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Love on tape

Created date

January 28th, 2009

Long before reality TV, Dan and Sandra Wagner exchanged their vows in front of a national audience.

"After we got engaged, I heard about the television program Bride and Groom," says Sandra. "They were looking for unusual love stories, so I wrote a letter telling ours and sent it in."

Happily ever after detour

The Wagners grew up less than two miles apart in Tulsa, Okla., but their paths didn t cross until high school.

"We met at a church picnic," recalls Sandra. "I was a junior, and he was a senior. We discovered that we both liked to ice skate. He asked if I wanted to go skating later that evening, and I agreed. When I got home, I realized I didn t know his name. My brother was in his class, so I told him to stand by the window and act as a scout."

Rocky introductions aside, the two fell for each other and dated into the college years.

After his sophomore year at the University of Tulsa, Dan joined the Air Force. Meanwhile, Sandra visited an aunt in California.

"I started dating a young doctor in San Francisco," says Sandra. "That Christmas, he proposed."

Unaware, Dan wrote to Sandra that he was coming home on leave and implied that he would like to buy her a ring.

"She wrote back and told me not to," says Dan. "She said she was going to marry someone else and that she had always loved me like a brother. It was a Dear John letter in the truest sense."

The following Valentine s Day, Sandra received a special delivery of chocolates and a dozen roses. The card was signed Dan Wagner.

"My mother thought it was totally inappropriate for Dan to send me flowers when he knew I was engaged to someone else. She wanted me to send them back," recalls Sandra.

As it turned out, Dan had no knowledge of the delivery. His brother, sympathetic to Dan s plight, sent the flowers with Dan s name on the card.

A change of heart

The unexpected gifts gave Sandra a moment s pause.

"I decided I needed to think things over," she says. When Dan came home on leave that summer, Sandra had returned the ring to the doctor.

"My parents weren t too pleased with me going from a doctor to an airman," she says. "But I had a change of heart."

The couple was moving forward with plans to marry when Sandra got word that they had been chosen to appear on Bride and Groom.

"I was going out to meet a plane at my base in Delaware when Sandra called and told me the wedding was off," says Dan. "My heart just sank. Then she sprang the news that we were going to get married on TV."

New York nuptials

The wedding was scheduled for February 1, 1954. The show flew the couple to New York, where Sandra was whisked away to the Garment District to select a gown.

Last-minute hiccups did little to squelch the couple s enthusiasm.

"Right before the wedding, my bridesmaid was offered a position with American Airlines and had to report for flight attendant training," says Sandra. "The lady from the Fab commercial stood up with me."

Standing proved to be a problem as well. Dan is 6 1"; Sandra is 5 2". The camera couldn t pick them both up, so Sandra had to stand on a Coca-Cola case while she said her vows.

Once the ceremony was over, the show s sponsors showered the couple with gifts, including a two-week honeymoon in Bermuda.

Dreams fulfilled

Two children and three grandchildren later, the Wagners are poised to celebrate their 55th anniversary this month at Eagle s Trace, where they live.

The couple stay connected through their involvement in a number of activities on campus. They started a line dancing club together. Sandra is the treasurer of the Treasure Chest, a resale shop on campus. Dan is the vice president of the Resident Advisory Council and song leader at the Sunday worship service.

They also have family living just down the hall. Sandra s brother, the same one who acted as a scout all those years ago, lives at Eagle s Trace with his wife. The two couples often have dinner together.

"We love the freedom we have here," says Dan. "When we want to travel, we just lock our door and go. The people are marvelous too. This is about as complete a life as you can hope for."