”

The high school class has taught students about life experiences, such as careers, cooking and budgeting.

Teacher Andrea LeShea said she thought the mock wedding would be a fun way for the students to learn about another part of life.

In each class, pairs had four weeks to plan their own wedding, including calling up businesses to determine budgeting and scheduling. Parents donated most of the materials.

“They had no idea what went into planning a wedding,” LeShea said. “Some of them, though, you’d think they’re little mini-adults.”

Groomsman Bryce Gruber said the class and the wedding helped them “get ready for our futures.”

He noted that the girls in the classes probably took the practice wedding a little more seriously.

“The boys just kind of laid back,” said best man Tanner Short, who had written a funny toast for the reception party afterward.

Wedding singer Jessica Cochran said that some classmates were “young and not taking it seriously.”

She liked the idea to put on the wedding, though.

“Then you’re getting ready for the actual stress that you’re getting into for the wedding,” she said. “I hope [LeShea] keeps doing this ... everyone will have a chance to understand what they’re going through if they have a wedding.”

Cochran sang the song “Only Hope” during the ceremony in front of the pretend bride and groom.

The couple, along with all 17 students who participated in the wedding, were selected by a vote from students in the five classes.

McCord said he and Castleberry were chosen because they have been dating the longest of all the nominated couples who were actually dating.

“We’ve been dating forever,” Castleberry said. “A year and five months.”

Some of the groomsmen, longtime friends of McCord, said there was a possibility that they could be repeating this wedding in the future.

Castleberry’s mother, Gail, held up a video camera in the aisle of the school’s old gym. She filmed as her daughter in a fluffy white dress with hair in curls and perfect makeup stood beside her boyfriend in a suit and sneakers.

Getting ready for Wednesday’s event was similar to what the real big day could be like, the mother said, especially in terms of stress.

“I dread the real thing, which is not going to be for years and years away,” she said with a smile.