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Archive for Sunday, November 14, 1999

MARRYING MARILYN

November 14, 1999

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The story of a Lawrence couple's courtship -- and their wedding -- will appear on a national TV show.

It was Marilyn Nichols' idea.

"I've watched 'A Wedding Story' on The Learning Channel for a couple of years," said Nichols, 27.

"After becoming engaged (to Denton Nichols) in March, I was at home sick. I was watching 'A Wedding Story.' And I thought, 'I'd like for us to be on TV.

"So I wrote them about how we met, why we're in love, and why we'd like to be on the TV show.

"I said I didn't think I'd ever get married, but then there was this young man, bringing out the positive aspects of a healthy relationship."

The popular, reality-based program, which has run on national TV for four seasons, follows the activities of couples from across the country during the last few days before their weddings -- up to and including the ceremonies themselves.

Marilyn Nichols and Denton Nichols, also 27, had to fill out an 11-page form the show's producers faxed her months later, in September.

And then the Lawrence couple had to send in a homemade video of themselves talking and interacting, so the producers could get a better feel for them.

"Then we waited. Finally, I called them and asked if they'd seen our video. That's when they said, 'You got it.'

"I was jumping up and down screaming, 'We're gonna be on TV!'" she recalled.

They'd been chosen, from among thousands of people each season who apply to be on the show, to appear in a half-hour episode of "A Wedding Story."

Fifty half-hour episodes of the program run each year, featuring one couple per episode.

In Lawrence, "A Wedding Story" airs from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. -- back-to-back episodes -- Monday through Friday on Channel 23.

The show about the Nicholses is tentatively set to run Dec. 14.

Blending of cultures

A five-person crew from Banyan Productions in Philadelphia came to Lawrence recently to document the couple as they prepared for their Oct. 30 wedding at First United Methodist Church in Baldwin.

Banyan produces TV programs for the Public Broadcasting System, The Learning Channel (TLC) and the Discovery Channel.

The crew followed Marilyn Nichols, an instructor at Haskell Indian Nations University, and Denton Nichols, an architect at Sabatini & Associates in Lawrence, as they prepared for the big day.

That included filming them as they ran important errands in shops along Massachusetts Street; visited favorite haunts in Manhattan (they both attended Kansas State University); and unwound on the Konza Prairie, where Denton Nichols had proposed to his fiancee on March 27.

In Lawrence, the TV crew filmed separate interviews with Denton and Marilyn Nichols in a classroom at Haskell, where they told the story of their romance.

They each recalled how they'd met eight years ago at KSU through mutual friends; how the relationship had been platonic for ages; and how they'd always stayed in touch, even when Denton Nichols moved to Dallas for a time.

They also talked about how their pending wedding represented a union of two different cultures.

Denton Nichols, who grew up in Harlan, a small northcentral Kansas town, is white and a Methodist.

Marilyn Nichols, an American Indian who belongs to the Hunkpapa Dakota tribe, spent the first six years of her life on a tribal reservation that straddles North and South Dakota.

Then John and Rhonda Hetzel of Le Roy, who are white, adopted her.

The Lawrence couple's blending of cultures was one thing that caught Banyan head producer Dawn Lorenzo's eye.

"These guys are just a dream. They have a great story, and they're able to articulate it. And the cultural aspects are interesting, obviously," Lorenzo said.

This is the first time "A Wedding Story" has done a show on a Kansas couple. It's also the first time in which the program has featured a bride or groom who's an American Indian.

'Share our love story'

Denton and Marilyn Nichols are perfect subjects for the program for other reasons, too.

"They're so affectionate. They're always touching each other in a sweet way. And Denton is so able to emote and articulate what he feels. Women swoon for that. And Marilyn's beautiful, so that helps," Lorenzo said.

The couple's wedding included several American Indian traditions and special touches.

Cornel Pewewardy, an assistant professor of teaching and leadership at Kansas University -- and a recording artist who performs Comanche and Kiowa music -- played the flute.

The New Dawn Dancers, a Lawrence dance troupe of American Indian children, performed.

And there was traditional singing and processional drumming, as well as a prayer for the bride and groom's ancestors.

After the ceremony and reception, the newlyweds went off to Santa Fe, N.M., for their honeymoon.

While the TV crew was in town filming as the wedding approached, Denton Nichols was asked what it is he loves about his then-fiancee.

"The way she just consistently is always there for me, and the intensity in her life," he said.

He thought a moment.

"When we're married, I don't want her just to be my wife. I want her to be Marilyn for the rest of her life."

The same question was asked of Marilyn (Hetzel) Nichols concerning her soon-to-be husband.

What does she love about him?

"Denton makes me laugh, and he's sweet. He remembers those details. He has an incredible sense of humor and warm, brown eyes and long eyelashes women would kill for," she said, laughing.

"He's patient, kind and humble, and he supports me in whatever I want to do."

Marilyn Nichols said she's thrilled the couple will appear on TV next month.

"I wanted to share our love story with the world. We have two cultures coming together, we've lived two different lives.

"And I wanted the world to know how much I love him," she said.

-- Jim Baker's phone message number is 832-7173; his e-mail address is jbaker@ljworld.com.

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