The police officer and firefighter were surrounded by fellow first responders on their big day.
On the surface, Cori Clark and Bryon Hughes’ wedding was nothing like they imagined it. The dress Cori wore was not the one she was supposed to wear. The rings they were supposed to exchange were trapped in a closed shop. And the gorgeous two-story beach house they’d rented to host the wedding was unrecognizable—reduced to a pile of rubble after Hurricane Michael swept through the town of Mexico Beach less than two weeks before the big day. Still, as Clark recounted on Facebook, “Everything fell into place for us.”
The couple—she’s a Panama City police officer and he’s a volunteer firefighter with the Mexico Beach Fire Department—had been planning their wedding for months when the Category 4 storm barreled through the Florida panhandle. Originally, the couple had opted to cancel—as first responders, they were working around the clock to help with relief efforts while tending to damage sustained to their own home. But, one morning, they decided enough was enough. “The hurricane has taken a lot from us. I refuse to let it take our wedding day,” Clark remembers Hughes saying.
So, on a sunny day with clear skies, Clark and Hughes stood on a pile of rubble overlooking the ruins of Mexico Beach and said their vows. With the tux and heirloom dress they’d intended to wear unavailable, Hughes sported his Mexico Beach firefighter uniform, while Clark wore a backup dress she’d ordered on Amazon. Their rings were replaced with a different ring gifted to Clark by her grandparents. And the guest list became largely made up of uniformed first responders—some they’d only just met—sprinkled with the few family members, bridesmaids, and groomsmen that could make it.
With photographer Sara Lynsey capturing the sweet celebration, the couple posed against backdrops ranging from debris-scattered landscapes to gorgeous sunset-lit white-sand beaches—a balance between the devastation of the area and the beauty of the moment. Even what remained of the couple’s original wedding venue—the two-story house, now reduced to a brick stoop—was part of the wedding photos.
As Lynsey shared on Facebook, “This is just the kind of story our little town needs. A story of heroes and love that has overcome all and triumphed.”
Related: The Most Disastrous Hurricanes in U.S. History: