Photographed by Photography By Soozie
A sentimental backyard barbecue was just the thing for one Elkins native and her Pennsylvania beau.
Written by Mikenna Pierotti
Romance was the last thing on Maryn Shreve’s mind when Tyler Graves fell into her life. It was December 2008 and she had just returned home after filming a promotional 4-H project in Chile. Knowing she’d have to work long hours as a night operations building supervisor at the student union, and that her dream of becoming a videographer and photographer would require a lot of work, she arrived back at West Virginia University determined to keep distractions to a minimum. Enter: the cute new hire from Pennsylvania. “I hadn’t met all my coworkers yet, but I’d heard good things about Maryn,” Tyler says of the Elkins native he fell for. “Then she walked into the room and pretty much blew my mind. I didn’t really believe in love at first sight until she came through the door and knocked me off my feet. I pined for her for a few months until I got her attention.” Maryn, on the other hand, tried her hardest to ignore him. “I thought he was really, really cute and charming and so funny,” she says. “But I was not looking for a relationship. He would ask and ask and ask, but I would say, ‘No, maybe another time. I don’t date coworkers.’”
Luckily, Maryn’s and Tyler’s respective bosses saw something Maryn didn’t—their chemistry. “They sat me down and asked about him. I thought I was in trouble for flirting, but they were really pushing it on us, as were our other friends.” Maryn finally relented and, on Tyler’s 22nd birthday, she took a chance and decided to stop by his birthday party. “He was so cute, showing me off to all his friends,” she says. Later that night Tyler saw his opening as he walked Maryn out and went in for a sweet goodnight kiss. “I had never been somebody who says, ‘You’ll know at the first kiss,’ but it was so powerful,” she says. “I guess it was good that I gave him a shot.”
More Ups Than Downs
“We went through a lot of challenges,” Maryn says. Tyler’s decision to join the Army and their busy lives tested their love, but they came out stronger than ever. She saw him through training, the two moved in together, and she started working and attending classes while pursuing a master’s degree. “He eventually got a job in Virginia, in the Washington, D.C., area, and he invited me along.” That was when she realized how serious they were getting. Then Tyler got his deployment papers and things took a turn. “I think that was the clincher for him,” she says.
“We had been together for a few years at that point and I knew I had to seal the deal,” Tyler says. “We had talked about getting married and I knew I wanted to, but I just didn’t have the money saved up to get her the ring I wanted.” Finally, the Saturday before his Monday deployment, things fell into place. “Just before we were getting ready to leave, I finally got one of the payments from my enlistment bonus and I knew it was time. It was the last weekend I was going to be home before I went overseas.” Although he didn’t have much time to arrange a romantic proposal, Tyler managed to come up with a plan on the fly. “I told her I was going out to get a haircut in the morning and run some errands.” Maryn offered to go with him, but he insisted she stay behind. Tyler spent the morning sitting in the jewelry store before returning home and promptly disappearing. “I was trying to be cute and tie the ring to our dog’s collar. Maryn was in the other room getting ready for this family thing we were going to, asking me what I was doing,” Tyler says. “Meanwhile, I’m trying to reel the dog in and the dog’s not cooperating. Then she comes in and I have to shove the ring in a bag behind my back.”
Apparently Tyler’s performance wasn’t very convincing, and his hair was very obviously not cut. “He just bolted,” Maryn laughs. “He went down into our backyard and sat down under our apple tree. I was already feeling sad because I’d asked if he wanted to take a walk before our family got together and he’d said we didn’t have time. But then there he was playing with the dogs outside. I was jealous.” Maryn followed him outside and sat down under the apple tree to confront him about his strange behavior—and lack of haircut—and found him a bundle of nerves. “I said, ‘Hey, you didn’t get a haircut. What were you doing all day?’” He said, “Do you really want to know?” And pulled out the ring. “I didn’t even give the poor boy a chance,” Maryn says. “I grabbed the ring and knocked it out of his hand. It was perfectly imperfect. It was so us.”
