A couple in love: Wedding bells in July

Editor's note: This is the first of a 10-week series that follows a Craig couple to their wedding.

It wasn't a blind date, or wine and dinner. It wasn't even a hot date. TJ Montgomery and Debbie Stark ignited their passion over the roar of two cylinders and a fast track.

"I was working for my dad in 1997 and we rode snowmachines often," Stark said. "TJ was working at High Country Sports and knew who I was just from seeing me and my dad in the shop so often."

"TJ was a big-time pro snowmobile racer, and came to my dad's plumbing shop to solicit donations. TJ asked me if I would like to race his snowmobile in the Craig race at the end of February. I thought it would be fun, so I agreed. After racing in Craig, I went to Yellowstone to race in the national event at the end of March."

Powder and love was in the air.

"I knew that I liked TJ, but I wasn't sure if I was ready for him to tell me that he was falling in love with me," she said. "But, he did."

TJ moved in on Easter in 1997 and they've been together ever since. The couple plans to wed in July, the final bond in their five-year courtship.

Although the hardest part of a man's decision to ask the girl of his dreams to marry him is often times winning the father over, TJ had it made from the start.

"About two years before TJ asked me to marry him, my dad asked TJ, 'when are you going to make an honest woman out of my daughter?'"

"The evening after TJ asked me, we went to my parents house where TJ stood in front of my Dad and asked 'I would like to know if it's OK if I make an honest woman out of your daughter?' My dad was tongue-tied, but was finally able to say yes."

Then, the long courtship began. For TJ, getting married wasn't an option until he turned 40. For Debbie, it was worth the wait.

"TJ said he would not get married again until he turned 40. On his 40th birthday, he took me out to dinner. He told me that he wanted to light the table candle because of his birthday little did I know that he wanted the mood to be romantic. He asked me if I was going to keep him. I was. Then he pulled the ring out of his pocket and asked me if I would marry him. He put the ring on my finger and, of course, I cried because I was so happy."

She's been thinking about her wedding plans ever since. Although Stark isn't planning to include extravagant details and accessories, she has worked hard to stay within her budget. She says she plans on an event that will be classy and lots of fun for everyone. Adorned with leis and tropical flowers provided by Candlelight Floral of Craig, the bride and groom are sure to be the picture of paradise.

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