Grand Rapids Marathon hosts wedding

Grand Rapids Marathon hosts wedding

Provided by Grand Rapids Press

strassers-12.jpgView full sizeChe Morris and Stephen Stasser will be married Sunday.

Stephen Strasser doesn’t need to worry about Che Morris being a runaway bride Sunday morning.

Mainly because he’ll be right there running alongside her.

The Austin, Texas, couple had been having trouble figuring out a way to hold a low-stress, low-cost wedding that accommodated multiple faiths and still was fun. Their first idea was some sort of bike race.

Then Morris thought, why not look back home?

So the White Cloud High School graduate called Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon race director Don Kern and asked if he would mind if they incorporated his event into their big day.

Kern, who said he has had four proposals during his event but no weddings, loved the idea. So Morris, 31, and Strasser, 39, will get married near Mile 10 at Millennium Park and then run the final 16 miles to the finish line.

As the couple wrote on their wedding website,, they didn’t want to feel like they were planning a wedding for everyone but themselves.

"I actually was so happy that she came up with the idea, just because I had always wanted a unique wedding," Strasser said. That was basically the one thing I wanted for my wedding. It’s just so perfect because we both enjoy running."

The couple plans to get hitched at around 9 a.m. at the Millennium Park pavilion. They will jog to the alter with the wedding party, have the ceremony, and then run to the finish line with any guests who want to join them.

A full-service brunch and cocktail reception will follow -- whenever the bride and groom finish.

"We’re just going to keep it light. We don’t really have a time estimate or anything," said Morris, who ran the Grand Rapids Marathon in 2008 and still calls it her favorite race.

"We’re just going to take it slow and steady and see everybody at the finish line when we get there."

The couple met at a coffee shop in Austin. Morris, who moved to Texas to work at SafePlace, a nonprofit domestic violence organization, had her friend’s "one-eyed, one-eared chihuahua named Opal" on her lap. Normally, the dog doesn’t like anyone except Morris and her friend, but when Strasser pet it on the head, she joked that she couldn’t help but wonder how he kept his hand.

"We started talking," Morris said. "I figured if he gets Opal’s stamp of approval, he can have mine."

A marriage at the Grand Rapids Marathon
Enlarge Che Morris and Stephen Strasser, both of Austin, Texas, take off on the Grand Rapids Marathon trail after being pronounced man and wife Sunday in Millennium Park. Morris and Strasser trained for the marathon together and decided to tie the knot along mile marker 10. (Emily Zoladz | The Grand Rapids Press) A marriage at the Grand Rapids Marathon gallery (14 photos)

They got engaged on Morris’ birthday, Nov. 6, and now are ready to proudly take part in what they’ve termed their completely unconventional wedding.

Not surprisingly, their plan initially drew a wide array of reactions.

Strasser, a paramedic, said one of his friends who has never done any long-distance running has trained and is going to run with them. Morris, however, said her family, which still lives in the Grand Rapids area, wasn’t too surprised.

"Usually it’s a very enthusiastic, 'What the hell are you thinking?' And then they realize, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s Che," she said with a laugh. "They just kind shrug off anything strange that comes out of my mouth. I’ve always been the unorthodox one of the family.

"I joked that my body rejects white and I refuse to be one of 'those brides.'"

She actually will be wearing white, though. While Strasser will wear a running shirt with a bow tie, and his groomsmen are donning tuxedo T-shirts, Morris' mother found some white, sweat-wicking Nike Dri Fit fabric that she was able to fashion into a wedding dress for the bride.

"No joke," she said. "It’s pretty impressive, if I do say so myself."