Feels like Home
With Tyler headed overseas and a Labor Day weekend wedding circled on their calendars, Maryn fearlessly took charge of wedding planning on the home front. “We had one day to plan together and then he went off and there was no contact for about a month, so he gave me complete trust and free rein,” she says. “But I’m such a planner, by the time he was able to call me almost everything was done.” As a wedding photographer and videographer, Maryn already knew what she liked and didn’t like. Thankfully, Tyler had only three things he knew he wanted to be involved in choosing—the food, the cake, and what he and his groomsmen would wear. “Everything else, I told her to let me know if she needed help but to have at it,” he says. And she did, though she frequently sought his opinion. “Almost everyone I knew, their grooms didn’t want to be involved, didn’t care, or didn’t get a say. I had this wonderful husband-to-be who would actually give me the time of day. Even though we could only Skype once or twice a week, he would actually entertain wedding ideas. I was lucky,” she says.
Tyler spent nearly 15 months away, and during that time Maryn pulled together a sentimental, yet rustic romantic outdoor wedding on her parents’ property—a ranch with a covered wraparound porch set on four rolling acres in Morgantown. “We wanted something that was casual and comfortable, that didn’t feel like work, where we could involve our dogs,” she says. “A lot of the details that went into the wedding were very sentimental—antiques we had, family photos—but beyond that, I tried to incorporate a little of what everyone else wanted as well. Because yes, it was our day, but our parents were so excited to see their little ones get married,” Maryn says. With plenty of input from family and friends, Maryn added touches of 1950s décor and family mementos—including a 1952 Dodge Power Wagon as a backdrop for photos, antiques borrowed from family members’ basements and attics, as well as tables decorated in antique lace from the bride’s grandmothers, old cameras, and family wedding photos that spanned several generations.
This vintage feel spilled over into the attire. “For my dress I knew I wanted something country and lace, but we were having sort of a backyard barbecue feel, so a ball gown wouldn’t work.” While shopping in Pittsburgh, Maryn spotted a dress that made her heart skip a beat. “It was the very first dress I tried on. As soon as I had it on, I fell in love with it,” she says. Her perfect dress was an ivory lace Maggie Sottero Tabitha mermaid-style gown with a jeweled belt and a sweetheart neckline. She added a touch of her Italian heritage with a long lace-edged veil and carried a bouquet of ivory roses, lisianthus, calla lilies, mini green hydrangeas, hypericum berries, fiddleheads, and gray lamb’s ear with a blue rosary passed down from her great-aunt Pauline.
But for the reception, Maryn wanted something a bit more relaxed and vintage. For that she picked out a short Maggie Sottero Isadora Ann ivory satin and lace fit and flare dress. Her bridesmaids matched that 1950s feel in their own pleated gray cocktail-length dupioni silk Alfred Sung dresses with cap sleeves, pearl jewelry, peep toe gray satin shoes, and flowers in their hair. Tyler chose a gray two-button Calvin Klein tuxedo.
His groomsmen matched him, but with added whimsy in their green striped ties and argyle socks. Even the pups were decked out to the nines. Louie, their blue merle border collie, wore a green striped bow tie, while their beagle, Sukie, made her appearance in a handmade gray dupioni dress found on Etsy. “I’m not one for dressing up our dogs, but I couldn’t resist for our wedding,” Maryn says. “I went all out.”
The Graves were married outside surrounded by loved ones just as they’d planned. Rather than a typical unity candle, the couple watered a sapling apple tree and planted it on the spot where they were married. After saying their own unique vows, the couple joined guests for a reception decorated with antiques, rustic chic decor, and family details. True to Tyler’s word, he chose some of his favorite backyard barbecue food for the party, and Maryn surprised him with a special groom’s cake—which was made to resemble the couple’s two dogs. For Maryn one of her favorite memories was the moment her grandmother walked through the door of her dressing room. “She’d been in the hospital and I was told she wouldn’t be able to make it, but as soon as I put my dress on they opened the door and she was there. She’d always loved us as a couple and was adamant with the doctor about being there,” Maryn says. “She passed away just recently, and I’m so thankful she was able to make it.”
After dancing and laughing and staying up until the wee hours, Maryn wasn’t the least bit concerned that the bottom of her dress was caked in mud by the end of the night. It added to the laid-back, country theme. But the moment that stands out the most for this couple is one that many West Virginia natives have shared—singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” “It’s something you anticipate your whole life. It’s a regional tradition. And I was looking forward to it so much the whole night. When it was finally us, when it was finally our time, when they started playing it and we were dancing, it really solidified it for us. It was our day. It really happened.”