It’s hard to find the right words to describe the love that these two share, so I’m just going to let the best man’s speech do it for me. Greg, thank you for articulating exactly what needed to be said. And Nick and Courtney, thank you for letting me document such a huge day for both you and our Hard Rock family.
Hell hath frozen over! Nick Hudson is married. A phrase we never thought we’d utter without chuckling under our breath. But yet here he is. All clean cut, no mohawk, and not a single piercing in his face. Who’d have thunk it! Next spring will mark 10 years that I’ve known the infamous Nick Hudson. I was 22, which would have made it right around his 23rd birthday. I had been working here at the Hard Rock Cafe for only about a year and, in many ways, was still getting my feet wet. For the many of you in this room who work here, or have worked here, you all remember that first year. You walk in the door, probably having worked at some restaurant like Applebee’s or, as in my case, Ruby Tuesday, and you’re thinking that this restaurant is pretty much just like any other restaurant, with the same basic cast of characters you’ve dealt with before, and it’ll be the same routine: you’ll come to work, you won’t get tipped enough, you’re gonna have to deal with policies you don’t agree with, you’ll have to deal with the kind drama that can only remind you of high school, you’re gonna get stressed and you’re gonna get frustrated, and your gonna–at least at some point–end up covered in such a smattering of different sauces that you look like you picked a fight with Jackson Pollock in the condiment aisle at Kroger. And sometimes you’re gonna feel like you downright hate the place and everyone you’re working with. And then you actually work here for a little while…and you realize that you were absolutely right about every single bit of that. But long before you reach that first anniversary…and in fact, pretty much from the moment you show up for your first day, you can’t help but notice that beyond all the mundane business of burgers and fries, there’s something more to this place…something a little different…and it’s not just the appearance of your co-workers, or the stuff on the walls. It’s a sense of family, a sense of unified passion for the irreverent, the odd, the slightly absurd… No matter what you look like, no matter what your background is, you get the sense you have something in common with these people. That no matter how long or crazy or even embarrassing your story might be, you are probably going to find a pair of ears that will hear it without judgment. And that unique quality is the reason so many people form lifelong friendships working here. And every now and then, they even find a spouse.
And so it was, a year after I started working here, that in came Nick Hudson, fresh off the train from Marietta, GA, wearing flip-flops and shorts, as he always did, even in the depths of winter, walking that trademark Nick Hudson walk, with his chest out confidently, just like his dad told him he always should, looking like he was ready for anything that came his way, be it a job or a fight ….and oh did he have a story…or should I say “stories”. If there’s one thing you find out about Nick pretty quickly after meeting him, it’s that his stories are probably better than yours. You could dig deep to uncover the craziest memory of the craziest thing you ever did in college, or throughout your younger years…Nick probably has a story that will make yours seem like a ride on a ferris wheel. I won’t even attempt to tell any of his stories in detail for the fact that A) he’ll tell them better, and B) there are children present. But if you get a couple of beers in him (which is actually a pretty tough thing to do these days), you can probably get him to tell you a little ditty. One story I will touch on briefly is that of Nick’s moving to Nashville. When you met Nick almost 10 years ago, you’d never know that at age 23, he’d already worked as a fiber-optics specialist for BellSouth in Atlanta, owned a house and a silver Saleen GT Mustang convertible (which he still talks about). But Nick wrestled with certain demons that eventually put him in a place where he knew he needed a change. And so, instead of trying to stay in a situation he knew was volatile, he gave up what many would call the American dream. He got rid of all of it and moved to Nashville to literally start from scratch. And that’s something I’ve always admired about him. Giving up the comfort of a stable job, house, and car, to come to an unknown place where he knew absolutely no one at all just because he knew somewhere deep down it was just the change he needed. But even that story is better left to him to tell. Suffice it, for now, to say, that Nick is a man of great stories.
The story of my friendship with Nick really didn’t begin until a week or so after he started working here. A group of us were down at the Beer Sellar, as was pretty common after work in those days, having a few beers, playing darts….Nick and I had barely said two words to each other at this point, but in an accidental turn of fate, I made a quick turn in a tight space with a full beer (a combination that rarely makes for a good outcome), and proceeded to pour pretty much the entire beer down the front of Nick, who had been standing just over my left shoulder. I immediately apologized profusely, having no idea what his reaction would be…but instead of any anger, or an emotional outburst of any kind, all he said was “It’s all good bro!” and gave me a five. And at that point I pretty much immediately knew two things – one: he and I were gonna be friends, and two, despite what may seem like a tough exterior, Nick Hudson has a soft, gooey center.
We discovered off the bat that we had a great deal in common. We both grew up in Marietta, about twenty minutes away from one another, we were both musicians, both singer/guitar players, into the same kinds of music, both aspiring songwriters, we both had a great deal of interest in philosophy, we both had an extensive memory database of useless movie quotes at our disposal for use in fitting situations. We even drove the same kind of car when we met…we both had two-door Ford Explorers.
