Friday, October 27, 2000

Ex-Miss America becomes Mrs. Steve Henry today

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — In Kentucky, the much-hyped nuptials of homegrown Miss America Heather Renee French and Lt. Gov. Steve Henry are about as close as the commonwealth is going to get to a royal wedding.

        More than 1,200 guests are expected tonight at the historic Cathedral of the Assumption, where Ms. French will walk down the aisle in a $1 million tiara once worn by Princess Diana.

[photo] Lt. Gov. Steve Henry fills out their marriage license application while his fiancee, former Miss America Heather Renee French, looks over items in a gift packet earlier this month in Frankfort.
(Associated Press photo)
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        “It's a very serious wedding,” said Ms. French, 25, who ended her reign as Miss America this month. “I want people to know how serious Steve and I are about each other. That this goes way beyond the superficial, the political, material.”

        The ceremony will mix tradition with personal touches.

        A string quartet from the University of Louisville, accompanied by an ensemble from the cathedral choir, will perform. The bride will walk in on her father's arm, but not to the traditional wedding march.

        Ms. French collaborated with New York designer Sherri Hill and Gene Speas of Nashville in creating her gown. The $1 million tiara was loaned to Ms. French to fulfill the tradition of wearing “something borrowed.”

        The couple had a hand in pre paring their vows, but Mr. Henry said, “There may be some impromptu communication” once the big moment arrives.

        “Who knows what will happen once we get up there,” he said.

        Ms. French said she wasn't stressed out about the wedding, but was struggling to find time to pack for her honeymoon between calls and faxes.

        “Right now I'm knee-deep in luggage and clothing,” she said from her parent's home in Mays- ville, three days before the wedding.

        Because of her constant travel as Miss America, Ms. French said, Mr. Henry handled many of the wedding details. She insisted on veto power over any decisions, though, and exercised it when the wedding planner thought the selected music was too solemn.

        The newly married couple will leave the church to the sounds of bagpipes, a touch Mr. Henry wanted. The bagpipers will lead a march of guests from the cathedral to the nearby Seelbach Hotel for the reception.

        Both Mr. Henry and Ms. French will have their own pastors presiding at the wedding — the Revs. David Stone, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, and Byron Z. Mills of the Church of the Redeemed in Maysville.

        Gov. Paul Patton and state Sen. David Karem, D-Louisville, will be readers. Mr. Henry, Mr. Patton's running mate in two statewide elections, is expected to make his own run for governor in 2003.

        Mr. Henry, 47, said the couple learned more about each other as they made the wedding plans. His bride-to-be learned he's a stickler for details.

        “Several times she said, "Why do you even care about those details?' But that's part of being a bachelor for all these years. You have no choice but to be interested in details. It's part of survival.”

        They agreed that Mr. Henry is more likely to show emotion at the ceremony. “I don't know if I will be laughing, crying or what,” he said.

        “The more nervous I get, the more calm I look,” Ms. French said.

        Both said they looked forward to starting married life. The couple won't say where they are going on their honeymoon, but Mr. Henry said it will be his first true vacation since he became lieutenant governor in late 1995.

        After the honeymoon, the couple will reside at the lieutenant governor's mansion in Frankfort.

        “We're more excited about the marriage than we are the wedding,” Ms. French said.


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