How Long Has Dolly Parton Been Married to Her Husband, Carl Dean?

Dolly Parton has been married to her mysterious husband, Carl Dean, for the majority of her life. Here’s how the Queen of Country met her long-time love, their marriage story, and why their vow renewal at 50 years was so special.

Dolly Parton poses for a portrait in a white dress in 1988.
Dolly Parton, 1988 | Ron Davis/Getty Images

How Dolly Parton met Carl Dean

Parton met Dean on her first day in Nashville. She left her home in the mountains of East Tennessee so quickly that she didn’t have time to do laundry. So when she arrived at her uncle’s place (where she was staying), the first thing she did was head to the laundromat. As her clothes were spinning, she decided to take a walk outside. In the street, she saw a handsome guy in a white Chevrolet. That guy was Carl Dean. He asked her out but she wasn’t so sure. She’d just met him, after all. So Parton told Dean he could babysit with her the following afternoon. He agreed and they had a nice time together. There, he asked her out again and she said yes. For their very first date, Dean introduced Parton to his mother. It was then the “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” singer realized she was in the company of one of the good ones.

When Dolly Parton married Carl Dean

Parton and Dean got married in 1996 after two years of dating. Today, they’ve been married for 55 years. They crossed state lines to wed in secret. Why? Because Parton’s record label told her that getting married would ruin her career.

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“Everyone at my label — Monument Records and Fred Foster — had invested money in me and in building my career, so they asked me if I’d wait a year to get married,” Parton told CMT. “And I didn’t want to not do what I was supposed to do. Carl’s mother was just heartbroken.”

So they eloped to a Baptist church in Georgia. They were worried that if they got married in Tennessee, the local papers would report on it. Only Parton’s mother was in attendance.

Dolly and Carl renewed their vows at 50 years

Parton didn’t get the wedding she truly wanted with Dean back in 1966. But the couple did have a beautiful celebration when they renewed their vows at the 50-year mark.

“How many people can say they’ve been married 50 years? We’ve made it this long, we need to do it again,” Parton told Rolling Stone days before the anniversary in 2016. “I’ve always wanted a big beautiful dress, the whole thing.”

This time around, she got the whole thing.

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The Queen of Country has often called Dean the love of her life. Without hesitation, she’s ready for “the next 50 years.”

“If I had it to do all over, I’d do it all over again, and we did,” she said. “I’m dragging him kicking and screaming into the next 50 years. Wish us luck.”