Going to the Chapel

An Affair to Remember

A wedding is one of the most magical times in a couple’s life. This joyful celebration marks the union of two people, two families and two groups of friends. It’s a day that most people reflect on for the rest of their lives, the memory captured in cherished photos to be shared with family and preserved for future generations.

Every year, hundreds of couples choose the Emerald Coast as the setting for their big day, whether they grew up here or fell in love with the spectacular weather, luxurious accommodations, sugar-white sands and gem-colored waters while visiting.

This special “Weddings” section invites you to join in the celebration of three couples who said “I do” on the Emerald Coast. 


Maygen & Christian 

Wings of Love 

The first few months of a couple’s engagement usually are a blissful time filled with a flurry of celebrations and the excitement of wedding planning.

Two weeks after Maygen Grimm, a personnel officer in the Air Force Reserve at Eglin Air Force Base, and Christian Wilson, a pilot trainee in the Air Force, got engaged on Oct. 5, 2006, Maygen departed for a three-month tour of duty in Iraq.

Maygen, 25, and Christian, 28, met in the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where they prepared for careers in the military. Little did they know they would spend their first months as an engaged couple separated under such stressful circumstances.

On the trip to Iraq, Maygen stocked up on bridal magazines and talked about wedding plans with fellow engaged military personnel who were embarking on the same journey. Family and friends sent her wedding magazines from home, which she pored over every night, cutting out pictures and creating a binder of her fantasy wedding.

“It’s what kept me going,” Maygen said of her time in Iraq. “It was a great opportunity for me to think and dream up what I wanted to do.”

Fortunately, Maygen returned safely and was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base on the Emerald Coast. She and Christian were married on Oct. 13, 2007 on a beachside deck at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa with 70 guests in attendance. A reception followed in the Hilton’s Coral Ballroom.

Maygen chose a Tiffany-blue color scheme to complement the beach resort environment and the Navy-Air Force “mess dress” worn by the groom and four groomsmen. The bride wore a silk-satin, strapless ball gown and the four bridesmaids wore satin, tea-length blue dresses, all by Alfred Sung Bridals.

“I called it the blue October wedding!” Maygen said.

Getting ready in a suite at the Hilton on the wedding day, Maygen realized she forgot the underpinning to her dress. The oversight caused the dress to hang eight inches too long and made it difficult to walk in. In the middle of her panic, her soon-to-be husband arrived and left a gift for Maygen. It was a beautiful antique locket clock accompanied by a sentimental note reminding her that he can keep some secrets. This cheered her up instantly as she reflected on the day’s purpose. It’s not about the dress or the details – “It’s about our relationship,” she said.

Weddings are about family too.

“I’m the oldest in a long line of grandchildren to have a big wedding, so I wanted to incorporate some English traditions since my grandmother is British,” Maygen said. She and Christian had their wrists tied together with ribbon during the ceremony and tried to kiss each other over the top of the wedding cake, both English customs to ensure a successful marriage.

Prior to the wedding, Maygen made blue paper airplanes resembling F-15 Jets, and one was placed on each guest’s chair. During the reception, an unexpected paper airplane “fight” broke out, adding to the festivities as guests danced to tunes spun by D Dan’s Entertainment Agency in Destin.

After an engagement that began far apart, Christian was unexpectedly stationed at Eglin Air Force Base. Some things were just meant to be.


Alexandra & RyanAlexandra & Ryan

A Grande Event 

Like many couples today, Alexandra Hirmer, 22, a professional personal assistant and native of Okaloosa Island, and Ryan Troup, 28, a restoration contractor and resident of Destin, were friends for several years before dating. They met through their Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

After dating for a year, Ryan knew that an upcoming vacation to Rome with Alexandra’s family was the ideal setting to propose. Prior to the trip, he asked what she was most looking forward to seeing in the Italian city and included her family in the plan. Once in Rome, they made their way to the Spanish Steps, Alexandra’s place of choice, and climbed to the top for some photos. Ryan suggested another photo angle, and when Alexandra turned around he was on his knee, holding out an engagement ring.

Wedding plans quickly took shape once they returned home, and Alexandra and Ryan planned their big day for six months later on Nov. 3, 2007, at the Emerald Grande, a new luxury resort in Destin developed by Legendary Inc. It was so new that they were going to be only the second wedding to have taken place at the venue. They learned that the Emerald Grande was opening soon from regularly dining at Rutherford’s 465, another Legendary property.

