A change of plans due to COVID-19 led this couple to a Fall intimate wedding in the heart of beautiful Paradise Valley, Montana. Photography by Merissa Lambert.
"Wesley and I grew up in Northeast Ohio near the Akron/Cleveland area. We both attended North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC, and ran cross country/track and field. However, being 6 years apart in age we were never teammates together. We first met each other in 2011 at an NC State track alumni event in Ohio. However, we were both at different stages in our lives – I was still in college and Wesley working his first job in Philly. We reconnected in early 2017. I was working as a pediatric nurse in Cleveland, and Wesley was living in D.C. at the time and was traveling frequently to Cleveland for work. His brother Andy told him to reach out to me via social media because Andy (who also ran at NC State) knew I loved to fly fish with my dad. We met up in Cleveland and kept in touch for the next year on and off, before we finally started dating. I had gone to nursing school in D.C. and had family in the area. I reached out to Wesley while I was there visiting family and that's when things took off in 2018. We did long-distance for about 6 months before I moved in with Wesley in DC. It didn't take long for us to know this love was forever!
Very early in our relationship Wesley was scratching my back and spelled out in cursive "I am going to marry you".
... fast forward a year later...
Wesley proposed at 9 am on a Saturday at our apartment in Chevy Chase, Maryland. It was the biggest surprise of my life. He went in to the living room and played "More of You" by Chris Stapleton on our record player. I had been grumpy, so I thought he put the song on to cheer me up because he knew it was 'our song' that would one day be our first dance song. He came back in the bedroom and started spelling on my back in cursive 'Will you marry me?' and as I turned to look at him he got on one knee and had a ring in his hand. Needless to say I jumped up with excitement and gave him a big YES! Three days later we left for our trip to Spain and Portugal where he said he thought about proposing but he couldn't wait any longer. The proposal was nothing like I imagined, but it was SO much better!
Our original wedding was planned for June 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. Then Covid turned the world upside down. However, Wesley and I decided not to stress out and make the most of the year despite the circumstances. Wesley's parents had moved from Ohio to Paradise Valley/Livingston a few years ago. In May, after Wesley had been working from home for a few months, he asked me if I wanted to quit my nursing job and move into the guest cabin at his parent's house until August. It would be a summer of fly-fishing and being outdoors, which is everything we love – including our two year old golden retriever Peaty! So we packed up our things and moved out.
After postponing the June wedding until October 2020, we still knew it would be a long shot, as we anticipated around 150 guests. About mid-August we decided we were tired of pushing the wedding back and why not just do a small ceremony where we've been living all summer. So with about 6-7 weeks we planned our new wedding.
We reached out to immediate family and close friends (those in the original wedding party) and told them the change of plans. We anticipated people still not to come because of Covid, which was fine with us. We respected everyone's decision. There were definitely some people very close to our hearts that weren't able to make it, but in total we had about 40-45 people travel from all over the country. Wesley's parents hosted an outdoor 'Welcome to Montana' open house the night before the wedding at Pine Creek Lodge. It was a casual, fun night where we were able to spend time with our closest friends and family.
The wedding day was September 26th and after a few weeks of having wildfire smoke from California/Oregon hinder the beautiful views of Paradise Valley, it turned out to be a clear, blue sky day! The wedding morning I drove by myself to Bozeman and got my hair and makeup done at The Loft Spa - it was different than what I initially expected in the wedding day – getting ready with bridesmaids, etc., but Wesley and I decided not to have our friends stand up beside us since it was such a smaller, more intimate day. We had a tent set-up in his parent's yard for the reception and we set up the ceremony space in the middle grass circle of the driveway, with views of the mountains in the back. I got ready in Wesley's parent's house while he got ready in the cabin where we had lived all summer. Once I was dressed a few of my best friend's did come help me get my veil on. It was also really nice to have Wesley's mother Laura help me to get ready, since my mom passed away when I was 14. Wesley's best friend Charlie Straka was our officiant and he made the ceremony so personal and special for us! After we said 'I do!' we went with our photographer Merissa to get pictures together in other spots in Paradise Valley. We returned to an amazing dinner catered by Seasonal Montana - cannot say enough good things about their exceptional food and service! Head chef Melissa was amazing, along with the rest of her staff. Joe's DJ was incredible as well and we never left the dance floor! Wesley and I stayed at The Murray Hotel after the night ended and spent Sunday with family floating the Yellowstone River and fishing. Even though we were in the middle of a pandemic, our wedding day was still the best day of our lives. Also, VERY thankful nobody ended up with Covid after the weekend." – Samantha, the bride