After six years of friendship, these former next-door neighbors fell in love with an ocean between them.
Written by Mikenna Pierotti[line] [dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou think it’d be easy be easy, falling in love with your best friend. But for Charleston native Meredith Isaacs and Chris Caplinger of Pocahontas County, it took some time. “We actually knew each other for six years. We met as sophomores in college at West Virginia University and
we were next door neighbors,” Meredith says.
It was 2008 when Meredith and her two female roommates moved into a cozy flat at Aerostar
Apartments. They met Chris and his two male roommates on move-in day. Soon the groups were meeting up to share rides to church and for “dysfunctional family dinners,” as Meredith calls them, on their shared porch overlooking the WVU football stadium. There, they huddled around mugs of hot coffee in the colder months and stayed up late to talk about everything and anything—especially faith, football, and all things outdoors. “We would always joke
that we should just knock down the wall between our apartments,” she says. “We were always together anyway.”
Although Meredith was an extrovert and Chris was the opposite, the two clicked. “I was always the quiet one,” he says. “But I admired her because she was so good at making people feel at home and including them in everything. Being nurturing comes pretty natural to her. That was something I saw in her early on.” But Chris already had a girlfriend, so a relationship was off limits. Still, through the ups and downs of college life and even after, when Meredith moved to Colorado for an internship, the two supported each other and kept in touch.
When Meredith finally moved back to West Virginia and reunited with her old friends, something had changed. “When I moved back from Colorado, my friend and I were having typical girl talk about guys and settling down and who we could see ourselves with, and the first face that popped into my head was Chris’s,” Meredith says. Chris was also single again, and sitting with him on his couch, catching up and reminiscing, Meredith realized something monumental. “I was like, ‘Wow—I’m in love with my best friend.’ Of course I’m old fashioned so I didn’t want to say anything. I wanted him to make the first move. But,” she laughs, “he’s a slow mover.”
Chris did eventually make the move, but he didn’t have the best timing. In fact, he admitted his growing feelings for Meredith not long after announcing his decision to move to Guizhou, China, to teach English. Meredith was understandably shocked. But she supported his decision. They’d waited six years to fan their little spark into a flame, and a few thousand miles and an ocean between them wasn’t going to snuff it out. “I think we both saw something there and we just decided it was worth it,” Chris says.
So they did the long-distance thing, and somehow it worked. It worked so well, Chris was prepared to propose before he’d even returned from China. Thankfully, Meredith’s dad gave him a little help in June 2014, flying him to Spoleto, Italy, to meet up with Meredith and her family on their vacation.
One afternoon, in a little olive grove beneath an ancient Roman aqueduct, Chris worked up the courage to say all the words he’d been holding back. “I had written her a poem a long time before and was too embarrassed to read it. But I found it that day and knew it was time.” Chris asked Meredith to stand while he knelt, read her the poem, and asked her to marry him. Of course she said yes. “It’s hard to say ‘no’ in a place like that,” he jokes.
Blue and Gold Spirit
For two best friends whose paths aligned on a porch overlooking Morgantown’s Milan Puskar Stadium, fall football season is a magical time of year, so it was a natural choice to have a fall wedding in West Virginia. And Meredith isn’t ashamed to admit they chose their autumn wedding date because the WVU and Texas Tech University game fell on October 11, 2014. “That’s one reason we had the wedding on Sunday, October 12,” she says. “That way everyone could watch the game Saturday, and Sunday we could celebrate.”
Their second joint decision was the setting. Meredith had always dreamed of having a wedding at her grandparents’ historic farm in Ripley, but with unpredictable fall weather and a large expected headcount, an outdoor wedding seemed too risky. The next best thing? Nearby Herot Hall in Kenna, a blueberry farm that had recently been turned into a gorgeous wedding venue. “Walter Moore, the owner, was in the process of remodeling his horse barn to use for weddings. He stripped it bare, poured concrete, put in heat and air conditioning, and built patios.” With remodeled bathrooms and dressing rooms, new outdoor lighting, an expanded ballroom, and 360-degree views of mountains and berry bushes, “It was perfect,” she says.
