Her wedding day arrived—a day that most young women dream about for many years. Gwen-Marie Davis Hicks was no exception. The bride was dressed in her wedding gown, ready to head to the church, where surely her groom would be waiting for her. The church, where she’d grown up, was already packed with family and friends. The flicker of candles helped set the mood. Beautiful music streaming through the sound system intertwined with giggles and conversation. It was to be a joyous day for the many who watched the little girl grow up to be a lovely young lady. 

The smiles quickly turned to gasps and tears, when an hour later it was announced to the over 250 stunned people sitting and waiting for the big event, that there would be no nuptial ceremony happening there on that day. The cowardly groom backed out. He pulled a Julia Roberts (like in Runaway Bride).

Gwen-Marie was more than devastated, but the reception had already been paid for. With her father’s guidance, she decided to have a party anyway!  Changed out of her wedding attire, and shored up by her bridesmaids, she stepped into the packed hall to Mary J. Blige’s “Just Fine.”  Photos from that day thirteen years ago, show a big crowd of people encircling their beloved daughter, sister, cousin, and friend, in a protective huddle on the dance floor.

At one point, Gwen-Marie took the mic and spoke to those who showed up to support her through one of the toughest moments in her life.  But now something her mother had said came to mind.  She shared it with the crowd. “I remember her hugging me and saying, ‘Strength from me to you, forever.’ She wouldn’t let me go. I felt that. I knew where her strength came from,” she told ESSENCE.  Her mother, who had given the young man (who will remain nameless) her blessing, fought a brave fight against cancer, but died less than a year before the wedding.

It was because of her mother’s words, repeated to her three times, that she had the courage to hold her head up high and turn a solemn situation into a battle cry that she would not be defeated.  Through the night, she encouraged the guests to enjoy themselves. They were celebrating something, they just didn’t know what. 

What she has learned over the years is that sometimes discouraging moments come to shield us and present us with bigger blessings. Today, 41-year-old Gwen-Marie can testify that what she learned is that when one door closes, God most likely changed the lock!  Her husband, William R. Hicks, M.D., MBA, now has the key. 

The Upper Marlboro, Maryland couple celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary this year. It was a time to reflect on how far they’ve come in their relationship, rejoice about their longevity, and continue loving on each other.  The couple first met while Gwen-Marie was engaged to that other man.  “I am not sure why that meeting was memorable because we didn’t exchange numbers at the time,” she says. But they both still remember that day well!

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Members of the same church denomination, they moved in similar circles and had mutual friends.  Before they formally began dating, they ran into each other on several occasions—at a church basketball game and then again when a matchmaking church mother invited them to her home for dinner.

“There was an attraction, but it was still not the right timing.  We reconnected again, but this time it was just a hello, because I was engaged to someone else. He seemed disappointed when he found out.”  It wasn’t until a few months after Gwen-Marie’s wedding was called off that they struck up a conversation on Facebook. 

“I was just trying to heal and focus on myself,” she says. “William was doing his medical residency down in Alabama.”

But then their relationship progressed beyond flirtation. They began video chatting and by 2010 they were exclusively dating. For their first date, William sent Gwen-Marie a ticket to come down to Mobile.  The date included a road trip to New Orleans for an Uncle Charlie concert at that year’s Essence Fest.  Totally smitten, he proposed in 2011.

A decade later, some teasingly compare their marriage to the Huxtables.   William attended medical school at Howard, just as her father had many decades before.  He is currently the department chair of medicine at Doctors Community Hospital and a regional medical director for hospitals in Maryland.  Gwen-Marie is the founding partner of GDH Law Firm and was recognized by the National Trial Lawyers Association’s Top 40 Under 40 .  

Between their demanding careers and three children, ages 8-, 6-and 3-years-old, they are vigilante about making each other a top priority.  Thoughtful gestures is one of their love languages.  This means that Gwen-Marie finds the time to cook her hubby his favorite meal of lasagna and William dutifully makes sure his wife has a bottle of water at her bedside every night.  

“William [also] makes sure that we’re intentional about dating.” 

Their date nights span the spectrum from a helicopter ride over the Delmarva peninsula to dinner at an exclusive restaurant on the Eastern shore.  “The other night we went to a Redskins game,” she says. But sometimes cuddling at home, eating popcorn, and watching a movie is their sweet spot.