Being a pilot came in handy for Tyler Graybill when it came to meeting, dating, proposing to and marrying his wife, Sarah.
As a student at the University of North Dakota, Tyler agreed to fly his friend to Illinois for his parents' 25th wedding anniversary. Tyler stuck around for the festivities that weekend, which included meeting his friend’s family — including his sister, Sarah.
“I knew he had sisters,” Tyler said, “but I didn’t know he had such a beautiful one.”
Tyler was put to work recording the parents’ vow renewal at a nearby church. “I think most of the video was focused on Sarah,” Tyler said. He wasn’t the only one feeling a bit smitten. Sarah admitted that she tried to sit by him at a family dinner over the weekend.
“There was something about him that was kind of intriguing,” she said. “After they left town, I couldn’t stop thinking about him.”
Sarah and Tyler ended up connecting on Facebook soon after. Facebook messages turned into Skype sessions which later developed into phone calls and then weekend visits.
After Tyler finished college, he moved to Alaska to be a bush pilot. He arranged his schedule so that he could work for two weeks, and then take two weeks off to visit Sarah. After two years in Alaska, Tyler took a new job in California. That’s when Sarah had had enough.
“We had one conversation where I was just like ‘You’re moving all over but I’m not going to move unless I know where this is going,’” Sarah said. So Tyler decided to make his intentions clear.
He called a jeweler in his hometown of Seattle to have a custom engagement ring created. Then, during a visit to Tyler’s family in the Northwest, he flew Sarah to Stehekin, Washington, a remote location that could only be accessed by boat or plane.
The couple had been horseback riding in Hawaii once before and Tyler thought Sarah really enjoyed it, so he made plans for the two to ride horses through the mountains.
“But apparently horseback riding on the beach is a lot different than on a narrow mountainside,” Tyler said, and Sarah agreed.
“I feared for my life,” she said. “It was a big horse on a three-foot ledge.” Tyler could tell Sarah was terrified, so he waited until they made it safely back to the plane to pop the question.
“I got down on one knee and told her that I couldn’t live without her,” Tyler said, then he asked her to become his wife. She said yes.
Sarah’s dream was to have a family-centered wedding in a church followed by a reception at a barn, but she admits that her small Illinois hometown isn’t particularly scenic and there weren’t many barns in the area.
As luck would have it, her parents happened to be chatting with a couple at a party and mentioned Sarah’s wishes. The couple said that they had a two-story barn with a kitchen, air conditioning and offered to let Sarah and Tyler hold the reception there.
“I came home to visit and my parents drove me to this barn,” Sarah said. “I started crying in the middle of the barn when they told me that we could have the reception there.”
Once they had a venue selected, Sarah and her mom got to work planning out the rest of the details. “She had a binder that was perfectly organized with forms and everything,” Sarah said.
While the bride didn’t necessarily care about colors of ribbon and other small details, she did know what she wanted as centerpieces.
“One thing I did really want was old-fashioned Mason jars,” Sarah said. “Every time we went to an antique store, we would buy every blue Mason jar that they had.”
Sarah and her parents went on nine shopping trips to find the perfect gown. Finally, while in Chicago, she found it.
“As soon as I put it on, I couldn’t even talk,” she said.
Their wedding day, September 21, 2013, arrived. Tyler spent the morning at a nearby hotel with his parents and friends, waiting to head to the church.
“I was feeling pretty nervous,” he said. “We were just watching SportsCenter, telling jokes.”
Sarah woke up to her mom and sister singing “Happy Wedding Day to You” (to the tune of “Happy Birthday to You”). After a visit to the salon for hair and makeup and a quick bite of food, Sarah stepped into her dress, left for the church and prepared to walk down the aisle.
“When they opened up the main door, she came in with her dress and I just thought she looked beautiful,” Tyler said. “I don’t really have the words to describe it.”
“Tyler had this big huge grin on his face,” Sarah remembered. “It was two really huge smiles coming together.”
After musical numbers selected by the bride and groom, an exchange of rings and vows, Sarah and Tyler were pronounced husband and wife.
The wedding party and 275 guests took turns riding on a trolley from the church to the barn. “It must have been an old trolley because we hit a bump and people just flew in the air,” Sarah said.
As the trolley shuttled everyone to the barn, the bride and groom took a Super Cub plane up for a ride, then made a grand entrance by landing on a runway next to the barn once all of the guests had arrived.
After toasts and cutting of the pie — the couple skipped the traditional cake and had pies made by family and friends —Sarah and Tyler danced to “Bloom” by The Paper Kites for their first dance.
Next up was the daddy/daughter dance, and Sarah’s dad had a surprise in store.
The bluegrass band made a circle surrounding Sarah and her dad and played a version of Tim McGraw's “My Little Girl” while the two danced.
“I was bawling,” Sarah said. The newlyweds and guests spend the rest of the evening getting down on the dance floor.
“It was never empty,” Tyler said.
Sarah’s favorite part of the day came at the end of the evening, as she slow-danced with her new husband and noticed her parents nearby.
“I tapped my mom and we gave each other a huge smile,” Sarah said. “We did it.”