published Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Couple behind 'The Vow': Kim and Krickitt Carpenter coming to Chattanooga

Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, Krickitt and Kim Carpenter, from left, at the premiere of "he Vow," the
movie based on the Carpenter’s story of falling in love a second time.
Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, Krickitt and Kim Carpenter, from left, at the premiere of "he Vow," the movie based on the Carpenter’s story of falling in love a second time.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

• What: First Things First Fall Banquet

• When: 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 24

• Where: Chattanooga Convention Center, 1150 Carter St.

• Tickets: $75 per person

• Reservation deadline: Thursday

• Information: 423-267-5383

How the two rekindled their love and kept the commitment promised in their marriage vows was recorded in their 1996 book, "The Vow: The Kim and Krickitt Carpenter Story." It later became the inspiration for the 2012 movie "The Vow" starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, the sixth-highest-grossing romantic drama of all time, according to Internet Movie Database records.

The book, which was a New York Times bestseller, has been reprinted in 20 languages, most recently Chinese, as requested by the Chinese government, says Kim.

The Carpenters will be in town one week from today, on Sept. 24, to share that experience at First Things First's fall banquet in the Chattanooga Convention Center.

"To watch what Kim did in their relationship to help Krickitt get better, to court her all over again, really intrigued me," says Julie Baumgardner, First Things First executive director. "I think their talk will be encouraging. Their story is not a downer, but people will be uplifted -- and they have a great sense of humor."

Twenty years after her coma, Krickitt still has no memory of her life from 18 months prior to the wreck through four months afterward. Specialists say she likely never will.

"They give you 18 months to remember memories lost after a traumatic brain injury, after that they are probably gone for good," she explains. "But that's fine, we've built 20 years of good memories."

In an interview, the Carpenters talk about Kim's 450-mile commute for weekend visits, discrepancies between their story and the movie, and, of course, Kim's reaction to learning that People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive had been cast to play him in the movie.

How did you meet? Were you a music producer as depicted in the movie?

• Kim: I was a baseball coach at a university; she worked for a sports apparel company. I called to order some coaching jacket samples and she answered the phone. A year later we got married.

What happened once you left the hospital after the accident and coma? How did try to revive memories?

• Kim: The first five months after the accident, she lived at home. I had moved back home, 450 miles away, while she was in outpatient treatment. I would fly back and forth every weekend to spend two or three days with her.

I became pretty obsessed with putting up pictures around the house, trying to show pictures of memories we had in the brief time we were married, of our honeymoon. But nothing was jogging her memory. During the time she was an inpatient, I pushed pretty hard. I wanted her to get better, but it took a toll. She got really frustrated with me and she'd say, "I don't know you. Go back to where you came from."

Did either of your hesitate over whether to try a second time?

• Kim: I have a set of parents who have been married 50 years; Krickitt's parents have been married over 50 years. Her father did not cheat on her mother like in the movie.

You do what you say you are going to do, and I made a vow "until death do us part." I wasn't going anywhere. There was a time I thought it might be over, but I wasn't going to leave her until she was capable of taking care of herself and competent enough to tell me she didn't love me.

Fifty years ago, "till death do us part" meant the death of a spouse, now it's the death of a marriage. People give up and kill their marriage before there's ever any effort. People are living without conviction more and more. The foundations of marriage are on some of its most unstable ground today.

• Krickitt: We never divorced like the movie showed. Divorce was never an option. It was obviously a difficult situation, but as we got to know each other again, I liked this person I had married. We probably have a deeper love than we might have had. It was the right thing to do; it was what the Lord expected us to do.

It's been reported that you were disappointed that the movie removed the Christian perspective on marriage shared in your book.

• Kim: Not so much disappointed, as just what we would have liked to have. But you have to realize you are dealing with Hollywood. I did have some frustration because that's not the way we live our lives nor is it the way her parents lived theirs. But we had spiritual leaders who said, "Let it go, because the movie will lead people to the book," which is what happened. The movie opened a lot of doors, and we've seen a lot of success with the book.

What kind of bragging rights did you have with the guys, Kim, when Channing Tatum was cast to play you?

• Kim: It's funny, I asked, "Who's he?" We did not know who Rachel McAdams and Channing were. We immediately went to work on finding out.

• Krickitt: What was really interesting was to listen to them tell us how nervous they were to meet us. It was comical.

• Kim: Both of them were so personable. It was neat to see how real they are. Vanity Fair called me when Channing was named Sexiest Man Alive and asked how it felt to be the sexiest man alive. I said, "I'm the man behind the sexiest man alive."

Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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