Their love story involves alligator shoes, Taco Bell and, now, a free wedding

Ashley Wheeling-Goodson and Sam Johnson
Ashley Wheeling-Goodson and Sam Johnson Provided photo

It all started with his patent-red alligator shoes – which, if you’ve ever seen Sam Johnson around town, doesn’t come as a total surprise.

They were college freshmen in a geology lab, and it was his 19th birthday (hence the special outfit).

That’s how Ashley Wheeling-Goodson remembers starting her first conversation with the man she’ll soon call her husband.

Actually, two more years would go by after that fatefully fashionable geology lab before the two would fall in love.

This fall, their love story will reach its peak in the same place where it started – at the University of South Carolina.

Wheeling-Goodson and Johnson are the recipients of a free wedding planned by USC students in Annette Hoover’s wedding planning class, who take on the task each semester. They were announced as winners Thursday evening.

The couple, both lawyers in Columbia – and he a former aide to Mayor Steve Benjamin – were engaged on Christmas day last year at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Their paths first crossed in 2006 at the University of South Carolina. They had both moved into the Bates House dorm, after which they named the Goldendoodle dog, Bates, they now share.

“However, as our freshman year drew to a close, Sam and I fell out of touch,” Wheeling-Goodson wrote in her application letter for the USC wedding.

Their friendship picked back up two years later in a political science class they shared. From there, it blossomed into romance.

“But, we would disagree about our first date. If you ask me, our first date was at Jillian’s in the Vista in late 2008,” Wheeling-Goodson wrote. “However, if you ask Sam, he is adamant that our first date was on the second floor of the Russell House, and it involved Taco Bell.”

(Well, nothing says romance like Taco Bell.)

Their next eight years together, Wheeling-Goodson continued, saw “our graduation from the University of South Carolina, law school acceptances, our first real world jobs, lots of Netflix binging, and botched attempts to work on my cooking skills. Though things may have changed, one thing has remained constant – us.”

They’ll exchange vows later this fall with help from the USC wedding planning class. The wedding will be planned entirely by the students and provided to the couple at no cost thanks to donations from local businesses.

Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.