underwater loveBy NIKKI ROWELL,
Madison couple exchange marriage vows in Bahamas with sharks part of the wedding party
Ronnie and DeLane Grogan have always been a nontraditional couple and have never felt the need to go along with the norm.
Since they met, they’ve always done things their own way. Their wedding was the most non-traditional, unique thing they’ve done to date.
The Grogans tied the knot underwater on top of a wrecked ship as sharks swam all around them. The couple, both certified scuba divers, will celebrate their eighth wedding anniversary next month.
The Jackson natives met at Dairy Queen at 15 years old. The restaurant was a regular hangout for teenagers following Friday night football games.
“He went to Hillcrest and I went to Forest Hill,” DeLane said. “Everybody would meet up at the Dairy Queen. I have no idea how we started talking that night.”
Three years later, after they had finished high school, the two began dating.
DeLane said she knew almost immediately he was “the one.”
The two dated for 18 years before they decided to get married. Meanwhile, Ronnie became diving certified while living in Miami, and later DeLane decided to go through the process so she could go along with him. “We started diving together, and now we have traveled all over,” she said.
“We joke that we were on the divorce prevention program,” DeLane said. “We never really talked about getting married. He always said he never wanted to get married and have kids. I always thought he was joking.”
She said there was not really a moment she could pinpoint as an exact proposal. Everything just kind of came together.
“I was watching Shark Week, and Craig Ferguson did a dive with the sharks in the Bahamas. I showed him, and he thought it was cool. A few weeks later, he told me he had scheduled everything for us to do the shark dive.”
Then, he told DeLane a pastor would marry them during the dive. “I didn’t think he was serious. I just kind of looked at him and he repeated himself.”
They were the first couple to be married while on one of the team’s shark dives.
True to their nontraditional selves, even their wedding trip was a bit different.
“It was kind of backwards the way we did it,” DeLane said. “Instead of getting married and then going on a honeymoon, we had to go for several days and train and go through classes for the wedding.”
The Madison residents had to learn about sharks and are now “shark awareness certified.”
After several days of classes, trainings and a few different dives, their big day finally arrived.
“Watching the sharks come in was absolutely amazing,” DeLane said.
The divers took down a box of fish heads, and the sharks showed up.
“I thought we were going to just get married on the bottom of the ocean,” DeLane said. “But it was actually a shipwreck. It was called the Ray of Hope. That was a surprise to me.”
The Ray of Hope is featured on Shark Week often, and DeLane said it’s great to see where they got married like that.
“We went down and landed on the front of the boat and the sharks started coming in,” she said.
A Baptist preacher went down with them. They wore full face masks so they could talk and repeat their vows.
Dive shop workers solved the problem of what do about rings since they would not fit over the gloves and chainmail they were wearing. The workers removed O-rings from a motor for them to use in the place of their wedding bands while underwater. “It was the only thing that would fit over the gloves and chain,” she said.
They then tried to figure out how to kiss following the pronouncement of their wedding because of the full mass they would be wearing. So, they fist bumped instead of kissed.
On their one year anniversary, they returned to Nassau for a second shark dive. This time, they were able to feed and hold the sharks. DeLane said the animals “almost act like dogs.”
This dive required even more training.
They had to wear chainmail and helmets to protect against shark bites.
“It was extremely heavy,” DeLane said.
The Grogans, who now have a five-year-old daughter named Jesse Sloan, have been everywhere in the Caribbean. “We have been to Hawaii on night dives. We’ve dived with manta rays on night dives, which was amazing. But it was nothing like the sharks.”