The Perfect “Match”
It may have been a different kind of “match” that brought Jessi Hoyle and Brad Russell to Columbia. But these Oklahoma transplants chose to affirm the match of their own making here in mid-Missouri where they’ve made their new home.
Jessi and Brad first met in the fall of 2011 through a mutual friend, John, who was Jessi’s best friend when she was in medical school at the University of Oklahoma. Long time friends, Brad and John grew up in Norman, Okla. together. For more than a year, John talked up Brad to Jessi until the two finally met at a University of Oklahoma football tailgate party. They were inseparable from that time on.
On March 14, 2014, Jessi arrived home in Tulsa after completing her rural medical school rotation and found Brad and their dog, Marley, already waiting. Brad had arranged for a surprise getaway at a nearby yoga retreat and spa. It was a stressful time for the couple, as the next week was “Match Week” when 4th year medical students learn where they will go for their residency training — decisions that often mean cross-country moves.
As soon as the couple checked in, they went for a walk in the surrounding fields. Jessi noted that Brad seemed to be keeping a close eye on the time. Then, at dinner, the waiter kept disappearing to Brad’s noticeable irritation.
“I could tell Brad had a strict timeline of events for the evening. Dessert is typically the most important part of the dinner experience for me, and Brad said that he had something special in mind,” Jessi recalls.
Brad had brought treats from their favorite bakery for a sunset picnic. As they sat in the middle of a scenic field, enjoying chocolate silk pie and carrot cake, Jessi noticed a small plane flying overhead. Brad brought out his iPad to share a montage of photos taken during their time dating, set to a favorite song. As Brad wiped away Jessi’s happy tears, the same plane flew past, dropping something dangling from a long red ribbon nearby.
They quickly found the package. As Jessi eagerly tore it open, only to find an empty ring box, Brad dropped to one knee and took the ring from his pocket.
“He said…that with so much uncertainty on the horizon, he wanted to make one thing certain, that we would be together no matter what happened. He asked me if I would be his wife, to which I wholeheartedly agreed,” Jessi says.
Later, Jessi learned that Brad had been planning the engagement for weeks, tracking weather and aeronautical charts. The walk as soon as they arrived at the resort was a reconnaissance mission to determine which field his pilot friend should make the drop over.
The week after their engagement, the couple learned Jessi had matched to Mizzou for her residency.
On April 30, 2016, the couple wed at Blue Bell Farm in Fayette, their friend, James Varvaro, officiating. They chose navy and lilac colors, with touches of bright spring flowers, to complement the barn’s rustic elegance. Jessi’s sleeveless dress featured a sweetheart neckline with floor-length, fitted ivory lace overlaying a champagne satin slip, with a floor-length champagne satin ribbon sash, encrusted with Swarovski rhinestone and opal beading. Frye Margaret Shooties added a fun countrified contrast. Jessi wore small pendant earrings, a single pearl on a delicate silver chain necklace and a pearl bracelet. A hair comb with Swarovski rhinestones and opals held her loose, vintage updo in place. She carried a bouquet of coral peonies, blush roses, purple thistles, yellow billy balls and fresh greenery.
Brad wore a navy blue suit and white dress shirt, accessorized with wooden cufflinks with a copper stripe, a navy tie with small white polka dots, a British tan belt and cap toe Oxford shoes. His boutonniere was a purple thistle, yellow billy ball, eucalyptus and other greenery tied with twine.
Both ceremony and reception were at the farm’s event barn. Rows of natural wooden chairs set up with a center aisle faced an arbor draped in greens and coral and blush blooms. A string trio played pop songs prior to the ceremony. Jessi’s sister pulled the flower girls — her triplets — up the aisle in a garland-bedecked Radio Flyer wagon.
“Brad and I made a point of not seeing each other prior to the ceremony, and it was so exciting to finally see each other after the barn doors were opened,” Jessi said.
The couple wanted their wedding to reflect the relaxed elegance of the setting. A welcome table displayed hand-painted signs and vintage frames with pictures of beloved people and pets who could not attend. Homemade wooden flowerbox centerpieces with coral peonies, blush roses, purple thistles, yellow billy balls and fresh greens were surrounded by mercury glass votives with candles. The gift table featured a light box with X-rays of the couple holding hands in wedding rings.
Jessi and Brad also had built their own yard games — including corn hole boards with under-lighting, Connect 4, a giant Jenga and horseshoes. Throughout the happy hour, buffet-style dinner, evening bonfire and impromptu lighting of sparklers, guests enjoyed the games, grounds and patio strung with lights. A simple chocolate cake with chocolate icing displayed hand-embellished dinosaur cake toppers. There was a made-to-order doughnut bar for dessert.
The couple honeymooned in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., before returning to Columbia. Jessi, the daughter of Beth Hoyle of Owasso, Okla., is a resident physician at the University of Missouri Health Care hospitals. Brad, the son of Vicki and Don Russell of Norman, Okla., is a former commercial pilot and current student in the University’s physical therapy doctoral program.