Alexandra and Ryan were married in front of 160 guests on the Captain’s Deck at the Emerald Grande overlooking Destin Harbor. The Destin World Cup Powerboat Race was under way that weekend, and all the boats were silenced until the ceremony was finished. As soon as they were married, the revving of the engines roared back on, adding to the joyous celebration. Following the ceremony, the couple took a power boat across Destin Harbor to take photos on a beach, and a reception followed in the Emerald Grande’s banquet hall.

Alexandra wore a strapless corseted ball gown by Allure. The four bridesmaids, including her three sisters, wore pale yellow, long chiffon dresses by Jasmine, all from Simply Elegant in Fort Walton Beach.

Before she walked down the aisle, Alexandra’s brothers scattered yellow flower petals down the white runner, and they gently blew in the wind as though they were dancing along with the processional music.

Prior to the wedding, Alexandra and Ryan prepared for their choreographed first dance, to Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do” with a friend who is a dance instructor.

Their four-tiered, white square cake, by Bake My Day in Destin, featured replicated details from Alexandra’s dress and offered a variety of flavors, including carrot, chocolate, Grand Marnier and citrus. The groom’s cake wasn’t a cake, but a stack of brownies, Ryan’s favorite, drizzled with chocolate sauce and accented with chocolate-covered strawberries.

Ryan surprised Alexandra with a honeymoon trip to Walt Disney World, a place she had never been. They drove to Orlando accompanied by the celebratory honks of passing drivers, who read the “Honk at Us – Just Married” message scrawled on their car by family and friends. In Disney World, they stayed in a little cabin in Fort Wilderness and watched fireworks each night. It was a magical ending to their personal fairytale.

Katie & TimKatie & Tim 

Celebration by the Sea 

Although Katie Meyer and Tim Yeadon both graduated from the University of Missouri, their romance didn’t blossom until several years later, when the timing was finally right. After dating long distance for a year, Tim moved from Washington, D.C., where he worked as an account executive for GTSI, a technology services firm, to New York, where Katie was the fashion editor at Glamour magazine.

Two years later, Tim proposed at her parents’ house in St. Louis, presenting Katie with a platinum-set, emerald-cut diamond adorned with baguettes.

Katie knew right away that she wanted the wedding to be in Seaside, where her family had vacationed for 15 years and owned a home for the past four.

“It is such a special place for our family,” she said. “I knew Seaside was the perfect place to get married.”

Katie, 30, and Tim, 29, tied the knot in Seaside on April 14, 2007, almost a year to the day after their engagement. The casual but elegant weekend-long celebration included a barbecue, a bridesmaids’ luncheon, a golf tournament and a wedding rehearsal barbecue at Seaside’s Bud & Alley’s restaurant.

Following two sunny days, the wedding-day weather was less than perfect. Rain with 80 mph winds was predicted, but Katie had her heart set on having the reception, which she had planned for a year, in a white tent. The caterer, Criolla’s of Grayton Beach, even offered to move the reception to the restaurant, but Katie was determined to move forward with the details as planned.

At 4:30 p.m., with cloudy skies overhead, Katie was escorted by her father, Whity Meyer, down the aisle of the Seaside Chapel in front of 140 guests. She wore an English tulle Vera Wang gown and carried a bouquet of white peonies and lilies of the valley created by Bella Flora florist in Santa Rosa Beach.

Seven bridesmaids, including her two sisters, wore pale green strapless, raw silk, cocktail-length dresses accented with bows at the waist by Watters and Watters. They carried bouquets of white peonies, green viburnum and purple muscari.

After the ceremony, the couple and their guests celebrated with a champagne toast on the side of the Seaside chapel, and the weather held up for pictures taken by Meg Baisden Photography in Pensacola.

The couple made their entrance to the tented reception down a path of lit candles, although the sides of the tent were tied down due to the increasing wind.

In the middle of dinner the rain came pouring down, but it only added to the joyous festivities. Everyone laughed and cheered as the band played “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore.”

Katie and Tim enjoyed toasts, danced and cut their traditional three-tiered cake, made by Southern Style Desserts in Destin. Katie also surprised Tim with a groom’s cake made of Devil Dogs, his favorite childhood treat.

Guests’ hair curled and girls danced in flip-flops, which Katie provided to all female guests. The uninvited rain didn’t ruin their big day but was a welcomed party-crasher after all.


