Dolly Parton is dearly loved for her bubbly and over-the-top personality, but there’s one part of her colorful world she keeps carefully guarded: her 54-year-long marriage to Carl Thomas Dean.

In May 2016, the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by renewing their vows during a private but glamorous ceremony in Nashville. “If I had it to do all over, I’d do it all over again, and we did,” said Dolly Parton in a statement. “I’m dragging him kicking and screaming into the next 50 years. Wish us luck.”

For their “beautiful ceremony” four years ago, the country legend finally got to wear fancy wedding gown — in Dolly Parton’s true style. For Dolly Parton, it will be a dream come true, since she had to put her dream wedding on hold when she tied the knot with Carl Thomas Dean.

“I never really felt like I had the wedding that we really wanted,” the singer said. “He got all dressed up, and I got all dressed up. Fifty years is a long time for anything, and I felt that we needed to do something to commemorate this. It’s been a good 50 years, and I don’t know how many more years we’ll have left.”

But how did their relationship started? What are Carl Thomas Dean and Dolly Parton’s secret to a lasting happy marriage?

Carl Thomas Dean and Dolly Parton

How Their Love Story Begun

After graduating from Sevier County High School in 1964, Dolly Parton got on a bus and moved away to Nashville to live up to her dream of becoming a country music star.

“I always wanted to be a singin’ star, and for a singin’ star, Nashville was the world,” she told The New York Times in 1976. And on her first day she moved to the famous Music City, she met Carl Dean outside the Wishy Washy Laundromat in Nashville.

“I’d come to Nashville with dirty clothes. I was in such a hurry to get here,” the Jolene singer said. “And after I’d put my clothes in the machine, I started walkin’ down the street … and this guy hollered at me, and I waved. Bein’ from the country, I spoke to everybody. And he came over and, well, it was Carl, my husband.”

The superstar was quite surprised and a little delighted how Carl Dean looked at her face as he talked to her. Dean was genuinely interested in finding out who Dolly Parton was. Without a doubt, Dean quickly got smitten with Dolly Parton’s charm. “My first thought was ‘I’m gonna marry that girl,’” he told Entertainment Tonight in 2016. “My second thought was, ‘Lord, she’s good lookin’. And that was the day my life began.”

Well, Carl Dean definitely knows how to conquer his dreams. Just two years after that fateful meeting, the two decided to get married. However, Dolly Parton had just signed with Monument Records, and label head Fred Foster asked the then-engaged singer to put her wedding on hold.

“He was investing quite a bit of money in me to try and get me started in the business,” Dolly Parton recalled. “He heard that I was engaged, and we had already sent out our wedding invitations, and so he called me in the office and said, ‘I would really appreciate it if you wouldn’t get married for at least a year, so I can kind of make sure I can get a return on my investment because I want you to be free to work and do whatever you need to do,’” Dolly Parton said.

But you can never stop two people in love, rather than pushing back their wedding the two traveled to Ringgold, GA and got married right away at a Baptist Church so the news wouldn’t be picked up in the papers in Tennessee. Dolly Parton’s mother made her a white dress for the simple, private ceremony.

Carl Thomas Dean and Dolly Parton Wedding Photo
Carl Thomas Dean and Dolly Parton Wedding Photo

“No people there, just the preacher and his wife, the witness, and Mama and Carl and I,” said Parton.

Since that day, Dolly Parton and husband Carl Dean have lived happily-ever-after for more than 50 years. They’ve loved and supported each other while respecting each other’s independence.

Carl Thomas Dean Preferred To Live Away From The Spotlight

Carl Dean, who runs an asphalt paving business in Nashville, has tried to stay away from the spotlight for the entirety of the couple’s marriage. He has become somewhat of a mystery in the country music world. And that’s just the way the couple likes it.

