Times-Union, Jacksonville, Florida
August 3, 2008

I DO, I DO: Marriage continues a bit of family history

By M.C. Finotti

Lawton Graves
Sarah and Lawton Graves
photo by Jennifer Brum, Inc.

Sarah Scruggs and Lawton Graves both possess a sense of history.

But they didn't know that when they first met in spring 2004 at Florida State University. In fact, they didn't even like each other much.

"At first I thought, 'Oh, she's just another girl,' " said Lawton, 23, a graduate of Stanton College Preparatory School and a second-year law school student at FSU.

They met when Lawton and a bunch of other people piled into Sarah's car for a trip to Panama City Beach. As he climbed in, Lawton joked that everyone got to travel for an hour like "sardines" in a can. Sarah, who's also 23 and working on a master's degree in social work at FSU, didn't find him funny.

The two didn't see each other again until the start of the next school year when Lawton lived in the upstairs portion of a duplex with a group of guys. A bunch of Sarah's girlfriends lived below. They became casual friends.

By the fall of their senior year, they had become very attracted to each other, and Lawton asked Sarah on their first date. That spring he took her home to meet his family.

The Graves took Sarah, who's from Land O Lakes, to church at St. John's Cathedral downtown.

There, she learned four generations of Lawton's family were married at St. John's, starting with Lawton's great-great-grandparents. They were married eight years before the building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1901.

Lawton's great-grandparents were married in the newly rebuilt church in 1915, his grandparents in 1951, his parents in 1980.

"We have portraits of the first two couples and pictures of the rest of us," said Tayloe Graves, Lawton's 82-year-old grandmother. "And we have everyone's original wedding invitation."

Sarah also learned that Lawton's only sibling, his older brother, did not follow family tradition. He was married in his wife's church in North Carolina. If the tradition was to continue, Lawton was the family's best hope.

Sarah said she never felt pressure. Rather, she was awed at the sense of history and grandeur of the cathedral. "I just kind of knew I'd be married there."

Lawton proposed several months later, and the couple said "I do" at St. John's Cathedral on July 5.

Lawton's grandmother created a collage for the couple using the wedding pictures and invitations of all the Graves family members - including Lawton and Sarah - to be married at the Cathedral. The couple displayed it at the ceremony as visual proof of the pride they feel in their place in the Graves family history.