NEWBURYPORT — It's the classic teen love story. Boy meets girl through mutual friends. She invites him to her Sweet 16 party. Friendship quickly grows into a relationship. And soon, they become inseparable.
That's pretty much how the story began in August 2005 for then 15-year-old Newburyport natives Travis Souther and his girl, Marissa Games.
In their almost seven years together, the young couple have been each other's rock. She followed him to Kansas, where he has been stationed in the Army, and they got engaged. They counted the days until his return from an eight-month deployment to Iraq in 2010. He has supported her while she has pursued her bachelor's degree in kinesiology.
When Souther decided this winter to extend his contract with the military for nine months so he could sign up for a second deployment, this time to Afghanistan, Games figured they'd put wedding plans on hold and encouraged him to finish the work he had started.
But this time, Souther won't be leaving behind a fiancee when he ships out later this spring from Fort Riley. The young couple decided to begin the next tour as husband and wife.
So, on an unseasonably warm, early-spring day yesterday, they stood before about 40 family members and close friends in a late-morning ceremony on the Newburyport waterfront and exchanged vows to love, comfort and cherish each other.
Games, 22, wore a knee-length, white lace dress with a scalloped hem and carried a simple bouquet of calla lilies and one red rose. Souther, 21, donned his crisp Class A dress uniform for the ceremony officiated by justice of the peace and Newburyport City Clerk Richard Jones.
Her father, Paul Games, walked her down to the concrete platform in Market Landing Park that overlooks the embayment. Souther's brother, TJ, stood up for them as best man.
Games said the couple was originally considering tying the knot in a private ceremony before a justice of the peace in Kansas, where they're still based. But it just didn't feel right.
"We wanted to do it with family and do it back where we started," said Souther, an Army specialist working in field artillery.
So, they flew up from Kansas this week and, with the help of relatives and friends, pulled together the arrangements.
Following their exchange of vows, the new Mr. and Mrs. Souther posed for photos with their guests before heading to Ten Center restaurant for a celebratory lunch.
Souther, who beamed at the sight of his new bride, said he knew early on the two were destined to spend their lives together.
"We're very alike. We like the same things and the same stuff," he said. "We're always finding new things together."
Souther's dad, Jeff, and mother, Sue, agree they're a good match.
"She's been good for him," Jeff Souther said.
Games, who intends to pursue her nursing degree after graduating from Kansas State University in May, said having already waited through one deployment, she's prepared for the coming months to be rough. But she's excited for the life the two will have when her husband returns.
Games still has her heart set on the traditional fairy-tale wedding she's dreamed about since she was a little girl. She's hoping to potentially hold a formal ceremony coupled with a homecoming celebration for her husband next year.
But her mother, Susan Hussey, doesn't see how all the trappings could be any better than the simple, genuine ceremony they shared yesterday.
"How can you top this?" Hussey said. "It's perfect."