A surprise wedding... can anything be more fun and joyous? From the moment we saw this beauty from Ashley Victoria Photography in our inbox, we couldn't wait to find out every detail of Val and Ryan's story. I think you'll adore it as much as we do!
Valerie and Ryan met 10 years ago in high school, and Ryan popped the question just this past October while they were visiting Valerie's sister Kendall in Paris. They targeted March for the wedding, when Kendall would be home for a visit. After Valerie read about a surprise wedding (on a blog, of course!) she immediately reached out to her sister, her mom and a good friend to ask, "Do you think I could pull this off?" The answer was a resounding YES, and they all jumped in to make it work. They told everyone they were planning for a fall wedding in North Carolina, but began preparing for an engagement-party-turned-surprise-wedding in two months.
They started the wedding day by getting dressed for portraits. Val had given her bridesmaids a neutral color palette and asked them to pick out something cute to wear for their 'engagement party'; they found out the night before the wedding that they'd actually picked out their bridesmaid dresses! A fun portrait session all around Baytowne Wharf followed.
I'm a little obsessed with this elevator first look photo - how sweet and joyful do they look? Val also brought along a gift to give to Ryan: the movie ticket stub she had saved from their first date in 2003. The movie? American Wedding.
After the photo session, Val changed out of her wedding dress and they headed over to the beautiful Bentley's on the Bay for the party.
Says Valerie, "The first hour or so of our 'engagement party' was pretty normal with appetizers, drinks and lots of talking. I'm sure all of our guests were wondering why we had gone to so much work for just an engagement party. Then my dad made a toast thanking everyone for being there and then announced: 'We've had an engagement party, and now we're going to have a wedding!'"
Ashley caught the shock and surprise on guests' faces... what a fun moment! Val then changed into her wedding dress, and they had the wedding ceremony on the lawn just 20 minutes later.
Ed and Sue of First Day Entertainment (their officiant and DJ for the day) had the couple prepare their love story; part of it was how each knew the other was 'the one'. A few things Val shared about Ryan: He is trusting, forgiving, very blunt and honest at times, and a man's man. I love that he will find a way to fix anything I give him. He has always been a constant supporter of anything and everything I do (and have done). He doesn't like to plan for tomorrow, yet I can always tell that he thinks about our future together. He takes life as it comes at him and lives in the moment. He takes care of me. He lets me have a cat, even though he says he's allergic. And after 10 years, we are still finding new "firsts" together.
And Ryan about Val: I like to think I always knew Valerie was the one, there was nothing I could ever do to deserve someone better than this person. She has the sweetest heart, and she doesn't even realize that every day when I see her I think how lucky I am to have her. When we go out to new places and see people I am proud to have her on my arm. I have total trust in her. Whatever is in our future together I can't wait to see. Every time I travel with Val, she reminds me why she is my best and closest friend and there is no one else I'd rather see the world with.
One of the couple's favorite moments of the day was while they were reading their vows. Valerie read hers first, and when it came time for Ryan to respond he was too emotional to speak; he passed them to his brother and best man, who in turn became too emotional to finish and had to pass them to one of Ryan's best friends! Says Valerie, "It was such a sweet, funny moment for everyone involved and will definitely be remembered and talked about with all of our family and friends." And after the two were announced as husband and wife, their friends rushed them for a group hug. How sweet is that?
I asked Valerie to share some info on the planning that went into pulling off the surprise and short timeline: Any vendors or ideas that didn't work out smoothly in the planning process – we didn't use. We found vendors that we related amazingly well with. Even Ed and Sue, our DJ/officiate, had a surprise wedding just like us! I met Ashley, our photographer, at a bridal expo in Pensacola and immediately fell in love with her and her work. The girl who helped me pick out my wedding dress happened to do amazing florist work as a side business and the beautiful venue we used, Bentley's on the Bay, took care of the catering and the cake.
Val, her mother, and her friend Erica started an event planning company, Southern Affairs, just before the wedding. According to Valerie, the success and fun they had planning the big day were total confirmation of their decision to start the business.
Best of luck in marriage and in business, guys! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Bentley's on the Bay | Photography: Ashley Victoria Photography | Getting Ready: The Grand Sandestin Baytowne Wharf | Floral Design: Sara Seeley Hyduk with Sunshine Designs | Dress: Renee's Bridal, Pensacola | Hair Styling: Elements Salon | Cake: Sugar Lilly Sweet Shop | DJ & Officiant: First Day Entertainment | Submission: Two Bright Lights