BETHEL, Ohio — Love is in the air this October at a small farm in Bethel, Ohio that focuses on selling quail eggs and other tasty farm creations like their bourbon-based caramel. Woodbottom Quail Farms even has a saying: "Loving the Farm and Farming the Love."
“Maybe be able to give someone something they might not have been able to have as nice otherwise,” said farm co-owner Tom Segrist.
Segrist is an Army veteran, having served as a Scout from 1986 to 1990. He and his wife, who goes by "M," own the farm and both decided early in 2020 to offer up something special.
“I posted on Facebook, and then it was just announced that we're doing the weddings, you know, it's all-inclusive, everything's free,” M Segrist said.
She says the response was incredible, with well over 100 couples writing their love story and submitting their application. The main qualifying point to receive the free all-inclusive wedding inside their quaint farm barn: one person in the couple must be a military veteran.
“We collected new and gently used wedding dresses,” M Segrist said. “There's a consignment shop offering bridesmaids dresses. There's full salon, mani-pedi, facials, seamstress, floral photography for engagement and the ceremony. There's tons of gifts.”
Those gifts have come from veteran-based businesses across the United States who wanted to make the six couples' special days even more special. Some wedding gifts came from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii.
M Segrist said it was a challenge to whittle the stack of applicants down, but they chose each of the couples for specific reasons. She explains the reason for one of their choices.
“Jessica and David. They both have been married, they have kids, and then they come together later in life. And they're a very happy couple. It’s like you can just look at them and see the love between them,” she said.
David Neiheisel was an Army Combat Engineer and surprised his girlfriend, Jessica Rieck, with the engagement ring last Thanksgiving. He had his daughter do the honor.
"I had my youngest, Sadie, actually hand her the ring," Neiheisel said. "She said, 'Here, Daddy got you something.'"
Rieck said it was the last thing she expected.
“Well, my initial reaction was, I said, 'You put that back and go, go over there. I am not looking at that,'” Rieck said. “I looked at him, I said, 'I have to sit down for a minute.'”
She eventually realized the next step for their blended families meant walking down the aisle again.
After M posted the free weddings for veterans on the Woodbottom Quail Farms, Jessica and David had several people give them a heads-up about the contest. After a couple days they compiled their story and submitted it. Once they were contacted and told they were chosen as one of the couples, Jessica didn’t believe it at first.
“We are those people that you never win anything, you never get picked," Rieck said. "And when we got notified -- oh, this is real.”
M Segrist plans to officiate a number of the ceremonies herself.
For Tom Segrist, it’s a chance to help share what they have with others.
“Even if I'm not a part of their memory, they have the memory. I made it possible for or played a part in making it possible for them to have a memory,” Segrist said.