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While a picture may indeed be worth a thousand words, even a flawless photo such as this may not tell the whole story, the tale of how a perfect picture ultimately did represent a picture perfect ending for the story of Sam and Hannah’s wedding.
Viewing the amazing wedding photos by Carrie Ann Photography, it would be hard to imagine it wasn’t exactly what Hannah Dunn and Sam Sellers had envisioned when they first started out to plan their wedding.
Hannah, a Bible Grove native, is the daughter of Eric and Gwen Dunn. The Scotland County R-I graduate met Sellers in the summer of 2018 when they were both working in Wyoming. Sam is the son of Greg and Laurie Ann Sellers of Jackson, Alabama.
“I had gotten a job outside of Yellowstone at this little ranch,” said Hannah. “This was the first place that I was offered a job and I wanted to get the heck out of ‘Dodge’ for a summer to experience new places and things. And boy did I ever.”
She said the experience alone makes her recommend such a leap to fellow young people taking their first steps out of the nest.
“If I could ever give advice to kids just getting out of high school or in college, I would say to get a job in a faraway place near something beautiful,” she said. “It will really change you.”
While she praises the joy of being able to make new friends, to escape to even more remote surroundings, and of course the beauty of the Yellowstone region, the icing on the cake proved to be Sam.
Hannah, from Missouri, and Sam, from Alabama, found each other so far away from home. The co-workers began dating pretty much from the outset of their summer employment.
“Our boss would always say that she might as well glue us together,” said Sam. “We worked together, ate all of our meals together, along with the rest of the staff, who we also shared one big bunkhouse with, which was interesting in itself.”
When the summer ended, the couple parted ways to return to their homes. The separation lasted all of two months, before the long-distance relationship removed geography from the equation.
“After two months of being apart, I decided to move to Missouri,” said Sam. “I worked with Hannah’s parents and continued my schooling online.”
Eventually he joined Hannah at Truman State where he completed two semesters while she finished her degree.
A year later, the couple again set their sights out West, moving to Montana for another summer of ranch work. It was on one of their many summer horse rides together after work that Sam asked Hannah to marry him.
Fast forward to the perfect wedding photos. It is safe to say that when Hannah and Sam first became engaged, they did not plan on giving their “I do’s” at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday in an isolated part of the Flathead Lake Park near Big Fork, Montana with their two horses as the only “family” present, and the lone witnesses beyond the pastor and two photographers.
“We got engaged in August and because my mother is a planner, we had everything pretty much set into place for our wedding by the end of September,” said Hannah.
The couple briefly considered a possible elopement, but ultimately decided for a more traditional service because they knew it would likely be the only time all of their family and friends would be able to gather in one place.
“At one point Sam and I got to talking about how it would be more special to us if our marriage was just something between us, a pastor who married us, and God,” said Hannah.
Little did they know that a worldwide medical emergency would intervene. Sam and Hannah soon saw their plans changed dramatically, by no choice of their own..
“When all of the pandemic started, it didn’t really cross my mind that we would be forced to cancel,” she said.
By mid-March the extent of the nation’s response to the virus finally forced the couple to begin considering all options. Sam and Hannah talked about postponing the service and also discussed the possibility of holding the wedding in Sam’s home state of Alabama, or back in Missouri, while limiting it to just immediate family members for social distancing purposes.
“Every option that we considered, we really did not like for one reason or another,” said Sam. “We really wanted all of our family and friends in one spot, at the same time.”
It took a few days, but they ultimately resolved that it simply was not going to happen because of travel restrictions and limitations on transportation, housing and public gatherings.
While it was disappointing to know their families and friends would not be able to share their moment with them, the couple were at peace with the decision, if not possibly even a bit relieved.
“As the wedding got closer, the only part that we were stressed out about was standing in front of so many people,” Hannah confessed. “Of course we knew it was going to be all of our friends and family, but we both hate to be the center of attention.”
The anxiety led Sam and Hannah back to their previous thoughts of elopement. The idea had roots in an experience the couple shared while working in Montana two summers ago.
“There was a couple at the ranch that got married while they were on vacation,” said Hannah. “They decided on it one day then the next, the bride-to-be went to town to find a dress and flowers. She did her own hair and makeup.”
Little did she know that she was viewing the blueprint for her own nuptials the following year.
“I haven’t been to a ton of weddings but that one was as good, if not better than any others that I have witnessed,” she said. “After that, Sam and I kind of had the same thoughts of, hmm… it is that easy to throw together”.
If it were only that simple.
“We came to the conclusion that we were going to have our wedding exactly how we wanted it, and elope,” said Hannah. “We knew we eventually would be able to have a ‘celebration of marriage’ at a later date and we could have the best of both worlds with our family and friends gathered together to celebrate. We knew our decision wouldn’t exactly go over well with everyone but by that point, we didn’t really care.”
All of the planning and scheduling that went away courtesy of COVID-19, was replaced with a new round of preparation and arranging.
“It took us a long time to figure everything out here in Montana,” said Sam as the state, while much less impacted by the pandemic, began following suit in the national shutdown. “Montana has been better off than most states but most businesses did close for a few weeks.”
While Hannah said the state only had 462 cases of COVID-19 reported to date, the couple was still forced to secure their marriage license via mail.
“Then it took us weeks to find a pastor to marry us and we spent days looking for a place on public land to hold the service,” said Hannah.
The venue had to be changed as Glacier Park was officially closed because of the pandemic.
“It was a messy process to say the least that was honestly made more stressful with everything else going on,” said Hannah.
She contacted Carrie Ann Photography, which specializes in Montana weddings and elopements.
“Hannah contacted me a few weeks back to ask about beautiful locations outside of Glacier Park because their original wedding plans had to be postponed due to the pandemic and their elopement backup plan in Glacier Park now also had to change due to the park being closed,” said Carrie Ann. “After a bit of talking and truly falling in love with their sweet love story, we were blessed enough to get to share in this very special day. We laughed about how the names Hannah and Sam belonged to that perfect western Hallmark love story and how very fitting they are for the part.”
With a location and a photographer secured, the attention turned to other details.
“I made my own bouquet out of fake flowers that my mom mailed to me because I could not go to a store and buy any,” said Hannah.
The bride secured a $100 wedding dress online as a stand in for her true wedding gown, which was simply too nice to be worn on horseback while galloping through the beach waters.
The couple planned to be wed on April 18th, but the service was postponed as the original pastor became unavailable.
April 25th was the “rain date” but it too came and went without any vows because of you guessed it, rain.
“We did find a pastor just in time through a mutual friend,” said Hannah. “It was supposed to be terrible weather that afternoon so we thought about trying to do the ceremony in the morning, but just decided that it would be better to move, so we had to change the date AGAIN.”
Finally on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at 5 p.m. Sam and Hannah were married.
While the couple’s parents and other family and friends were unable to share the moment with them, they were able to do the next best thing by witnessing the stunning photos courtesy of Carrie Ann and her daughter Stella, who is aspiring to follow in her mother’s footsteps and actually took the lead on this job with her mother shooting second. See their site at Carrie Ann Photography – Montana Wedding & Elopement on Facebook for more of the photos.
“These two are beautifully unstoppable,” said Carrie Ann. “When you’ve got true love and God in your corner anything is possible and beautiful no matter the circumstances.”
“It was just Sam and I, the pastor and the two photographers,” said Hannah. “I loved how it all worked out. I really think I enjoyed this way more than I would have a big ceremony. We weren’t worried about a single thing. We didn’t have to entertain other people, we weren’t worried about ‘being perfect’. The pastor even joked that it didn’t matter if we messed something up because no one was there. It was really special to have it just between Sam and I.”
How many people get to incorporate horses in their services and ride off into the sunset?
“It was beyond fun to be running around on horses, on a beach, in the mountains, on our wedding day,” said Hannah. “It was amazing to say the least. It was just so something Sam and I would do. We have always been a bit more independent within our relationship and done a lot of things on our own. We do spend a lot of time with both of our families but we travel a lot and are very independent otherwise with many things. Our parents are pretty close and our moms did talk a few times about thinking we would do something similar to this to begin with.”
While this truly turned into a picture perfect wedding, the newlyweds were quickly reminded of all the hurdles they faced in making it happen as they were brought back to reality shortly after the fairytale services.
“After the wedding and pictures, we went to go take the horses back to the ranch and there had been a wreck on the road a mile before the turn in to the ranch,” said Sam. “We had to backtrack over 25 miles to enter from the opposite side of the road.”
Once the couple started heading back to where they had planned a short honeymoon, they found that all the restaurants were still closing early due to COVID.
“The only place we could find open was Domino’s pizza,” said Sam. “I am not entirely sure why we did not think about this at all before, but we were in a bit of a hard spot. We had no other option but to order ourselves a pizza for our wedding night.”
The couple agreed, it was a fitting end to a picture perfect wedding day that had been anything but picture perfect in how it all came together.