When Two Worlds Collide

Kirstie & Ben
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It was a cold, lonely, winter’s night in the podunk town of Columbia, South Carolina. I was sitting in my mansion (aka, a 488-square-foot apartment), and I got swiped right on by a woman named “Kristie” (or so I thought) on Bumble. 

DING! I get a notification from the Bumblebee: “Kirstie has sent you a message!” 

I sigh and think, What now, only to find she has sent me a GIF of J.R. Smith sliding across the screen with the text “Sup?” How creative, I thought. 

I scroll through her pictures. There was one of her on ice skates and I think, Oh! Maybe she’s a northerner, as well? 

Wrong. So wrong! Probably the wrong-est ever.

Here are some quotes from our first date (while sitting at a high-top at the historic restaurant, Bourbon, in downtown Columbia):

B: I really like your hair.

K: Thanks I’m cutting it all off in a week, so don’t get used to it.

B: Cool. Cool.

Waiter: Would anyone like another glass of wine?

B: (Being the gentleman I am and going first.) No. I have a workout at 5 a.m.; I can’t drink too much.

K: (Internal monologue) I wanted another, but okay, cool.

It was the collision of two different worlds—me being a northerner from Edina, Minnesota, in the Army at the time, and living the vagabond life due to the transient nature of the military. And Kirstie, a true southerner from Irmo, South Carolina, passionate about travel, and living with her sister Lauren and her pit bull, Corey.

There’s probably a lot more to Kirstie’s side of the story, but I think we can all agree that’s not really important. 

You get the idea here, right?

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We met in January 2020, right before COVID shut everything down. Ben was supposed to be moving from Columbia to McChord Airforce Base in Tacoma, Washington, in March of 2020, but his move was delayed because of the pandemic. So, the one blessing we received from the lockdown was more time to build our relationship before starting a cross-country, long-distance love affair. 

Our long-distance relationship lasted eleven months, and we really took advantage of Ben’s new home. We saw each other at least once a month—mainly me coming to visit him, since we love hiking and adventuring together. We hiked in Mount Rainier National Park, on the Olympic Peninsula, and in the North Cascades. We went snowshoeing, tried to ski in a whiteout, and explored the city of Tacoma. Then, we traveled to Utah and hiked in Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks. We spent eleven months making the most of every phone call and minute spent together. 

Ben was released from service in May 2021, and he returned to Columbia where we moved in together. Finally, we could enjoy everyday things as a couple, like cooking, grocery shopping, and walking my dog. It was so refreshing!

We planned a trip to Isla Holbox, on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, in September 2021. And on September 24, Ben proposed after an amazing dinner on the beach. It was so laid-back and personal—just the way he knew I would love it. (My friends were convinced that Ben would propose on that trip, but I kept telling them there was no way because he was so nonchalant about it all. So, for a girl who likes to know all of the tea, he sure pulled off an amazing surprise!)

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A week before our wedding, we planned a road trip from Greenville, South Carolina, to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, (our destination wedding location) and had an absolute blast. Spending that time together before the chaos of our wedding day kept us grounded in our love for each other.

Over the last year, people have repeatedly asked why Jackson Hole? 

The response in my head is always, Well, why not? 

But the response I say out loud is, “Ben and I both love to travel, and we love the mountains, so we wanted our wedding to be somewhere gorgeous to celebrate nature. I was lucky enough to go skiing in Jackson with my family and fell in love with the area. I was also lucky that Ben was down to get married in a place he had never been to.” (He’s now been twice in the past year and might actually love Jackson more than I do, which I thought was impossible.)

Ben really wanted us to write our own vows for the ceremony. He’s beyond great with his words and expresses his emotions very well. I, on the other hand, tend to keep everything to myself. But I knew how much this meant to him, so we planned our vows early on in the process. Ben, then, proceeded to spend the six months leading up to the wedding telling me how great his vows were coming along, and how each draft was better than the last (knowing that I would immediately start freaking out because, of course, I hadn’t even started mine). Eventually, my words started to flow, and I will forever be grateful to Ben for putting me through this exercise. 

At the reception, Ben taped Clemson University hats under all of my family members’ chairs and gave a speech revealing his surprise for them. (Ben received his master’s from Clemson University. My parents met at Auburn University, and most of my mom’s side of the family graduated from Auburn. They are big rivals!) I would have bet that my dad wouldn’t even have acknowledged the Clemson hat, but instead, he was the first to put it on, and he and my cousins wore their hats for the rest of the night. It was so funny seeing them explain to other patrons at The Cowboy Bar that they actually hated Clemson, but were still wearing the gaudy orange hats. 

It is so rare to have your family and friends—from all walks of life—together in one place. To be able to celebrate with every single one of them in a location that means so much to us was overwhelmingly joyful. Ben and I have traveled to twelve national parks, Italy, Mexico, Scotland, Kenya, and Tanzania, and we want to continue to have adventures together. Getting married in Jackson really represented our wild spirit, and I am forever grateful we shared that wanderlust with our most special people. 

A Note About Vendors …

When choosing your vendors, make sure your personalities jive. You might want to hire someone based solely on their reviews—and reviews are helpful—but see how you get along, first. My hair and makeup artists were so calming, which really grounded my nerves the morning of. And we could not have loved our photographer, Hannah Hardaway, more! 

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Wedding Date: September 24, 2022

Ceremony and Reception Location: Spring Creek Ranch Officiant: Cindy Dahlin Photographer: Hannah Hardaway Videographer: Colin Goodman Films Hair and Makeup: Hair by Kelly René Florist: Magnolia Ranch Musician: Greg Keys & Co. (Charleston, SC) Consultant: Melanie Murphy of By Invitation Only Event Planning & Design Caterer: Spring Creek Ranch Dessert Chef: Lovely & Amazing Cakes (Green River, WY) Rental Service: Canvas Unlimited Stationary Design: Lola Louie Paperie

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