Half a Century After a Secret Wedding, Dolly Parton Finally Gets to Walk Down the Aisle

CTK Mgmt/Dolly Records/Webster PR

On May 30, Dolly Parton will celebrate fifty years of marriage to one of the most elusive husbands in all of show business. The entertainment icon has often told the story of how Carl Dean vowed to stay out of the spotlight after attending one music business event with his world-famous wife early in her career. In the coming days, he’ll make an exception though — as Dolly and Carl renew their vows on their golden anniversary.

“My husband is the worst!” Dolly jokes. “It’s hard for me to make him do anything. I have to make him go to the dentist, I have to make him go to the doctor. I have to make him get new clothes. I go get ’em and [he says] ‘I don’t like that… my feet are too long… I don’t like those socks.’ I said, ‘Well, we’re going shopping for a wedding suit and I don’t want to hear nothin’ about it!’ So anyway, we’ve got him all suited up, so he liked the suit.”

The “I Will Always Love You” composer says she’s excited about the ceremony, since she never really got to have a wedding. When Dolly and Carl tied the knot back in 1966, she’d just signed her first recording contract and promised her label she’d wait to marry. So the young couple fled to a church in Ringgold, Georgia, where they tied the knot in secret, with Dolly’s mother as a witness.

“He don’t like to do this kind of thing as a rule,” she says of Carl, “but he’s like me, he’s proud we’ve made it 50 years. We’ve been together 52 years. We dated two years and then we got married, so anyway, we’re gonna do it. He said he would, so he better — or it won’t last another year!” she jokes.  

There’s a possibility the world may get its best look ever at the mysterious Carl Dean after the anniversary, as Dolly’s planning to sell the photos to raise money for her nonprofit that sends books to children all over the world, the Imagination Library.  

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