 “When I met my husband, he wanted to take me out to dinner. He pulled up to the drive-in window and got our food at McDonald’s,” Parton recalled about their early courtship. “We know a few little places we can go without being bothered. He only likes to go to places where he can be comfortable!”

The BMI dinner in 1966, which was the first and last industry event she and her husband attended together. Parton was honored with a songwriting award for the Phillips recording of “Put It Off Until Tomorrow.” The couple got dressed up and walked up the red carpet.

But when the night’s festivities were over, Dolly Parton’s husband Carl Dean made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with the entertainment business. “Carl turned to me and said, ‘Dolly, I want you to have everything you want, and I’m happy for you, but don’t you ever ask me to go to another one of them dang things again!'” the singer recalled.

For years, Carl Dean would never come to Parton’s show, especially that he gets nervous with the thought that her wife might mess up, so he never wanted to watch it. But he’s proud of Parton, and her work, “He’s always been my biggest fan behind the scenes,” Parton told people.

Dolly Parton is a nine-time Grammy award winner. She has composed more than 3,000 songs, including “I Will Always Love You,” a two-time U.S. country chart-topper, as well as an international pop hit for Whitney Houston. Dolly Parton’s net worth is a whopping $600 million.

On Keeping Their Marriage Strong and Lasting

Now, everyone’s curious about how Dolly Parton and husband Carl Dean were able to keep the spark alive for so many years. “You gotta kinda respect and like each other and forgive a lot of stuff and accept a lot of things,” 74-year-old Dolly Parton told Us Weekly. “Love each other and keep your vows.”

Dolly Parton Husband Carl Thomas Dean

Some distance can help as well. “It doesn’t hurt to have some separation,” the country legend added. “I always say ‘Stay gone!’ and there’s a lot of truth to that. I travel a lot, but we really enjoy each other when we’re together and the little things we do.”

It sounds like the ‘9 to 5’ singer has no regrets with her marriage. Carl Dean is full of love for his wife and has a compassionate heart. Although the singer admits, they wanted to have children, at first. “Early on, when my husband and I were dating, and then when we got married, we just assumed we would have kids. We weren’t doing anything to stop it. In fact, we thought maybe we would. We even had names if we did, but it didn’t turn out that way,” the “I Will Always Love You” singer told Billboard in 2014.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons Parton never had children was due to her endometriosis, a painful condition that can lead to infertility. In 1984, according to an interview with Closer Weekly, the singer underwent a partial hysterectomy to treat her symptoms, a procedure in which the entire uterus and part of the cervix have to be removed.

While she did not talk much about the condition or her operation, Parton did say she went into a deep depression afterward and even thought about suicide. “It was an awful time for me,” she told reporters in 2008.

In an interview with The Guardian, Parton said she and his husband Carl Dean always wonder about what their children would have been like. “We thought about if we had kids, what would they look like? Would they be tall—because he’s tall? Or would they be little squats like me? If we’d had a girl, she was gonna be called Carla,” she said.

Carl Dean and Dolly Parton

But after talking and dreaming about it, she said, “It wasn’t meant to be. Now that we’re older? We’re glad.”

Earlier this year, the country music legend and her husband were seen out in public for the first time in 40 years. The Daily Mail published photos taken last January, showing Dean during an outing near their home in Brentwood, Tennessee.

The Daily Mail’s photos show Dean wearing a beige coat and jeans, and was aided by a personal assistant. Dolly Parton’s husband Carl Dean is absolutely loving the reclusive lifestyle. He barely leaves the house and doesn’t really interact with people unless he has to – the total opposite of Dolly Parton.

“They say that opposites attract, and it’s true,” Parton told People in 2015. “We’re completely opposite, but that’s what makes it fun. I never know what he’s gonna say or do. He’s always surprising me.”

In fact, Dolly Parton and husband Carl Dean even share different tastes in music. Carl Dean chooses to listen to hard rock and bluegrass instead of country music. But Dolly Parton added, “But when we’re together, we have enough things in common that it works.”