JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than a dozen local couples said "I do" together on Saturday as a part of a challenge from their pastor.
In March, the pastor offered to sponsor a wedding for any couple living together if they took a step of faith by getting married. He didn't expect 14 couples to take him up on the offer.
After 5 years of dating, Adam and Candice Smith took their first kiss as husband and wife.
"I feel so excited," said Candice Smith. "It was a long time coming."
"Good," Adam concurred, "Very good."
The two stood beside 13 other couples in a mass wedding at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, an event that started as a challenge from Pastor H.B. Charles, Jr.
Charles, Jr. preached a sermon on what the bible says about cohabitation. Instead of telling couples to move out, he issued a different challenge.
"Anyone who wanted to actually take the commitment of marriage seriously, we would do whatever we could to help them sponsoring this mass wedding," said Charles, Jr.
Adam and Candice remember the sermon well.
"It just touched both of our hearts," Smith remembers. "We were like, you know, why not get married? We were living together, let's go ahead and tie that knot."
"It was the right thing to do," said Adam. "We were already in love we were going to get married eventually, but this was a great opportunity."
They joined 13 other couples in the journey, which required going through 6 weeks of group and couples counseling, before preparing to say, "I do."
The best part of all is the couples didn't have to pay for anything. Everything, such as the dresses, tuxedos and even the rings, was donated by local businesses and members of the church.
It's a moment these couples and their church family were happy to share together.
"The establishing of homes families together in an official way with God's sanction on it is a real real joy for us to see and be a part of," said Charles, Jr.
"Everybody's getting married the same day," said Smith. "Everybody's happy and I have, you know, other people to enjoy it with."