WORTHINGTON — Within the span of one full year, three of the four daughters of Merlyn and Becky Darling will have married.
That’s a whole lot of wedding cake, no matter how you slice it.
“It’s definitely made things interesting,” said Alicia Darling, 22, who grew up on the family’s farm north of Worthington and graduated from Worthington High School in 2015.
Next July, Alicia will become the third of four Darling daughters to wed in a 13-month period. (Youngest sibling, Jessica, is a college sophomore who — according to her sister — “isn’t lacking for suitors” but has no immediate plans to tie the knot.)
“That’s a lot of weddings in a short amount of time, but our parents have been very helpful and generous,” Alicia said.
“Mom was more nervous for the first wedding, but now she knows what to expect and seems to be really enjoying the process. I think she’s excited to start planning again.”
Brianna, a 2012 WHS graduate who is now teaching high school English in Orange City, Iowa, got the Darling marriage ball rolling when she wed her beau, Joel, in late June.
One short month later, eldest sister Sarah, a 2009 WHS graduate who is a K-12 music teacher in the northwestern Minnesota town of Fisher, said “I do” to her fiancé T.J.
And on July 22 — Alicia’s golden birthday — Jake Hergott proposed to the newly minted 22-year-old in a romantic moment at Oak Grove State Park in Hawarden, Iowa. The happy couple soon set a wedding date for July 2020, thus ensuring the Darling family would toast three brides in less than 13 months.
“I’ve run a lot of trails there,” said Alicia of her proposal site, “so it’s a special place to me.”
Jake, a self-proclaimed jokester who had long professed to friends that he wouldn’t marry until he was at least 31 years old, surprised Alicia.
“I thought we were going to have a picnic — but it turned out there was nothing in the bag but my ring,” she said.
The couple shares a love of country music and swing dancing, so when Jake employed his phone to play “Amazed” by Lonestar and suggested they dance, Alicia wasn’t initially caught off-guard.
“I thought he was just doing something special for my birthday,” she laughed. “But then he started singing the lyrics out loud — ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you by my side,’ and I realized, ‘Maybe this is more special than that.’”
When they finished dancing, Jake smoothly proposed.
“He’s not often that romantic,” admitted Alicia. “He really likes to joke around, but I love that he always makes me laugh and has a joke on hand.”
The pair met in an education class at Northwestern College when Alicia was in her first semester of study (she graduated with a psychology major and is currently employed as a behavioral health intervention specialist with Family Solutions Services in Orange City) and Jake, a 2013 high school graduate from Lincoln, Neb., who transferred to Northwestern after beginning his college career at Central College in Pella, Iowa, was in the midst of pursuing a degree in physical education with a health minor.
“It was ‘Survey of Exceptional Individuals,’ where we were learning about children with disabilities,” explained Alicia.
“I figured if I wanted to pass I should sit next to the nerds — so I sat by Alicia,” joked Jake.
A college wrestler, Jake arrived to the first day of class a bit late, with a couple of teammates in tow, and the professor interrupted the flow to say, “Watch out for the wrestlers,” Alicia recalled.
Jake took advantage of a group project to secure Alicia’s phone number and the pair notched their first official date on Jan. 1, 2016.
Alicia found Jake’s sense of humor and consistent kindness to be attractive qualities, while he teases that her intelligence appealed to him even though her outfit did not.
“I didn’t like her shoes,” he mugged.
“They were an ugly teal/yellow combination, and I was wearing a bright orange running shirt,” said Alicia, a standout cross country and track competitor at WHS who continued running cross country at Northwestern.
Jake grew serious when describing his motivation for proposing to Alicia.
“Some trials in my life helped show me where I wanted to walk in my life’s journey, and Alicia helped me see the way,” said Jake. “Someone once told me, ‘You know someone’s a special person when you want to get better for them and not because of them,’ so it just felt right.”
Based in Orange City while Jake earns a master’s degree in special education and coaching, the couple has enthusiastically begun tackling plans for their wedding.
“We have a lot of things already set,” said Alicia, mentioning that her two recently married sisters have proved to be great resources.
The Darling/Hergott wedding and reception will take place at Crossroads Pavilion Event Center in Sheldon, Iowa. Hy-Vee of LeMars has been retained for flowers, food and cake.
“The main thing I want is mashed potatoes — that’s my favorite food — and when Jake and I attended another wedding this past year, they served the best mac and cheese ever, so he wanted to have that.”
A meat entrée, vegetables and salad will likely round out the celebratory meal — but chocolate fans in attendance shouldn’t expect to get their fix at the event.
“We’re not huge chocolate people, so we’ll probably have white cake,” revealed Darling.
Alicia found the dress of her dreams at Fairytale Formal and More Consignments in downtown Worthington; she’s delighted with it but is reserving word on its details to surprise her fiancé.
“His only request was that I should make sure I could swing dance in it,” said Alicia.
Alicia’s six bridesmaids (her three sisters, plus three additional former college roommates) are to be dressed in shades of steel and sky blue.
“Those two blues along with peach will give it a nice summer look,” opined Alicia.
Jake’s groomsmen (his younger brother, Bailey, will be his best man) will likely wear gray suits with blue ties that match the shade worn by their respective bridal attendants.
The Rev. Tim Truesdell, pastor of Alicia’s home church (American Reformed of Worthington), is the officiant, and the ceremony will include music performed by the Great Plains String Quartet.
“I was very involved with orchestra during high school, so having Mrs. [Melanie] Loy and her quartet play at my wedding is like a dream come true,” said Alicia.
“I love their music and I’m so pleased to have them involved,” she said, adding that the string ensemble will also provide music at the start of the reception.
With two recent weddings under the collective belt of the bride’s family, Alicia and Jake anticipate the intervening months before they take their turn at the altar will pass quickly.
“Jake is driven, loving — and a goofball,” laughed Alicia. “I’m more serious by nature, but he lightens me up.”
Added Jake, “I’m a lucky guy; Alicia is passionate, caring and affectionate, and she lights up my life.”