Falling into Place
Meredith had her eye on the BHLDN line of wedding dresses by Anthropologie early on, but without a nearby Anthropologie store to try a few on, she wasn’t certain. “I’d always liked lace wedding dresses, but it’s true you don’t know what you’re going to get until you try it on,” she says. Her first choice had sleeves. “But I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.” So she and her mother took a trip to David’s Bridal in Charleston to try on similar looks.
Wandering the aisles, Meredith and her mother came across one dress that stood out—a full-length fitted lace gown with cap sleeves and a romantic train. All other dresses faded from Meredith’s mind. The minute she put it on she knew it would pair perfectly with her Colorado cowboy boots. “It was a random thing. We didn’t go in looking to buy a dress. After finding the venue, that was the next thing to just fall into place.”
She later added accents like chiffon flowers in her hair, gold and pearl jewelry, a plaid shawl to keep out the chill, and a bouquet of sunflowers, rosemary, craspedia, Queen Anne’s lace, and baby’s breath. The bride picked yellow dresses for her bridesmaids, who also wore shawls and boots and carried fall bouquets.
The men joined them in khaki pants, blue shirts, suspenders, and bowties; but the groom stood out with a yellow bowtie, brown corduroy jacket, and a boutonniere of yellow craspedia and rosemary tied with twine.
Showing the Love
With hundreds of friends and family coming from near and far, Chris and Meredith wanted to make sure their wedding was fun and memorable for all. “The whole time we asked ourselves, ‘How can we treat our guests well and think about them and not just us?’ It meant so much to us to have so many people coming from as far as California, Colorado, and England,” she says.
The couple welcomed their loved ones’ participation in everything from the ceremony and reception music to day-of coordinating to marriage counseling and officiating. Other guests made cookies, pies, and other items. Friends and Meredith’s ministry helped set up and keep things running smoothly.
A Moment to Breathe
Creating a rustic, personalized, guest-centric wedding in just five months took a lot of careful planning for the couple. “I had a job offer, and Chris was just coming back from China. But we made the time to meet with people and our vendors to make sure they understood our vision for the wedding.”
On the big day, after getting ready with friends and family at the bride’s grandparents’ farm, the bride and groom decided to take a moment to breathe and pray together during their first look. “I know a lot of brides go the more traditional route and don’t want to see their grooms. But I knew I had to see Chris,” Meredith says. They met outside an old church across the road from the farm. “That was always a place I went for walks with my great aunt. She passed away when I was in college, and not having her at the wedding was really hard. It was like I was missing a grandparent. Having our pictures there made it feel like I was including her and that was really important.”
The wedding party joined them for photos beside the church and in front of an old barn then quickly dispersed to give the lovers a minute to themselves. “It was a chance for Chris and me to see each other away from the crowd and have a special moment together,” she says.
The First Storm
Despite a few gray clouds, the rain held off—from the sweet ceremony to the rustic reception decorated in antique blue Mason jars filled with fall foliage and fresh flowers. Guests stayed dry while dining on finger foods, a popcorn bar, desserts, and coffees, as well as two cakes— one flavored in blackberry, blueberry, and lemon, and the other a layered pumpkin spice cake with buttercream icing and gilded fruit. Bluegrass music, berry hunting, and lawn games kept attendees laughing all day without a single burst of thunder to interfere.
Plans were interrupted on the couple’s second night as husband and wife, however, en route to St. John in the Virgin Islands, when a massive storm hit. Their plane touched down in St. Thomas, miles from the couple’s honeymoon destination, and they were told the plane to St. John was grounded. It could have been a disaster. But after six years of getting to know each other, admitting their feelings, and keeping their love alive despite being thousands of miles apart, a little storm wasn’t going to ruin their fun. “I just remember dashing around St. Thomas trying to find food, trying to get the last hotel room, finding a rental car, and grabbing our luggage. We were really lucky it all worked out,” Meredith says.
When the storm finally cleared and the couple made it safely to St. John, they took every opportunity to fill the rest of the time with great memories—hiking to secluded beaches, soaking up the sun, and snorkeling in clear blue water. Weathering a hurricane together was just another chapter in their story. “We like to joke that this was the first storm of our marriage,” Meredith says. “But we have no complaints. It was an adventure.”