James Wilt, razor-sharp in a jet-black suit, stood between his two daughters: Melinda Stone on his left, beaming in a white, floor-length gown, and Mary Wilt to his right, in a sparkly knee-length dress.
Stone, 56, and Wilt, 51, each held their 79-year-old father's hands, and all three began moving forward as Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" began playing. The two sisters were celebrating both their weddings in one ceremony May 29 at Frisco Commons Park in Frisco, Texas, about 30 miles north of Dallas.
Father and daughters were soon on a stage in full view of their combined 80 guests, where they met their soon-to-be husbands: Calvin Hodges, 59, whom Stone met 14 months earlier at a supermarket in Plano, Texas; and Rob Andrews, 51, Wilt's high school sweetheart.
Seated in the front row were Cathy Lavallee, mother of the brides; Abbie Wilt, their stepmother; and Hodges' mother, Dolores.
In the early minutes of the ceremony -- led by the Rev. Dr. Conway Edwards, who was ordained by the Caribbean Choice for Christ -- the brides presented the mothers with long-stem, white roses. Tears, including their father's, began to flow.
"It's OK, Dad," Stone said. "We are all God-fearing people, and God knows we're finally traveling in the right direction."
It was James Wilt who suggested his daughters have a double wedding.
"About six months ago, he said, 'The two of you have always been best friends, and both of you want a May wedding. Why not get married together? It would be twice as special,'" Stone said. "We just looked at each other, laughed and said, 'Why didn't we think of that?'"
"It's a rare but wonderful opportunity," he said.
Both couples took turns exchanging wedding vows in what was a second marriage for all four. (Stone was married for 26 years before divorcing in 2013, and Mary Wilt for 24 years before divorcing in 2015. Hodges was married for 14 years before getting divorced in 2013, and Andrews' first marriage, in 2007, was annulled after several months.)
"This time, we all got it right," said Stone, who works as a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Apex in Allen, Texas.
Stone's sister agreed.
"We are all blessed to have this second chance," said Wilt, who works as an assistant surgery technician specializing in the sterilization of medical instruments at AdventHealth Sebring, a hospital in Sebring, Fla.
"The fact that our father and mother are here to see this," she said, "it's amazing."
Stone and Hodges -- each of whom has two children -- met in March 2020 at the deli counter of a market in Plano.
"We started talking while his turkey was being sliced and he asked me if I would go out with him on a date," Stone said.
"I was like, 'Yeah, sure, I'm single, I can do things like that,'" she said, laughing. "We texted each other twice before either of us left the store."
Wilt first dated Andrews at Plano East Senior High School, "which was certainly a much better time in my life," Andrews said. In the decades since, he said, he has undergone several serious medical procedures.
Andrews and Wilt reconnected in 2016, when his cellphone rang, and he heard her voice for the first time since they were high school seniors. She had been divorced for about a year.
He filled her in on his medical hardships.
"I was horrified when he told me all that had happened to him," she said. "Honestly, I couldn't believe he was still alive."
"But Mary saw past that and wanted me for who I am," Andrews said.
Stone, a graduate of the Art Institute of Dallas, was living in Allen, Texas, when she met Hodges, a resident of nearby Frisco. For their first date, she invited him to her apartment for homemade lasagna.
Over dinner, Hodges, a human resources director at Methodist Dallas Medical Center who once played football at the University of Texas, from where he graduated, asked Stone, "What are you looking for in a man?"
He was surprised when she reached into a pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper titled "Melinda's Husband Traits."
Much to his amazement, she had written down 46 traits that any man who wanted to date her must possess. Trait No. 1 was that he be "Christian, honor God, put Him first." Trait No. 37? "He likes to be touched and likes to touch me."
She handed it to Hodges, who admitted he was "kind of shocked at first," although Stone quickly allayed his fears: "Don't worry," she said to him, "You possess every trait on my list, and more."