Have you ever shown up at the right place but at the wrong time? This couple met a week before Zenese was scheduled to move away. Years later, they met again and began the journey of a lifetime—Zenese shares their story.
Bride: Zenese Pendergrass, 30, junior account manager, native of Charlotte, NC
Groom: Shawn Polk, Jr., 32, wealth asset manager, native of Chicago, Illinois
Current Residence: Charlotte, North Carolina
Wedding Date: July 23, 2023
Venue/Location: Dreams Playa Mujeres Resort – Cancun, Mexico
Shawn and I first met through a mutual friend in September 2015. One of my best friends, Mariah Harris, went to the same college as his friend. Shawn had just moved to Charlotte and had a Labor Day cookout at his apartment. Mariah brought me as her plus one for the cookout. Shawn and I exchanged phone numbers but never did anything with them. After he got my number, I believed the ball was in his court. I moved to New York about a week and a half later. We reconnected after almost two years when I returned to Charlotte for a visit.
I was in Charlotte for a wedding that weekend, and we ran into each other at Mariah’s birthday party. I guess he realized I was not living here anymore and decided to see what was going on with me. He still had my number on his phone from two years before and texted me the next morning to ask me out on a date.
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We went on our first date the following weekend when I returned to Charlotte for Father’s Day. We went to the movies; I believe it was about Tupac, and to Top Golf. We had a good time. My initial thought was that he has a very funny personality. I thought it was cool. So, he won me with his personality, but I wasn’t sure where it would go from there.
I returned to New York that Monday morning, and we continued to text and have conversations. The following Saturday, we texted all day and pretty much spoke all night. By this time, We were talking to each other almost every evening after work. On Sunday morning, I woke up to a phone call from my family saying that my brother had been in a car accident, and they weren’t sure if he would make it. I ended up flying home that Sunday morning. I didn’t communicate with Shawn because I was at the hospital for two days with my family. My brother passed away on Wednesday.
When I returned to my parents’ house, there was a bouquet. My mom said, “I don’t know who this Shawn Polk person is, but he sent us some flowers.” The note on the flowers said, “I don’t really know what’s going on, but I just heard that you and your family were going through something, and I wanted to let you know I was thinking about you.” I was like, “Wow.” I texted him and said, “I don’t know how you got my address, but you know how to put a smile on my face.” He even came to my brother’s funeral.
That was one of the solidifying things. We had gone on our first date just one week earlier. Knowing that he had reached out to my friend to get my address and see if there was anything he could do and being there to support me during that time were the factors I needed to know that he was serious. This seemed like something that I should give a chance. He officially asked me to be his girlfriend on July 18.
Shawn has always told me that I have the purest heart and would do anything for anyone if needed. When I think of how our relationship was long-distance at that point, yet he showed up, not only for me, but my family, after such a short period, it showed me his heart and the person he truly is. He has been there for me during the worst of times. I don’t really think that there could be anybody else out there who would do this. So, I knew early on he was probably going to be the one.
We got engaged on our fourth anniversary. I thought we were going to dinner. I wasn’t expecting a proposal because he had started a trucking business at the beginning of 2021, and that was our focus. We wanted to ensure we were getting the business up and running and in a good financial space.
We got pedicures that morning, and he told me to be ready by five. Around four o’clock, I started to get suspicious when he said he had to run out quickly, but I didn’t question it. Then at four-thirty, he texted me and said, “Actually, I’m going to have an Uber come get you.” I was like, “Dude, why would an Uber need to come to get me?” When I got in the Uber, he called and asked me to text him when I got outside.
The Uber dropped me off outside the Epicenter in downtown Charlotte, and he came and got me. I’m like, “Where are we going?” I thought we were going to a rooftop restaurant because it’s downtown. We went into the Aloft Hotel and up the elevator. There is a bar at the top, so I assumed that was where we were eating. Then he walked me around the corner to where there’s nothing except closed doors. I asked him where we were going, and he responded by taking my purse out of my hand. I later learned that people inside the room could hear me fussing about him taking my purse and putting it on the floor. I’ve always been told that if you put your purse on the floor, your money stays low, but he wanted to ensure I wasn’t walking in with my hands full. He opened the door and said, “Just come in here.”
The room was decorated with red balloons and rose petals. All of our family and friends were there, yelling surprise. Shawn walked me to the middle of the room, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him. I had no idea that was coming. I cried, that boohoo, ugly cry. Of course, I said yes!
We are a little over a year out, and wedding planning is going well. We are having a destination wedding and have locked in our location. We wanted it to be a destination wedding since our families are from two different places. We didn’t want to pick and choose one over the other. With a destination wedding, everybody gets to travel, and we can make it like a vacation.
The resort offers a wedding package, but we also have a wedding planner. QC Wedding Planning LLC is based out of Charlotte, and Candace has been helping me with communication between us and the resort. As you can imagine, dealing with a resort in Mexico can create a language barrier. It also can take days or even weeks to get a response. She’s been super helpful in communicating with the vendor and getting everything set up. We are bringing some other vendors, like our DJ.
We are planning for seventy-five guests. We’ll be getting married in the central garden of the resort. You can see the beach in the background, but we will not technically be on the beach. We are not having a bridal party. That has alleviated many stress people typically experience when planning their wedding. We will not have to find attire for 10 to 12 extra people or stress over fittings. It will be just the two of us, keeping the focus on us and allowing everyone else to enjoy themselves. The most challenging part has been locking down a date. The resort is very popular for destination weddings, so we had to submit five or six different dates before they had availability.
I’m looking forward to our wedding and having all our family and friends there to help us celebrate our love. That’s something I’m super excited about. It’s going to feel like a big family vacation. Best of all will be having an actual marriage with my best friend. I’m so excited to just do life with him.
I think our story is unique because it was built on God’s timing. We met each other two years before beginning to date, and we forgot about each other. But God brought Shawn back into my life when he knew I would need him the most. So, our relationship was nothing but God’s timing.
Communicate with your partner. Sometimes people can be stressed out because they want one thing, but their partner wants another. Communicate, and see what you both want out of the wedding. What are some things that are important to him? Brides tend to want to pick everything based on their liking. But it’s essential to make sure that your partner feels included. Also, plan in advance.
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