An elopement for the ages

Updated: Nov 11, 2021



Remember when R&B girl group TLC had that hit song, “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls” in the 1990s? Well, let’s just Mrs. Anna and Mr. Cody Kersey didn’t listen… And their wedding day was all the more special because of their defiance. Emanuel County’s newest set of newlyweds hiked up Foster Falls, Tennessee two weekends ago for an elopement in front of the grandest waterfall you can find this close to Georgia, and it was an occasion even their great-grandchildren will find cause to swoon about.


Anna Johnson and Cody Kersey’s courtship started two years ago. Both from the area, the two were acquaintances and “flirted” off and on. In October 2018, they made themselves official. Anna says they both knew within a month of becoming exclusive they would eventually get married. They clicked well with each other, and Cody, in Anna’s words, committed to “changing his life” to be with her. Once the marriage talk began, she made clear to him her desire to elope, an idea she has been committed to since her youth due to intimate reasons.


“I’m a loud person. I don’t have any secrets. I’m the first person on the dance floor wherever I go. I’m energetic. I wanted my wedding day to be different. I wanted it to be strictly focused on me and the person I would marry,” ,” she explained. “With my grandparents raising me, I didn’t have the traditional ‘family look’ and so I didn’t want my wedding day to be a traditional day, either. My grandparents got married just them two, and their vows worked perfectly, so I had a really good idea of what I wanted my wedding day to look like from an early age, even if it meant it didn’t look like everybody else’s wedding day.”


Cody, of course, was on board from the minute Anna told him that. The two would spend another almost two years together before he proposed privately in their kitchen in November 2020.


From that point forward, it was smooth sailing. Anna says she and her to-be husband wanted to marry as soon as possible, but they were careful in choosing a date. In short, they circled on the calendar a day far enough in the future to avoid stressing about the details but soon enough in the future to surprise the people they love.


As soon as the future Kerseys nailed down their special date, Anna enlisted the help of her photographer/elopement planner, Hannah Taylor. Anna sent Hannah her Pinterest board and stressed to her how important it was that the focus remain solely on their marriage, but for the most part, she turned Hannah loose to work her magic. The entire shebang took about two weeks of planning.


Part of that planning included choosing Foster Falls. Adventurers Anna and Cody have hiked just about every mountain and waterfall around, so they knew the general area in which they wanted to be when they swapped vows. Hannah took on the rest; she herself hiked the spot to figure out the best place for pictures. She also gave little yet significant suggestions that would ultimately make the Kerseys’ wedding day extremely intimate while keeping that “just us” feel, like using Cody’s knife to cut their cake, incorporating a blanket made by Anna’s grandmother, and a letter from her precious, infamous “Pa,” Edwin Hood of Kite.


As the big day drew closer, Anna and Cody revealed to their families their plan to elope. On the short list of people who made the cut to tell were, of course, Pa and Anna’s living grandmother, Patsy Johnson of Kite, along with Cody’s parents, Jerry and Cindy Kersey of Swainsboro. Those people, the ones who mattered most, were totally on board with Anna and Cody’s plan and sat by supportively as the two embarked on what would be the beginning of the rest of their lives. Everyone else in their lives went on none the wiser until the day after the wedding and found out through Facebook that the two had finally said “I do.”


By the time Friday, January 29, rolled around, Anna and Cody were excited to get in their vehicle and make the five-hour trip northward. The only other people who would be joining them were Hannah, her husband and second shooter, James, and a friend who doubled as an officiant, Stephanie Bourbeau.


Sure enough, that Friday came. Anna packed her dress she found on the internet, the bouquet crafted by Southern Traditions, Cody’s suit, a few changes of clothes, and other necessities. Thereafter, the two lovebirds were on their way. They arrived in Tennessee Friday morning and spent some quality time together ahead of what would be the biggest day of their lives, Saturday morning.


“We did a little shopping Friday… Saturday morning, Cody had to go get me a mirror so I could do my hair and makeup because I forget everything,” Anna said, giggling. “I remember sitting there doing my hair and makeup in that mirror, and I just felt so at peace, so calm. I knew I was about to marry the perfect man for me, and there is no better feeling in the world than that.”


At no point during the process from start to finish did she or Cody feel nerves. She did say she cried as she and her entourage got closer to the falls using close coordinates in the GPS—but those were tears of happiness, relaxation, and assuredness.


Once the group arrived at their destination, Anna and Cody got out of the car, held hands, and made the .7 mile hike together hand in hand, stopping only to change into their wedding attire out of sight inside the woods. There, in front of a breathtakingly picturesque background at a quarter ’til noon, they freestyled their vows. Two strangers watched their group of five—Anna, Cody, Hannah, James, and Stephanie—from afar. Even so, Anna says they were alone in the moment, just the way she wanted it to be.


A day later on January 31, the photographer made available images for Anna to share on social media. The news came as a shock to most everyone; her post, made up of just 10 photos and a simple line of text, “All of my dreams came true January 30, 2021,” raked in 769 reactions, 301 comments, and 27 shares. Anna says everyone was excited, surprised the elopement happened so quickly, and genuinely happy for her and her new husband.


“Our day went exactly the way we wanted it to. It was the best day of our life,” she said. “If you’re thinking about eloping, I say just do it! It was the easiest, most stressless decision I’ve made. Just focus on your vows and what your day means and you’ll have everything you need in a marriage, no matter where you get married at, how many people are there, or what your wedding itself looks like.”

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