MOUNT OLIVE — On Saturday, Nov. 18, soon after the wedding bells ring for Ashley Pulley and Hunter Ray, the couple plans to hightail it to the University of Mount Olive (UMO) for the 52nd Annual Pickle Classic. After all, that is where their love story began.
Ashley and Hunter, both from Wake Forest, grew up 20 minutes apart and attended rivaling high schools. However, the pair had never met until they bumped into one another on the oak-lined sidewalks at UMO.
“I first saw Ashley around campus after class,” Hunter said. “I thought she was quiet, well mannered, and a sweet young lady.”
It wasn’t long before the pair began bumping into each other more often through their mutual participation in the Campus Activity Board (CAB) events.
“When we first started talking and texting, I sent him a picture I found of some kittens and told him that I wanted one. He replied that they were cute, like me,” she said. “That is how I first knew he liked me.”
Their first official date was on November 19, 2012 at the University’s Annual Pickle Classic basketball game.
“He texted to ask me to the game,” Ashley remembered. “I was so excited to get to spend time with him and get to know him more, but of course I had the first date jitters.”
“We met just inside the arena and went upstairs to watch the game,” Hunter recalled. “We talked a fair amount, even though it was loud. We stayed for the entire game, which UMO won 87 to 34.”
The pair began coordinating their meal times to see each other, and eventually they started hanging out in the evenings and doing homework, playing games, and watching TV together. They remember waiting for each other after class to steal a quick hello and a hug.
“I had prayed for a while that God would send me someone to hang out with,” Hunter shared. “When we started dating, I thanked God for sending me Ashley.”
The more the couple began to know each other, the more time they wanted to spend together. They began carpooling to their hometown.
“We first met each other’s families over Thanksgiving in 2012,” Ashley said. We have been participating in each other’s family gatherings ever since.”
Ashley describes Hunter as very patient, loving, caring, thoughtful, smart, strong in his faith, and level headed. Likewise, Hunter says Ashley is thoughtful, caring, stubborn, ticklish, and sweet.
When asked if he believed in love at first sight, Hunter replied, “If love at first sight is a definite feeling or longing to see another person more, and enjoy their company, even in silence, then the answer is yes.”
The next four years flew by for Ashley and Hunter. They shared many UMO traditions like Christmas by Candlelight, Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners in the café, BINGO night, and Spring Fest. However, none was quite as memorable as that first date at Pickle Classic. It was therefore only fitting that when the time came to propose marriage, Hunter decided to do so at the annual homecoming game.
“To propose, I took her on a special date to Mount Olive for the 2016 homecoming game,” Hunter recalled. “Her mom wanted to go so bad, but I asked her not to so Ashley wouldn’t suspect anything. After the game, I told Ashley we should go take pictures at the Alumni Crosswalk before going home. Afterwards, I got down on one knee under the bell tower and asked her to marry me.”
“I said ‘yes’!” Ashely remembered. “However, I was so surprised at first that I was speechless for a few minutes, which made him nervous.”
Of course, when it came time to set a wedding date, the couple chose that special weekend.
“To keep the tradition going we went with Nov. 18,” Hunter said.
The couple will exchange vows at 2 PM at Rolesville Baptist Church. Then, keeping with tradition, the newlyweds will travel to UMO to watch Pickle Classic basketball.
“It may not be a traditional way to start off your honeymoon, but the date and event holds a special place in our hearts, so we didn’t have to think twice about going,” Ashley said.
The couple will be wearing matching camo t-shirts, made by Ashley’s cousin. They will have the words “Just Married” written in blaze orange on the front with “Mr. and Mrs.” on the back.
“The UMO Pickle Classic will probably always be an annual tradition for us,” Hunter said.
The couple will spend the remainder of their honeymoon on an Eastern Caribbean cruise. They will then return to life as normal in Wake Forest, where Hunter works as a Detention Officer with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office and Ashley works as a nanny.
“When I first enrolled at UMO, I never imagined that I would find such a great school, but I am beyond blessed to have also found my best friend and the love of my life there as well,” Ashley said.