FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) - Desiree and Martez Cole's wedding has become the talk of the town in the Shoals.
It's not just because of the beautiful ceremony and reception, in which Martez Cole says he could really feel God's presence. It's partly because of what came after they promised to love each other through sickness and health.
Nearly 100 loved ones became ill, 22 of them hospitalized and the Alabama Department of Public Health got involved in the days following their nuptials. That's when the newlyweds realized their caterer brought salmonella to the party. It was in the chicken and the green beans, according to the investigators on the case. When they heard the news, they couldn't believe it.
"As we were going on our honeymoon we were like, no, this can't be happening," explained Martez. "It'll break you down a little bit. The hardest part was really letting the facts and truth come to light. We didn't want to blame or point fingers, we wanted the truth to come out and we wanted everyone to be happy and get what we need. Not to say we didn't get frustrated a lot, but we just trusted God."
Martez said the aftermath of their reception food was not what he wants to remember about their wedding. He's keeping the fun memories close.
Desiree said they were a little distracted in Puerto Rico on their honeymoon, though.
"We were healthy on the honeymoon," she said. "We got to enjoy, for what we could. But we were still worried about our family and friends, and there were tons of people calling us," she added.
But this was not the first test the Coles had to pass, to know their wedding will stick. Before the vows and wedding bells, Desiree said the rehearsal dinner was almost a disaster.
While walking harborside to a restaurant on the water in Florence, she lost her ring.
"When I went to go hold on to the rail, my ring just slipped off and went into the Tennessee River," she said, noting she had lost some weight pre-wedding. "I just remember screaming, 'Jesus!' I didn't know what to do. I was so devastated, I just knew it was over with. I knew nobody was going to find it."
She said it almost ruined the night, but Martez helped to remind her that a ring is just a material thing. They realized their big day and what they promise to each other in marriage is more important.
Still, it was on her mind, and this was just the day before the wedding!
As she returned from a hair appointment on the morning of the wedding, Desiree said she looked up some area divers. One of them promised to help her find it. The Coles leaned on their faith.
"I just remember saying, 'I trust God, I trust God," said Desiree.
One hour to go before the ceremony, and she said she got a call that the diver had found the ring. (See the gallery at the end of the article for the photos!)
"The lady comes [to the church] in her diver outfit, she was dripping in water," Desiree recalls breathlessly. "Oh my goodness, it was the best! I remember telling her I loved her, she probably thinks I'm crazy!"
They learned a lot of lessons. Mrs. Cole believes they passed each of the tests thrown their way before their wedding, and after.
"It's a serious situation, we understand that, but we don't want to dwell on the bad things," she said. "This was the first test of our marriage. I believe we passed it," said Desiree. "We've overcome that. What else? What else."
"Just don't let trials beat you up," said Martez. "Just endure, and God will see you through."
The couple has spent time visiting family following their return from their honeymoon, and while they continue to monitor what's been going on with their caterer, they tell WHNT News 19 right now they're more concerned about family.