This Couple Eloped in a Garden on a Tuesday—Just Five Weeks After the Groom Proposed!
After meeting through mutual friends, photographer Meredith Sledge and videographer Sam Kempf bonded while shooting a July 2017 wedding together. They stayed in touch after the job, and Sam eventually invited Meredith on a weekend hike—their first date. After a few more dates, Meredith realized she and Sam were at such different places in their faith journeys that she wasn't able to continue the relationship.
After a year and a half, Sam called Meredith to ask a few questions about her church, and the couple reconnected during a walk at Carter Mountain. "As the months passed on, we formed a very deep bond," Meredith says. "After about 10 months, Sam took it back where it all began at Carter Mountain and proposed to me."
Five weeks after she said yes—on November 5, 2019—Meredith and Sam said "I do" in an intimate ceremony at Waterperry Farm in Free Union, Virginia. "I knew I didn't want to focus too long or too much on the planning and I wanted to keep our marriage at the forefront," says Meredith. "It was quick, but that forced me to make fast decisions, and thankfully, I knew what I wanted and didn't get too bogged down with the details." They kept those details simple, prioritizing the people and a few key elements over a more elaborate event. "We decided we just wanted our absolute closest friends there—the ones who had walked through our relationship with us," says Meredith. "And when it came to everything else, I knew I wanted soft, but colorful florals, a flowing gown, and an intimate dinner setting."
Love at First Sight
Meredith had her eye on Waterperry Farm from the moment she photographed an engagement session there. "I remember the first time I went, I literally had my mouth wide open," she says. "It's an absolute dream. The gardens are impeccable, the greenhouse is like something out of a movie, the mountain views are stunning, and the carriage house is seriously one of the coolest properties I've ever set foot in. I had high standards for everything and this space did not let us down."
A Beautiful Bride
Lace-covered Bella Belle flats completed her ensemble.
A bouquet filled with big, lush blooms in purple, pink, and ivory from Mallory Joyce lined up with Meredith and Sam's "garden elegance" theme.
Before the ceremony, Meredith took a moment to open her gift from Sam, which was, she says, "notes to open for all different moments in life—like when we first get pregnant, and when we become old and gray."
Man in Black
Sam wore a flawless black tuxedo with a classic bow tie from Belk and a boutonnière of flowers and foliage that coordinated with his bride's bouquet.
The groom also wore a Daniel Wellington wristwatch with a sophisticated black band—a wedding gift from Meredith.
A Prayer for the Couple
Meredith and Sam each shared a moment of prayer with friends and family before the ceremony, which they remember as one of the most important and emotional parts of their big day.
In the Garden
The couple said their vows in front of the property's garden arbor, while their guests sat on wooden X-back chairs in two small groups. A brick walkway and glass greenhouse, along with the leafy landscaping and hedges, created a picturesque backdrop.
Ready to Wed
Meredith and Sam chose not to have a first look before the ceremony, opting for a more traditional moment as she entered the garden. Sam leaned over to get a first glimpse of his bride as the processional began.
The bride's mother escorted her down the aisle to begin the ceremony as the couple played a recording of "Love Never Fails" by Brandon Heath.
At the Altar
A friend officiated the religious ceremony, during which the couple exchanged their own vows. "We are Christians and believe out marriage is ultimately a picture of Christ's love for this people," says Meredith. "In marriage, we have the opportunity to display that to others."
The New Mr. and Mrs.
The newlyweds smiled and held hands as they left the ceremony area to Ben Rector's "Brand New," joining their guests for beer and wine before taking their newlywed portraits.
So Happy Together
Despite the stress of planning a wedding in just five weeks, one decision was simple, says Meredith: "The easiest part was knowing I was marrying the right person! Sam was so helpful and made sure to take as much stress off me as he could, and it was so special seeing him help so much during the planning process."
A candid group shot by the water at the cocktail hour captured all the guests, with the couple front and center. "Sam and I both agreed early on that eloping would honestly be perfect," says Meredith. "We'd get to go wherever we wanted, spend money on the things that really mattered, and we wouldn't have to feel overwhelmed by the amount of people we needed to talk to."
Time to Eat
The ensuing intimate dinner party took place just beyond the ceremony space, inside the property's English-style greenhouse.
Inside, guests sat at one long table for a meal of barbecue classics from Smoked.
String lights and taper candles lit the greenhouse with cozy light, while overflowing centerpieces in low white bowls were placed along the length of the table. "The space really inspired my vision," says Meredith of the garden scene.
Set to Be Tied
Wooden chargers added a natural element to the tables, contrasting with modern gold flatware and cream-colored linens. Meredith describes the floral design and place settings as "absolutely breathtaking. Those two things alone are so important!"
At the cozy meal they had envisioned from the start, Meredith and Sam relished watching friendships blossom among their nearest and dearest. "We really had such an intimate day," they say, "and it was exactly what we wanted!"
Sealed with a Kiss
For the newlyweds, planning their big day came second to thinking about their future life together. "Focus on each other! It's so easy to want to have the perfect wedding but what matters is your love for one another and that is what is going to last," says Meredith. "So while having a wedding is awesome and fun, remember to love each other more than you love planning a wedding or having a perfect day."
Photography, Rachel May Photography
Venue, Waterperry Farm
Event Planning, Laurel Elise Events
Flowers, Mallory Joyce
Videography, Rachael Curry
Rentals, MS Events
Bride's Gown, Hayley Paige
Bride's Accessories, Annalise Bridal veil; Macy's jewelry; Bella Belle shoes
Hair and Makeup, Emily Artistry
Groom's Suit, Belk
Groom's Watch, Daniel Wellington
Engagement Ring, For Mia Design