WRITTEN BY | Paige Arnett
PHOTOGRAPHED BY | SwiftShots Photography
Graham and Riley Snyder first met in eighth grade when they were paired together for a school event and they continued to deepen their relationship as they got older.
“We’ve known each other most of our lives, but we really started getting close in high school,” Riley says of husband Graham.
Riley, who is the founder of nonprofit organization Generation Next, owner of thrift store Riley’s Treasures and author of “Riley Unlikely,” is a woman with a heart for God and missions. Her work began when she was 13 and visited Kenya for the first time. What she experienced in her first time to Kenya inspired her to help change the lives of hundreds of children forever. She recognized the barriers to education the students faced and decided to start collecting school supplies and hygiene kits to take back to Kenya.
Graham chose to whole-heartedly pursue Riley and her dreams by helping collect and organize supplies and pack them for her next visit to Africa. “Graham is so supportive,” Riley lovingly brags. “It wasn’t so much what we were doing when we put supplies together, it was more important that we were doing it together as a team.”
After returning from a trip to Kenya, the couple decided to go kayaking and Graham had a special surprise planned. Underneath a set of bridges, Graham amazed Riley with a beautiful set up of roses and proposed to her with one of her grandmother’s rings.
Because their hearts were both in Kenya and the United States, the pair decided to have not one, but two wedding celebrations.
The wedding in the United States took place at Fellowship at Cross Creek in Branson on May 22, 2016. The old-fashioned cameras, Polaroid shots, peonies, baby’s breath flowers and oil lanterns helped to create a vintage feel. The ceremony, held outside on the front lawn, was a perfect venue for the couple who wanted all of their friends and family to be able to attend the wedding. To add to the ceremony, a cross was brought in that stood at the head of the alter where the two said their vows. They chose to incorporate a cross into their wedding to symbolize keeping Christ in the center of their marriage.
Riley chose a mermaid lace dress from Norman’s Bridal with a beautiful champagne belt to compliment the vintage feel of the wedding. The couple selected a traditional white wedding cake from Sugar Leaf Bakery and added a touch of Kenya with giraffe wedding toppers.
“During the wedding, I wasn’t really concerned with any of the details,” Riley says. “I was more concerned with the details of my soon to be husband and how I could serve him well as his wife.”
A tradition the couple decided to partake in was foot washing. They chose to wash one another’s feet as a symbol of putting one another first in their marriage, as well as showing their intent to serve one another.
Even with all the loving family and friends, Riley says one of the most memorable parts of the day was walking down the aisle to Graham. They had a first-look, but when she began to walk down the aisle, Graham teared up again. “It was like a first-look all over again. The moment was absolutely magical.”
Two weeks after the wedding in the United States, the Snyder’s had another wedding in Kenya. The wedding in Kenya included all friends, children and employees that are a huge part of Riley and Graham’s life and mission work in the area. As part of their wedding party, friends George and Barbara walked the couple to the alter in Kenya where a pastor from the Kibwezi area performed a traditional African wedding ceremony. During the wedding, the pastor held the couples hands in the air as a symbol to show Riley and Graham becoming one in front of everyone. At the culmination of the ceremony, the couple was prayed over by the whole congregation.
After the ceremony, the couple had pictures taken in front of a magnificent baobab tree. While they were getting their pictures taken, the children of the school Generation Next had helped build followed the couple around showing just what an incredible impact they have on Kenya.
“Throughout both weddings, all I really wanted to do was brag on Graham,” Riley reminisces. “Graham is steadfast, respectful and has a servant’s heart. He is exactly what you need in a spouse.”