Instead of ‘Roll Tide’ or ‘War Eagle,’ one local couple says ‘I do’
by Eddie Burkhalter
Nov 25, 2012 | 4820 views |  0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sarita and Francisco Sanchez are serenaded by a member of the mariachi band that was playing at their wedding reception at the Anniston City Meeting Center Saturday. (Anniston Star photo by Stephen Gross)
Sarita and Francisco Sanchez are serenaded by a member of the mariachi band that was playing at their wedding reception at the Anniston City Meeting Center Saturday. (Anniston Star photo by Stephen Gross)
Sarita and Francisco Sanchez couldn’t have been any happier Saturday afternoon. As the University of Alabama and Auburn University football teams faced off in the Iron Bowl — a rivalry thousands upon thousands await each year like Hatfields and McCoys — the couple held hands and laughed, surrounded by friends and family.

Saturday had nothing to do with the Iron Bowl for the Sanchez family. There were no televisions broadcasting the game in sight inside the large conference room in the Anniston City Meeting Center. No radios tuned in to the game could be heard, but there was mariachi music.

They were happy because after a 10-year engagement — and at almost the exact moment a coin was tossed into the air inside the Bryant-Denny Stadium — Sarita walked down the aisle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Anniston and married her Francisco. The wedding reception followed at the meeting center.

Instead of a radio announcer giving play-by-plays of the game, love songs sung in Spanish echoed across the large room, where kids in their fanciest suits and dresses danced amid the tables topped with orange and white lilies.

Scheduling a wedding during the Iron Bowl should make it clear that American football isn’t that big in the Sanchez house. Francisco’s heart belongs to the other football, the one measured in goals, not touchdowns.

Would he have scheduled his wedding on the day of the World Cup? Francisco was too busy with his new bride to offer an answer Saturday. It’s probably good practice to avoid any talk of sports on one’s wedding day. Instead, Francisco smiled like a national champion as he escorted his wife to an awaiting photographer, their 6-year-old daughter Zayra smiling and carrying the train of her mothers wedding dress as they walked.

Sarita and Francisco both came to America a decade ago from San Luis Potosi, a mining-centered Mexican state of nearly 2.5 million about a four-hour drive north of Mexico City. She was 17 years old and Francisco was 18 when they met and decided to move to the country that so many immigrants have moved to in search of better lives. They live in Saks now and Francisco works at a Mexican restaurant in Pell City.

Sarita said that after ten years, the two decided to marry because they’re simply good together.

“He said our relationship is good, and I said it was great,” so it was as good a time as any to have a wedding, Sarita said, never taking her hand out of her husband’s as she talked.

It wasn’t hard to imagine that the attractive, happy couple had better things to think about Saturday than American football, but if one knew where to look, one could find people in the building who cared very much about the rivalry taking place in Tuscaloosa.

Down a hallway, behind a door labeled “storage,” several meeting center workers huddled around a small television perched on a stand underneath a stairwell.

“I’ve got to be here until 2 a.m.,” one young Auburn fan and a worker at the center said. “I can’t believe this score.”

At that point, Alabama was up by two touchdowns.

Back at the reception, the mariachi band had just finished serenading the wedding party and had moved on to selecting young couples seated at tables to both poke fun at and compliment, each time giving the guys a much harder time than their female companions. Then the band would sing a song just for the couple, something heartfelt and romantic that seemed to make up for whatever heartache they had just given the unfortunate man a moment before.

At halftime, the Auburn fan walked into the reception just to get away from the game, he said. His eyes were downcast and had the tired look of someone at the end of a long shift.

The Auburn fan stood for a while, quietly listening to the trumpeter, complemented by the wail of the violin as the band played some kind of sad song to a young couple, both squirming in their seats from the attention.

“That score, man. It’s ridiculous,” the Auburn fan said, before walking back out of the room shaking his head.

Alabama was up by 42 points when the Auburn fan walked away. They would go on to win the Iron Bowl with a final score of 49-0, but by then the dancing had just begun to get under way and nobody in the room seemed to notice the game had ended.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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