Like all Episcopal students, McCraney Brown ’13 and Nicklaus (Nick) Russell ’12 attended services in the Lewis Memorial Chapel of the Good Shepherd every week. Similar to their classmates, the two were also active members of the student body. McCraney was a part of the cheerleading squad and tennis team, and Nick was a member of the baseball and football teams. However, unlike most students the two developed a relationship that would one day see them return to the Chapel as bride and groom.
McCraney remembers Nick from Middle School. A year younger than him, she jokingly says she knew him, but he didn’t know her at the time. By McCraney’s ninth grade year that changed, and the two talked at a friend’s crawfish boil. McCraney’s junior year provided them the opportunity to become friends as they had several elective classes together. That friendship blossomed, and the two had a first date that McCraney remembers well. She says she had just finished participating in a '70’s theme dance recital before the big outing. She was dressed in a blue leotard and bright blue eyeshadow. With no time to change, she met Nick for their first date at a local sushi restaurant.
The young couple continued dating, and McCraney remembers spending time together in the Episcopal quad and the student center. The two were also frequent visitors to the coffee shop. Once Nick graduated and enrolled at Ole Miss, where he studied business administration and economics, there were frequent trips between Oxford and Baton Rouge. McCraney remembers Nick having lunch at Episcopal with her younger sister Joyner when he was home for a visit. “She felt so special,” she says. There were also occasions when Nick picked Joyner up from school. Nick had truly become a part of McCraney’s family. This became obvious when the two took a two week break from dating. McCraney’s younger brother Tad accused her of taking away his only brother. The break didn’t last, and the two quickly reunited. The first ring Nick presented to McCraney was her Episcopal class ring, as he was the one to ring her at the traditional Ring Day Ceremony. Eventually, McCraney graduated from Episcopal and joined Nick at Ole Miss as an exercise science major.
Through the excitement of college life with tailgating at the Grove and late night study sessions, McCraney and Nick remained together. They continued dating when they returned to Baton Rouge, and McCraney enrolled in nursing school. In April 2019, the two planned a trip to New Orleans to celebrate Nick’s 25th birthday - at least that’s what McCraney thought was happening. Nick surprised her with a proposal, and the two began planning a wedding.
McCraney had long envisioned getting married at First United Methodist Church, but church renovations made that impossible. Her mom suggested the Episcopal Chapel, and initially McCraney was unconvinced. None of her friends had gotten married at the Chapel, and she just wasn’t sure it was the right location. After a quick visit to the venue, she changed her mind. Once friends discovered the wedding location, everyone was excited to return to campus for the special day. On December 28, 2019, McCraney and Nick, surrounded by many of their Episcopal classmates, got married in the Chapel, the location of weekly services, college announcements, Lessons and Carols and the baccalaureate ceremony that marked the end of their high school days. For McCraney, marking the beginning of their marriage in the Chapel was perfect. “It was a place that meant something to both of us,” she says. As her grandfather would later say in a toast, the occasion occurred eight years and two months after the two first began dating on that same campus.
McCraney and Nick’s first year of marriage was unconventional. She finished nursing school in May, with a pandemic impacting the Baton Rouge area. After only a few months of marriage, the two were confined to their apartment. McCraney says they walked the LSU lakes, did puzzles and Nick tested out new recipes. “It was kind of nice to have just us time,” she says. “A lot of people don’t have that special time.” There were other unusual events during that first year of marriage. Nick had his appendix removed, providing McCraney the opportunity to test her nursing skills, and the couple had a bout with COVID-19.
Marrying your high school sweetheart is not a common love story, but it’s a story that fits McCraney and Nick. “I think it’s just fun,” says McCraney. “We were friends first.” She appreciates the fact that the two have shared so many life experiences and will continue going through the phases of life together.
The wedding felt like a class reunion with numerous Episcopal classmates on hand. The photo includes the following alumni: Denton Graham ’12, Julian Darden ’12, William Newton ’11, Kent Knaus ’12, Vincent Dellocono ’12, Gaines Hanks ’12, TR Clausen ’12, Taylor LeBlanc ’13, Amelia Rosso ’13, Jane Lloyd (Brown) Dossett ’09, Tad Brown ’16 and Joyner Brown ’20.
Episcopal will always be a part of their story. “That’s where we met,” says McCraney. “We formed friendships that lasted forever and hopefully our relationship will too.” When the two move into the parenting phase of life, McCraney hopes their children will also attend Episcopal because of the experience they had at the school. “Our friends were so close,” says McCraney. “The class sizes are big, but not too big.” McCraney says even now she still thinks about her second grade teacher, and she remains in contact with many of her former classmates.
From weekly quiet moments in the Episcopal Chapel to a wedding that seemed like a high school reunion in that same special place, McCraney and Nick have a true Episcopal Cupid Couple love story. Join us in wishing them well in the comment section below.
Episcopal’s close knit community has helped establish numerous Cupid Couples. To read about one of our other featured Cupid Couples Mollie and John Hill, click here. You can also check out this Cupid Couple video to see what some of our other couples have been up to since their time at Episcopal. Happy Valentine’s Day to our Cupid Couples!