Putting Down Roots

After meeting in a most modern way, Miranda and Lucas begin their lives together by exchanging vows under one of West Virginia’s oldest trees.

Spring/Summer 2017


Just one look. That’s all it took. After exchanging vows underneath one of the oldest oak trees in West Virginia, Miranda Swisher and Lucas Cox had their first dance on The Gaines Estate’s white-columned porch, brightened with sheer, wispy white gossamer and a lighted chandelier, to the song “Just One Look.” And why not? It summed up the story of how they met, so much so that when Miranda recited her vows—handwritten in cursive on a piece of paper—she uttered the lyrics to Lucas.
Later that evening, in order to cinch the sentiment, a recording of Doris Troy belting out the 1963 song would ring out as the newlyweds “laughed and cried and danced to our own beat,” as Miranda would later say.
Nearly three years after she and Lucas first met, it still amazes Miranda just how easily it would have been for them never to have come into each other’s orbits. Not only did they find one another on social media, they actually met through an app called Tinder, where first impressions truly, madly, and deeply mean everything. All the smartphone user sees is a photo of someone. Only if both users swipe to the right can they communicate.
To illustrate just how meant-to-be it was, Miranda notes that she only joined Tinder on a Sunday at the urging of a girlfriend; she first saw Lucas two days later. What’s more, she had put down roots in Charleston, while he was living in his hometown of Springdale, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles north of Pittsburgh. That distance was too far for the app to detect each other’s signals. But as fate would have it, Miranda had traveled to her native Grafton to stay with her parents before a business trip to Weirton. “And it picked him up,” she says. “Thank goodness.”
Thank goodness indeed. “I felt a little click there, a little vibe,” Lucas says. “Obviously, we liked each other enough to say, ‘Why not?’” After exchanging messages for two days, they graduated to telephone conversations. “We’d talk every night for two to four hours,” Miranda says. That went on for two weeks. “He’s such a talker.”
And then it was time to walk the walk—figuratively, and, as it would turn out on their long first date, literally. They made plans to meet up in Morgantown to attend a West Virginia University football game, convening at the Waterfront Place Hotel with a group of friends so they could ride together to the game and, also, “so I knew we would be around a lot of people,” Miranda says.
She remembers the first time she laid eyes on Lucas—although during their two weeks of phone conversations, she had thought, “Fingers crossed that he didn’t send me fake pictures.” She needn’t have worried. “When he got out of the car I about died. He is 6’4″, 260 pounds. He looks like he’s a retired football player. He looked like a million bucks, wearing tight jeans and cowboy boots.”
Once again, just one look is all it took—at least for her. “When I saw him, I said, ‘That’s him.’ I knew he was the one.” She thinks Lucas took longer to decide, but he was pretty smitten too. “I still remember her getting out of her car and thinking, ‘Oh boy, I’m way out of my league. I don’t know how I’m going to impress her,’” he says. “But I knew the best thing I could do was be myself. I wouldn’t want her to one day to discover that this wasn’t really Lucas.”
Neither one can remember who WVU played that day. “I wasn’t focused on the game,” Miranda says. In fact, she could not stop beaming. This time, she was reminded of another song released more than a half-century after “Just One Look”—one by The Weeknd that features the refrain, “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you, but I love it.” “I remember telling everyone that my face hurts so bad from smiling.”
She certainly felt comfortable enough with Lucas to walk from Milan Puskar Stadium back to the hotel, stopping at Mountain State Brewing Company for food and discussion. “It felt like it was ‘Lady and the Tramp’—just the two of us,” Lucas remembers.
Long distance, short courtship
After that auspicious first date, Miranda and Lucas were an instant couple. Alas, her life was in Charleston, where she works as a senior clinical sales representative for a medical technology firm. And he had to finish up his associate degree in electric utility technology at Westmoreland County Community College. They took turns on weekends driving the nearly four-hour distance as they dated for nine months before he graduated. In May 2015, Lucas moved to Charleston to be with Miranda, getting a job as a lineman with American Electric Power.
And then, in another seven months, they were engaged. It happened at a post-Christmas party for Miranda’s job. “One of the surgeons got up to give a toast before we ate and asked if anyone had anything else they wanted to say,” Miranda remembers. “And that’s when Lucas got up and proposed.”
It was sort of spur of the moment—Lucas had informed everyone when Miranda made a trip to the powder room. Because they already had been ring shopping, the question would not be a surprise, but Lucas wanted the timing to be. “For me it was finding an authentic moment where she was around people she loved. I know she didn’t know when it was going to happen.” Tears flowed on both sides as he dropped to one knee and presented Miranda with a stunning Ashoka-cut diamond engagement ring. “He cried and I cried,” she says.
A brief time to plan for a lifetime of bliss
Their wedding date a mere five months later—May 28, 2016—might seem daunting to some, but not to Miranda and Lucas, who had been plotting details of the big day before they even got engaged. Miranda even had a locale in mind—a 200-acre property filled with rhododendrons, mountain laurel, and tall trees in downtown Fayetteville, next door to Pies & Pints. The Gaines Estate had been purchased by three couples in 2012 and was being transformed into an event venue. “I saw a beautiful wedding video of a couple who had gotten married the year before,” Miranda says. “I reached out to the bride on Facebook and asked her if she would mind getting on the phone with me and discussing it. She was a big help.”
Miranda and Lucas’ wedding would be only the second one to take place at the estate since the purchase, and remodeling was not complete. That meant extra planning on the part of the couple—such as bringing in a restroom trailer. Electricity at the Colonial Revival house—built by Theophilus Gaines in the 1920s—powered the chandeliers and the DJ’s set-up; a portable generator was brought in for the trailer as well as for the dining and tent area, says estate co-owner Bill Wells.
The event really turned into a DIY affair, Miranda says, with help from Miranda’s “man of honor,” Christopher Eggleton. “We built a lot of stuff for the wedding,” Miranda says. “We built the bar, and we made all the favors.” Those were planters branded with the couple’s initials and the wedding date that they filled with succulents and set on the tables for decoration. They also hand-picked moss—which would be used to decorate tables—for three weekends straight from Eggleton’s farm.
The Gaines Estate provided the perfect backdrop for the wedding and reception as well as for the decorative scheme, which included farmhouse tables. Those were made for the event, says day-of coordinator Kathy Cobb of Defining Moments Party Rentals in Ripley.
On the big day, Miranda and Lucas would sit by themselves at a small head table; the 150 guests would be seated at two much longer tables perpendicular to the couple. Moss, candles in glass globes, vintage plates, and muted colors harmonized with the natural beauty of The Gaines Estate; strings of white lights hanging overhead would brighten the space. “She pretty much knew everything she wanted,” Kathy says of Miranda. “She would say, ‘This is what I want,’ and I just had to make that happen.”
First look, personal vows
Because The Gaines Estate had not been completed, when the big day arrived, Miranda got ready at the nearby LaFayette Flats. Miranda slipped into her fit and flare gown with a V-neck, a deep V-back, and lace overlay. While Lucas dressed in another flat, his brother and best man, Devin, played guitar and the two sang songs by Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. “It was a great moment,” Lucas says.
And then it was time for another one. A light teal 1937 Packard picked Miranda up and took her to the estate for a first look with Lucas. In his gray suit, blue vest, striped tie, green polka-dot pocket square, and a boutonniere made of a succulent wrapped in cognac-colored leather, Lucas faced away as Miranda approached him. “I put my hand on his shoulder,” she says. “He turned around. It took everything in me not to cry because of my makeup. It was sweet.”
Soon after, the two were standing in front of friends and family under the 81-foot-tall old white oak tree with a forked trunk that split during the 2012 derecho storm. For Miranda, the split parts of the tree still joined at the trunk took on a different meaning. “It’s like two become one,” Miranda says. And then, so did she and Lucas. “I am so excited to spend all stages of life together with you,” Lucas told her in his vows. “Just one look, and I fell so hard in love with you,” she replied. “That’s all it took.”
Because the couple loves Mexican food—“We could eat it 365 days a year,” Miranda says—next up was a buffet featuring tacos, fajita-style veggies, grilled tortillas, rice, and a salad of black beans, corn, and avocado, with chips and salsa. “The most important thing was cheese dip and salsa,” Miranda says. As for the cake—simple and round with three white tiers wrapped with gold ribbon atop a log stand—“I wanted it to taste good,” the bride says. “I didn’t care what it looked like.”
Then the newly married couple and their guests got down to some old-school dance jams after, of course, Miranda and Lucas set the pace with the song that summed up their first encounter.
Even though it maybe did take just one look to get the conversation between Miranda and Lucas started, the talks that ensued really lit the spark between the two. They discovered commonalities such as a shared taste in music—from Tony Bennett to gangster rap—their extroverted personalities, and fondness for exchanging viewpoints, Miranda says. “Lots of people don’t have strong, thought-out opinions,” Lucas adds. “I didn’t want my wife, the mother of my children, to be going any which way the wind blows. I wanted somebody who was strong, who had an opinion, who didn’t always agree with me and who wasn’t afraid to say so. I wanted that kind of person to be the mother of my children.”
And, of course, because Miranda and Lucas have no qualms about moving to the next phase in life, that time will be soon. About five weeks after the two mark their first wedding anniversary in late May, they expect to celebrate the arrival of their first child, a baby girl, in early July.