I guess it’s little wonder that Nick and I pretty much became wingmen. You’d rarely find one of us out without the other, and for a while there, you’d often find him sleeping on my couch. Of course that was understandable considering he was living in an apartment over by Vanderbilt that was about the size of a small college dorm room–literally a one-room apartment–in which he had nothing but an acoustic guitar, a computer with no internet connection, and about a 19″ TV without cable that would broadcast nothing except a horribly grainy MTV2. Plus he had no cell phone, so it was not uncommon for Nick to leave his apartment and walk to the nearest payphone to call me and be like “Yo, come pick me up, I can’t stand it over here anymore!”
Over the subsequent years, Nick and I have seen each other at some of our highest and lowest points. We’ve been roommates twice, we’ve shared with each other the excited anxiety of budding relationships. We’ve been listening ears for each other when those relationships have experienced turbulence, and we’ve been there to talk things out when those relationships have come an end. We’ve tried to lift each other up when we’ve needed lifting, and we’ve smacked each other around when we’ve needed smacking…and many times we’ve just punched each other in the face for no apparent reason at all, just to get a rise out of each other. And through those experiences I’ve learned a great many things about the man, the myth, the mystery that is Nick Hudson…not the least of which is that Nick…is a DICK. No seriously, for those of you who don’t know, Nick’s nickname is “Nick the Dick”. He used to wear it on his name tag when he worked here…and he lived up to the name. Co-workers, managers, customers…even Hard Rock Vice Presidents…no one was spared. He just has a profound talent for a unique brand of totally dickish sarcasm that makes you want to both laugh hysterically and punch him in the face at the same time! But here’s the paradox. You will never find a person who knows Nick Hudson that doesn’t like him. And that’s because he is honest, he is principled, he’s a man of integrity, and he’s a loyal friend. And just like his decision to move to Nashville, when he is determined to do something, there is very little that is going to stand in his way. And those are exactly the qualities he would later use to trick a wonderful woman like Courtney McWhirter into spending the rest of her life with him.
Over the past couple of years, I have had what can only be described as the privilege of getting to know Courtney. I think I can confidently speak for anyone who has ever had the same privilege when I say that the first thing you notice about Courtney is this persistent glow that she seems to exude 24 hrs a day…and having lived with her for a few months, I can honestly say…24 hrs a day. Courtney is one of those people that seems to look at everything in a positive light. And when you talk to her, you know immediately that her disposition is genuine. She is the very picture of generosity and amicability. She is absolutely NEVER unwilling to give her time and energy to help out a friend, a co-worker, or a situation that needs it, and if there are such things as mean bones, I honestly don’t think you’d find one in her body. But again, that’s a story better left to Nick to tell, because he may just beg to differ. I remember the day Nick told me of his fancy for Courtney. Like many other people, my first thoughts were that these two could not be more opposite. I mean, here is this sweet, radiant person who would probably feel badly about having harmed a fly…who aspires to be in law enforcement…and Nick, who’s, well…a DICK. So at first, the prospect of them getting together, though I was completely in favor of it, seemed a somewhat unlikely one. But as I said, when Nick is determined, very little is going to stand in his way. And as they started to hang out and get closer to one another, the onlooker began to see that in spite of their obvious differences, these two seemed to not only really like each other, but the idea of them together started to make perfect sense. And over the ensuing months, a rather unlikely love affair became a storybook romance. I remember one day Nick telling me that he had told her absolutely everything about himself…all the stories of his crazy younger years…stories that might have sent a lesser woman running for the hills…and she never batted an eyelash. She accepted him truly as he was, no sugar coating, no holding back…just as he was. I was truly taken by that, and for the first time I began to see these two as a couple that could really have what it takes to make it all the way. As cliche as it may be, they say opposites attract, and never have I seen this more perfectly demonstrated. All of those differences that one might have perceived between these two have made them perfect compliments to one another. Just as Nick is that gentle, kind soul under a tough exterior, underneath Courtney’s warm nurturing smile is a strong woman that will lay the smack down when she needs to. Seriously, I’ve felt how hard Nick can hit, and I wouldn’t bet on him in a fist fight against Courtney. In fact, never in my life have I seen two people balance each other out so perfectly, and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen two people more in love. Of course, these two do have a great deal in common, but it is their differences, and the equilibrium it creates that makes their love affair so unique and special. And while it may be that spark of passion or the physical attraction that brings a love affair into being, it is understanding, dedication, and above all else, balance, that makes that love last forever. And I can honestly say with complete confidence that I truly believe that this love affair will stand up to every test that time throws up against it. So here’s to Nick and Courtney. May we all find a love so pure, so balanced, and so enduring.
Nashville wedding photographer Chelsey Somohano documents outdoor, diy and indie weddings in Nashville and destinations worldwide.