SHINNSTON, W.Va. — It’s not quite a traditional elopement.
But April 9, Brannon Williams and Carrie Sartin eloped, courtesy of the Gillum House Bed and Breakfast.
They took advantage of an “elopement package” that Gillum House now provides, a service that more bed and breakfasts around the region and country are offering.
For Williams and Sartin it was a chance to remarry after six years of divorce without all the hullabaloo of the big ceremony that marked their first wedding.
It was also a chance to have an intimate ceremony that involved their young children.
“I want my elopement couples to have a special day. I want it to be just as memorable as if they had the big wedding but without the expense, without the relatives that they may not want there anyway. Without the stress,” said Gillum House owner Kathleen Panek.
Panek requires at least seven days’ notice for couples who want the elopement package — cost: $750 plus tax — as she has to schedule the minister, arrange for rooms at the B&B, bake the wedding cake, line up flowers and myriad other details.
She allows a maximum of four people to observe the wedding.
“That way it keeps it within reason. A maximum of four people observing it in case the bride’s parents and the groom’s parents want to be there. I can handle that. But more than that, we just really wouldn’t have the space. It just would not work.”
The wedding itself takes place at the nearby historic Levi Shinn House.
Wind destroyed a canopy she had hoped to use for her elopement ceremonies, so, Panek had another idea.
“I talked to the Shinnston Historical Association and got permission to use the log house. It’s an historic building built about 1778. They estimate that 90 percent of the outside logs are original. So by doing it in the log house it makes it even more special.”
Carrie Sartin was touching up the hair of her 7-year-old son, Isaiah Williams, while 3-year-old Aurora played nearby.
The couple’s eldest son, 11-year-old Daulton, stood in the hallway in his black wedding tuxedo.
Everyone but Sartin was dressed for the wedding — she planned to put on her wedding gown at the Levi Shinn House when the ceremony took place in about an hour.
She took a moment to reflect on why the couple chose the elopement package that brought them here.
“We wanted something that was just for us and our kids and so that we could cherish each moment and spend it with each other instead of having to be with everybody else around and having to worry about if we don’t talk to so-and-so … those kinds of things.”
The couple had been married for eight years and then divorced.
“We separated for six. In the six years, we realized that we have never lost the love for one another. We always spoke with one another on a daily basis. He was my best friend and I was lost without him. It was awful to be without him.
“We did a lot of growing up, a lot of maturing. In that time, we realized we don’t want to spend another day without one another.
“He asked me to marry again. It was a dream come true. I didn’t think I’d ever have a chance again to be married to my best friend. God really blessed us with another chance, and we’re gonna take it and we’re gonna go with it.”
Brannon Williams is a soft-spoken man, but he is firm in telling what he wanted out of an elopement with his new bride-to-be.
“We ended up back together and decided we wanted to spend our lives together. We didn’t want to do the church wedding again, didn’t want the great big wedding. Just wanted it to be us and the kids, and this place here, they take care of everything. So we thought it was a good deal. They all came to the first one. We didn’t feel the need to have ’em come again. We’d have been happy just to go to the courthouse, but the kids wanted to be more a part of it.”
It’s cold in the Levi Shinn House, but Sartin, wearing a bare-shoulders wedding dress, doesn’t seem bothered by it.
The kids are having fun exploring the upstairs of the historic house while preparations are made downstairs for the ceremony in the dining room.
The Rev. Barbara “Toni” Beecher, a Methodist minister, is officiating.
Finally, all the kids are brought together and the brief ceremony commences.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered today in the sight of God and in the presence of these witnesses to join together this man and this woman, Brannon Williams and Carrie Sartin, in holy matrimony, which is an honorable estate instituted of God and signifying unto us the mystical union that exists between Christ and his church.”
More vows and then wedding rings are exchanged and the elopement is all over in a few minutes.
The bride and groom kiss, sealing the deal.
Photos are taken outside the Levi Shinn House, and then everyone returns to the B&B for the cutting of the cake and a toast featuring West Virginia sparkling cider in fluted glasses.
Carrie Sartin is happy how things have worked out for this, her second wedding and her first elopement.
“When we spoke with the owners here, they were so family-friendly. They were so just so sweet to us and nice, just like we were family and friends of them. I just felt comfortable with them. We knew from the first time that we talked to them that this was the place where we wanted to go and get married.”
Several W.Va. B&Bs offer elopement packages
Joke all you want about eloping, but at B&Bs across the state, no one’s climbing out of the window on a ladder in the dark of night.
Elopement packages are every bit as special as weddings, said Michele Moure-Reeves, president of the West Virginia B&B Association, “just smaller.” And less expensive.
Most B&Bs require reservations in advance of a stay, she added, “so in that sense, these are planned elopements.”
Here is a list of B&Bs in the state that offer elopement packages:
n Riverside B&B, Buckhannon
n North Fork Mountain Inn, Cabins
n Graceland Inn & Conference Center, Elkins
n Cider Mill House, Hedgesville
n Thomas Shepherd Inn, Shepherdstown
n Gillum House B&B, Shinnston
n Morning Glory Inn, Slatyfork
n Asa Cline House B&B, Yellow Spring
n Creekside Resort & Spa, Union
n Gobblers Ridge Lodge, Linn
n Jacob Rohrback Inn, Sharpsburg
n Country Inn at High View, High View
n Brookside Inn and Retreat Center, Aurora
n Breath of Heaven B&B, Petersburg
n A Natures Song, Mannington
n The Guest House & Cottage, Richwood
n Silver Maple Hubbard Inn, Franklin
n Willow Bend Bed & Breakfast, Union
n Judy House Bed & Breakfast, Petersburg
n Angel Band Farm, Philippi
n The Inn at Moler’s Crossroads, Shepherdstown
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-3017.