Around the World … and Back
Samantha & Joey
Words by Samantha Melton + Photography by Caitlin Steva
Joey and I met in the summer of 2016 while working at Heart Six Ranch in Moran, Wyoming. I was a wrangler and he was a float guide. Before long, we were hanging out in the same crowd—hiking, trail riding, and chatting at late-night bonfires. But mostly, we danced. We spent every Tuesday night dancing to live bluegrass and every Friday night honing our skills at the ranch’s weekly dance night. Soon, I was smitten and we went on our first official date.
Throughout our summer courtship, however, there was an elephant in the room: I was leaving the country for a whole year in October for a program called World Race. My plan was to travel around the world to places like India, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Botswana, Chile, and Peru, partnering with organizations there to teach English, minister to sex trafficking victims, and work with afterschool programs. Despite my adventures ahead, in the back of my mind I knew this guy was the real deal, and one night under the stars he told me I was worth the wait. That fall, at a concert in Colorado, we became an official couple, and I hopped a plane the very next morning knowing we wouldn’t see each other again for 365 days.
Our long-distance relationship was both challenging and wonderful. I spent my time in Asia, Africa, and South America—in both rural villages and bustling cities—mostly without reliable WiFi. There were times we’d go days and weeks without talking to each other. To get me by, Joey sent me off with a stack of letters meant to be opened at specific times throughout the year. There was a letter for my birthday, one to open when I was homesick, and one to read on my very first flight to India. We learned so much about each other that year through emails, letters, and jumbled up FaceTime calls. But most of all, we confirmed the seriousness of our relationship.
There aren’t words to describe how exciting it was to see each other again upon my return. We arranged a private setting for the meeting—Togwotee Mountain Overlook—a spot we agreed upon beforehand. Tears flowed when we finally reunited (okay, it was mostly me doing the crying) and we spent the evening talking, laughing, and soaking up a gorgeous Teton sunset.
Our relationship blossomed over the next year and a half. We road-tripped around the United States, met each other’s families, and cheered on our favorite college sports teams. Back in Wyoming, we spent weekends hiking and nights watching Parks and Recreation. We began talking about our future. Then, one night in March of 2019, Joey blindfolded me, put me on the back of a snowmobile, and asked me to marry him at Togwotee Mountain Overlook, a place that had grown special to us.
I always wanted a summer wedding, and because we didn’t want to wait, Joey and I chose a July date just four months away from our engagement. People thought we were crazy to plan a wedding on the fly, and maybe we were, but we wouldn’t have changed a thing! Friends and family came from Minnesota, Mississippi, and everywhere in between to celebrate our union.
We woke to a gray, drizzly sky on the day of our wedding. The Tetons were completely concealed, and I had to accept that the idyllic backdrop I’d imagined might be shrouded in clouds. As I hid in the bridal suite before our ceremony, Joey made the call to wait—just a little bit—to see if the skies cleared. Sure enough, the rain stopped and the Tetons peeked through at the perfect time. I’ll never forget what it felt like to walk down the aisle that day—the love of my life waiting, the people we love surrounding us, and the sun shining through an otherwise cloudy sky.
Once the ceremony was over, the rain started up again. But it didn’t matter; we were married! Plus, we were too busy dancing our tails off to care about the weather. Even though things weren’t cookie-cutter perfect, it was the absolute best day of our lives (so far). Besides, isn’t it good luck if it rains on your wedding day?
Now, we live in a tiny house built by Joey in the Buffalo Valley (Moran, Wyoming)—the same valley in which we both met and were married. We love calling this place home and plan to continue exploring this magical corner of Wyoming for years to come.
July 29, 2019
Ceremony & Reception
Diamond Cross Ranch
Pastor Ray McDaniel
Caitlin Steva Photography
Hair & Makeup
Elevation Hair Studio
Wild and Free Florals
Jackson Hole Production Company
Kristina Howell (bride’s roommate)
Canvas Unlimited and High Country Linens
Madeline Thun (bride’s friend)
Calligraphy by The Letter Wild (bride’s side hustle)