This Couple's Beachfront Wedding in Florida Had "Lagniappe"—a Little Something Extra

wedding couple portrait on beach
Desiree Gardner

"Lagniappe," explains Shea Kidd, the Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is an endearing South Louisiana term that means a "little something extra"—and that's exactly what she and Ryan R. Brown, a General Counsel lawyer at Lincoln Memorial University, have. They met during what was supposed to be a lunch with friends, but was actually a blind date thanks to the pair's mutual pal Laranda. He had just left a court hearing in downtown New Orleans and felt overdressed in his suit; she didn't want to overdo it, opting for jeans and flip-flops. But during lunch, they bonded over their commonalities. "Depth is important to me, and I remember that we talked about life—our challenges, setbacks, and successes—and although we didn't tell our whole life stories, we really connected. It just felt different," says Shea. "I shared that I had a son from a previous marriage, and he leaned into that, instead of turning away. We also connected around our genuine desires to serve the community. He was a first-generation college student, and I was working with first-generation college students at the University of Memphis."

Despite the connection, the timing wasn't right—and while the pair texted on and off, things fizzled. "Fast forward a few months later, and I actually relocated to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which is about two hours from Baton Rouge," says Shea. "Shortly after that time, we reconnected and began dating. Still unsure of our long-term future, however, I broke things off. He was always in my heart and mind, and in hindsight, we both needed time to be what we needed to be for one another."

The third time, as they say, was the charm: In October 2016, they went to dinner and have been together ever since. And, after becoming engaged in Myrtle Beach in October 2020—with the help of Jack, Shea's then-11-year-old-son—they decided to plan a beach wedding in Florida, on the Emerald Coast, in just seven months. Their big-day vision, says Ryan, was simple: "I wanted a wedding that everyone involved would enjoy. We knew it would be an opportunity for all the people that mean so much to us to celebrate with us and meet one another." As for Shea? She wanted a "beach chic" party that was sophisticated and formal, but never stuffy. She approached the process practically, moving with speed and prioritizing vendor availability. "I remember scouting bridal boutiques in Knoxville, Tennessee, and when I shared with Ryan that I had an appointment the following week, he said, 'You're not messing around,'" says Shea. "Indeed, I was not."

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Sparkles and Shells

wedding ring sitting on orange seashells
Desiree Gardner

"We got engaged at our happy place, the beach," shares Ryan, who proposed with an oval-shaped sparkler from Markman's Diamonds. Shea's then-11-year-old son, Jack, was in on it, she shares, which made the moment that much more special.

  • 44 Engagement Rings with Brilliant Cut and Color
02 of 22

Welcome to Santa Rosa Beach

wedding invitations, jewelry, and welcome gifts
Desiree Gardner

Shea had always wanted to learn calligraphy—and used the pair's wedding as the perfect excuse to start. "The fact that we were home a lot during the pandemic made it a more attainable goal," says Shea, who mastered the art via virtual lessons. Ryan was in awe of his now-wife's dedication: "I watched her write each invitation by hand. It was amazing to see her learn something so quickly and exercise such concentration and patience."

As for the rest of the suite? Shea loves paper, so she scoured the Internet until she found Truly Engaging by Magnet Street, a budget-friendly vendor that checked all of her boxes. Relaxed script set the tone for the event to come; big-day details were flat printed on pearlized paper. A sheer navy bow tied the set together. Here, the suite is displayed with a couple welcome bag treats, including chips and hot sauce ("A Mississippi and Louisiana staple!" the Southern natives say).

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Beach Bride

bride in strapless white dress walking on beach
Desiree Gardner

"I only tried on five wedding dresses," says Shea. There were a few definite "nos," a few "maybes," and—secretly—one "yes." "I am a thinker and would plan spontaneity if I could, so it felt premature to commit so quickly," she explains, adding the she committed one day later, after the experts at Lillian Ruth Bride urged her to come back. "Sometimes, I think we hold our breath when things are good and just wait for the shoe to drop. I had to regularly remind myself to take this experience all in, to enjoy it, and to give gratitude for this sweet season."

When she let herself experience the joy this titanium and ivory lace number from Willowby by Watters brought her, she knew it was hers—the sweetheart ball gown with a feather motif, clear scattered sequins, and fitted waist was the "clear winner," she shares.

04 of 22

Embraced with Love

bride, mother, and grandmother portrait
Desiree Gardner

The bride shared a moment with the matriarchs in her life on the morning of the wedding.

05 of 22

Linked Together

bride adjusting groom's cuff links
Desiree Gardner

"I had custom cuff links made for Ryan out of maps that included Miramar and Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, symbolizing our first trip and our wedding location, and Myrtle Beach for our engagement," notes the bride.

06 of 22


groom in white striped suit standing on beach
Desiree Gardner

Ryan donned a gray seersucker suit from Brooks Brothers with a blue floral bow tie for the occasion. "He looked so handsome," says his bride.

07 of 22

Special Guest

groom and son hugging at wedding ceremony
Desiree Gardner

Jack was front and center on the big day. His attire, a J. Crew suit, spoke to Ryan's.