New Traditions Take the Cake

Wedding cake is a tradition dating back to medieval times, when each guest brought a small cake to be stacked in layers, eventually merging into one cake. In the not-so-long-ago past, a tower of white cake covered in white icing – that often looked better than it tasted – took center stage at receptions. But today, brides are creating their own traditions, and wedding cakes are being created in all shapes, sizes, flavors, colors and quantities.

bright colorsBright Colors
All white cakes are “so last year,” according to Kim Weideman, owner of Southern Style Desserts in Destin (southernstyledesserts.com). “Cakes are becoming accessories that are part of the wedding theme,” said Weideman. “I’ve received requests for orange, lime-green and blue cakes to coordinate with wedding colors.”

Multiple CakesMultiple Cakes
Some brides are opting for more than one cake. “They’re putting smaller one- and two-tiered cakes on each guest table,” said Beth Kilbourn, owner of Cakes by Jan in Fort Walton Beach. “These smaller cakes become the main centerpieces on the table.”

Customized DetailsCustomized Details
A letterpress pattern mirroring the bridal gown embroidery or icing ribbons matching bows on the bridesmaids’ dresses are just some of the personalized design details that can be added to cakes. “Monogram cake toppers are also really big right now,” Weideman said.

Fabulous FlavorsFabulous Flavors
Dark chocolate cake and carrot cake both are very trendy choices. And more exotic filling flavors, such as champagne, pistachio, tiramisu and cannoli cream are showing up in between cake layers. Some couples alternate tiers with different flavors so they each get to have their favorite flavor.

Cake What Cake?Cake? What Cake?
Many couples are opting for towers of cupcakes, brownies, Rice Krispie Treats and Hostess Twinkies instead of a traditional wedding cake or as the groom’s cake. Weideman once made a groom’s cake out of 100 cinnamon rolls. Offering other sweet treats to guests also is popular. Kilbourn also has created mini-wedding cakes made of solid chocolate, given as favors.

Groom's CakeGroom’s Cakes
Traditionally, the groom’s cake was sliced and boxed for unmarried girls attending the wedding to take home and place under their pillows in hopes that the man they dreamed of would be their future husband. Modern groom’s cakes often are vibrant, three-dimensional sculptures reflecting school mascots, professions or favorite hobbies.

Pure ImaginationPure Imagination
Gone are the days of plain round layers. “I love doing different things,” Weideman said. “There are no limits.” From edible sugar works of art to towering slanted squares, the options today are endless. “Your imagination is my limitation,” Kilbourn said.


Alternative Honeymoons

New Honeymoon on the Rise

Today, most people have acquired standard household goods after living on their own, or even together, for several years before getting married. Many travel-related businesses now are offering couples a non-traditional, yet highly practical, gift-giving alternative with the honeymoon registry. Having your honeymoon paid for by friends and family is a great way to take an amazing trip that you otherwise might not be able to afford.

Gulf Coast Travel in Destin is a local travel agency that creates honeymoon registries for couples. Owner-operator Lisa Morgan recently gave Emerald Coast Magazine the scoop on this hot honeymoon trend.

How long have you been creating honeymoon registries?
We started honeymoon registries when we opened our business in 1995.

Why do you think this is a growing trend?
So many couples already have all they need when they get married. Many couples also are unable to afford a great honeymoon on their own since they are just starting out, and this makes it possible for them to have a honeymoon to remember.

Can they plan a trip to any destination in the world?
We can help them go wherever their hearts desire. Some trips take longer than others to plan, but we help them get to wherever they want to go.

How do they start planning?
First, find a travel agency willing to work with you. Make sure you’re going to get along with that agent and that he or she is going to be responsive to your ideas. We listen to couples and help them plan their dream trip.

In addition to hotels and airfare, can couples list the activities they want to participate in?
Yes, we can plan their activities in advance or create a wish list on the registry so they can set things up when they get there. Many activities don’t have to be reserved beforehand. A couple can wait to see if a guest buys something for them, knowing that if they don’t receive it, they aren’t obligated to pay for something they can’t afford.

Can couples create an online gift registry so guests can buy gifts?
We can specialize any registry as needed. There is nothing that can’t be done.

How do they tell friends and family about the honeymoon registry?
If they have a wedding Web page, they can list us as a gift registry contact like any other store. Then guests can contact us directly to purchase a gift.

How is the couple notified that a gift is purchased?
We keep a profile on the couple in our database and maintain a log of what they received from whom. We can generate a list for them at the end, or we can update the couple as gifts are purchased.

When do they receive their gifts?
We usually have a deadline when all gifts must be purchased, and at that point we apply the total to the booked trip. The couple can also purchase their honeymoon up front, and the final amount goes directly to the couple so they can pay their credit card bill or use it as travel money.


High-Tech Honeymoon Registries 

• giftpile.com
• honeyluna.com
• thebigday.com
• honeymoonwishes.com