Laken Fleming and Dillon Meadows unite hearts and families in an outdoor service at picturesque Wilderness Ranch.
Laken Lee Fleming & Dillon Brant Meadows
Summersville | 10.2.21
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Amberlee Christey Photography
Written by Julie Perine
When Jatanna Bolyard and Ryan Couch were scheduled to work the same shift in the spring of 2018, Jatanna, a morning person, greeted Ryan, a night owl, with a very chipper “Good morning!” Ryan needed to be up a little longer before he was ready to chat with anyone. It wasn’t until the pair went out for lunch later that day that they started to get to know one another a little bit. “He was just such a gentleman,” the bride smiles. Neither of them realized that it was their first in a lifetime of shared meals.
Laken Fleming always had her sights set on marrying a cowboy—one who owned a cattle ranch in Montana. The girl of Dillon Meadows’ dreams was happy, had good Christian values, and cherished family. Besides the Montana thing, they hit a home run.
A Match Made at Mountaineer Field
Laken, of Bridgeport, and Dillon, of Paradise, Texas, met in September 2017 at West Virginia University. She was earning her master’s in health sciences, and he was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness management. It was a blind date arranged by Dillon’s WVU roommates and baseball teammates. Though both were skeptical, they met sight unseen at the WVU vs. East Carolina football game. “He was wearing a cowboy hat,” Laken says. “It was hard to miss him.”
Under that hat, she found a handsome Texan who liked to have fun but took his faith, academics, and goals seriously. His family even had hundreds of longhorn and angus cattle.
Dillon was just as impressed with Laken. “She just kind of had this glow. I know it sounds cliché, but when I first looked at her, I said ‘Holy cow, who is this girl?’ She was giddy and super polite, nice, and respectful. It just seemed like everything that mattered to me, I saw in her right off the bat.”
Though the attraction was mutual, it took Dillon three tries to get Laken to go out with him again. “I kept saying I had to study,” she says. “I really did.”
But the courtship continued. “We shared a passion for the outdoors,” says Laken. Daughter of Curtis Fleming, host of Fly Rod Chronicles, she grew up traveling the world to film shows, fly fishing and hunting. Dillon was into that, too. So, many of their dates were spent fishing and hunting deer, squirrel, and eventually even hogs.
Their love deepened. Laken learned that Dillon had overcome three major surgeries to pursue his dream to pitch at a college level. “I was really excited to grow in our relationship and learn how immensely hard he worked to get where he was,” she says.
Home for the Holidays
Just two months into their relationship, Dillon invited Laken home to his family’s ranch during Christmas break. “It was another light bulb moment,” she says. “His whole family was there to meet me—and I don’t mean just his parents and siblings, but his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. That proved to me how big of a family guy he was.”
An up-front guy, Dillon made a couple things clear: He intended to return to Texas after finishing at WVU, and he was dating for a purpose—a long-term one. “Dillon was always clear about his intentions,” Laken says. “I never had to guess.”
Laken completed her program and entered physician assistant school at Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi. Dillon completed his master’s degree and returned to the ranch to work with family and pursue a career in his field. The distance was challenging, but it was doable.
It was early autumn of 2020 when Dillon decided to pop the question. But first, he would ask Laken’s dad for her hand in marriage. “Curtis asked me if I would take a bullet for her, and I said yes. He said he would do anything for Laken, and I said I would, too. Then he gave me a pistol to protect her. We were just sitting in his office, and he whipped out this pistol and handed it to me.”
A plan soon unfolded to surprise Laken with a proposal. She was asked to help Dillon film a commercial for Fly Rod Chronicles one evening at A Mountain Clays in Bridgeport. “He was very quiet, and I’ve never seen him shoot so bad in his life,” she says.
“I was really nervous,” Dillon says. “I was just hoping I wouldn’t drop the ring off the balcony of the lodge or something else wouldn’t go extremely wrong.”
It was such a picturesque setting that the thought did cross her mind that maybe the big moment was approaching. But Dillon threw her off by waiting until the last possible minute to drop to one knee. “All I could get out is the word ‘yes,’” says Laken.
She planned the wedding of her dreams. For the venue, she chose Wilderness Lodge near Summersville, set in the Appalachian Mountains and overlooking the Gauley River. “I knew we would be bringing 60 people up from Texas, and I wanted a lasting image in their heads of what West Virginia is truly like.”
The months leading up to the wedding were filled with mixed emotions as Laken’s grandmother fell very ill. Just two weeks before the wedding, she passed away. Though it was devastating to the family, their strong faith got them through, and all agreed she would have the best seat in the house on wedding day.
Two Families Unite
On Oct. 2, 2021, the Fleming and Meadows families and close friends gathered for a late-afternoon outdoor ceremony and white tent reception. The weather was pristine, and leaves were beginning to turn shades of red and gold.
Dillon says his wife’s attention to detail made it a special, memorable day. “I was surrounded by all the most important people in my life—either physically or spiritually. We were married in front of God and everyone, and that’s what is most important.”
Four years after meeting Dillon, Laken was thrilled to become his wife. “When I was 9 years old, I made a pinkie promise to my mom that I would date a boy four years before we got married. Dillon and I didn’t intentionally do that, but it just kind of worked out.”
After much dancing and celebrating, the evening ended with a sparkler send-off as the couple left for a honeymoon in Cancun. They are making a home on the family ranch. Dillon works for United Ag and Turf, and Laken is a physician’s assistant at Urgent Care. “We get to see each other every day and every night,” Dillon says. “To me, that’s a dream come true.”
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