08 of 22

On Location

Florida neighborhood by beach wedding location
Desiree Gardner

"We chose this place because it is special to us," Ryan says of the pair's big-day beach locale. "The calming waters and beaches of the Emerald Coast are what we love." The pair ensured guests stayed in villas within walking (or golf cart) distance of all the festivities, so they could fully enjoy the celebration sans hassle. They stayed in the aptly-named Family Tradition Beach House, which also served as the reception site.

09 of 22

An Emotional First Look

groom crying while looking at bride during first look
Desiree Gardner

Ryan felt nervous before seeing his bride in her wedding regalia. "I got emotional thinking about our journey and what it took to get here," he says of the pair's first look, which took place on the balcony of their residence. "It was a feeling of relief to see her and hold her in my arms." Shea agrees, adding, "I was so grateful we had time to share how much we appreciated one another, how important this day was to both of us, and loved that we had the opportunity to exchange very personal words."

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Bridesmaids in Blue

bride and bridesmaids on white beach
Desiree Gardner

Shea's attendants wore breezy ensembles in colors that ranged from hydrangea to smoke and differed in style; some wore one-shoulder, off-the-shoulder, or halter maxi dresses from Dear Cleo, while another donned a summer vest suit from SuitShop.

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Tonal Bouquets

white and blue wedding bouquets
Desiree Gardner

The bride's bouquet, arranged by Our Greenhouse Florals, was a tight, round assortment of light blue hydrangeas, white roses, and anemones.

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Gallant Groomsmen

groom and groomsmen in blue on beach
Desiree Gardner

Navy cotton suits from Joseph A. Bank differentiated the groomsmen's looks from Ryan's. They completed their ensembles white shirts and blue-gray pocket squares.

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Ceremony on the Beach

small beach wedding ceremony
Desiree Gardner

The Santa Rosa Public Beach offered a beautiful backdrop for the duo's vow exchange, which took place under an altar punctuated with thistle, anemone, light blue hydrangea, and white roses.

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Get with the Program

white and blue wedding program fan
Desiree Gardner

Watercolor-inspired programs listed the ceremony's order of events and VIPs; they also doubled as fans.

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Finally Married

couple kissing at beach wedding ceremony
Desiree Gardner

Their officiant, Reverend Robert Johnson, is a long-time friend of Shea's and facilitated the pair's pre-marital counseling; he created "moments of quiet, moments of prayer, and moments of laughter," notes the bride.

"One of the ways we personalized the service was through our vows," says the couple. "We incorporated 'support of the community' promises, where our friends and family vowed to support us. We also included our 12-year-old into our newly formed family and used a sand ceremony to symbolize our joining and commitment to one another."

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So Much Joy

couple celebrating during wedding ceremony recessional on beach
Desiree Gardner

The couple shared a joyful moment at the top of the aisle, after they were officially pronounced husband and wife.

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Alone Time

couple holding hands for portrait on beach
Desiree Gardner

Ryan and Shea posed for a few romantic portraits on the beach while their guests moved onto the cocktail hour.

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Family Photos

wedding family portrait in white and blue on beach
Desiree Gardner

A few loved ones joined the newlyweds on the sand for a family photo op.

19 of 22

Blue Mood

elegant blue and white flowers on wedding reception table
Desiree Gardner

The pair looked to their beach surroundings when ideating the event's color palette, resulting in a mix of oceanic blues, grays, and creams. This scheme was translated onto the reception tabletops, which featured tall centerpieces balanced on glass hurricanes.

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Spin Me Around

couple dancing at wedding reception
Desiree Gardner

Shea and Ryan chose Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" for their first dance, a tune that takes the pair back to their origin story. "Since Ryan was living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and I was living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, we would often meet in New Orleans. On our first weekend there, Ryan played this song as we were getting ready and we began to dance in the hotel room," reflects the bride. "It was from that moment on that this was 'our song.'"

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Blue Tier

white and blue wedding cake with flowers
Desiree Gardner

The evening ended on a sweet note thanks to Bonne Vie Specialty's watercolor-inspired three tier cake, filled with red velvet, caramel, and buttercream flavors. The confection was served alongside Pralines—another nod to New Orleans—which also doubled as favors.

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wedding couple embracing while guests hold sparklers
Desiree Gardner

Photography, Desiree Gardner
Ceremony Site, Santa Rosa Public Beach Access
Reception Venue, Family Tradition Beach House
Wedding Coordination and Event Design, Susan Parker of Destin Wedding Company
Flowers, Our Greenhouse Florals
Invitations and Paper Goods, Truly Engaging by Magnet Street
Itinerary, A Wild Bloom Printables
Bride's Gown, Willowby by Watters via Lillian Ruth Bride
Bride's Accessories, Dareth Colburn (veil), Haute Bride (earrings), Etsy (bracelet)
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Dear Cleo, SuitShop
Groom's Attire, Brooks Brothers
Groom's Accessories, Cole Haan (shoes), Etsy (cuff links)
Groomsmen's Attire, Joseph A. Bank, J. Crew
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands, Markman's Diamonds
Music, DJ Chris Henson of Chris Henson Productions
Catering, Marlin Grill
Cake, Bonne Vie Specialty
Favors, Zazzle, Bonne Vie Specialty
Transportation, South Walton Golf Cart Rental

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