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'A Story Of Strength': Despite Hurricane, First Responders Keep Their Wedding Date

Credit Sara Patterson, Photography & Art by Sara Lynsey
Cori and Bryon Hughes on their wedding day in Mexico Beach. Cori, a detective at Panama City Police Department, and Bryon, a volunteer firefighter for Mexico Beach Fire Rescue, decided to keep their wedding date as planned even after Hurricane Michael wrecked their venue.

Cori and Bryon Hughes planned to get married Oct. 21, 2018, in Mexico Beach.

That was before Hurricane Michael destroyed most of the city, including the beach house where their nuptials were supposed to take place.

Cori, a detective with the Panama City Police Department, and Bryon, a Mexico Beach volunteer firefighter, knew they were going to have to postpone their wedding once they knew the hurricane was nearing. They just didn’t know when they would get the chance to reschedule.

“We didn’t foresee any days off from work,” said Cori.

After more than a week of 12-hour shifts, Cori and Bryon decided they would keep their wedding date, even if most of their plans had to change.

“Bryon and I were just talking about how fortunate we are that we still have a home and we still have each other,” Cori said. “I wasn’t planning another wedding — I didn’t want the stress. So Bryon said ‘this hurricane has taken so much, we cannot let it take away our day.’”

They were granted access into Mexico Beach to get married with a small ceremony of friends, a few family members, and first responders. Cori’s dad was able to fly in from Colorado, her mother had evacuated to Texas but gave the couple her blessing. 

The National Guard was conducting checkpoints for entry to Mexico Beach, Cori said that Bryon had supplied the guards with a portable toilet to incentivize their entry. 

Credit Sara Patterson, Photography & Art by Sara Lynsey
Cori and Bryon exchange vows on Mexico Beach with a small gathering of friends and first responders.

The couple exchanged vows among the rubble. Cori had originally planned to wear her grandmother’s wedding dress, which was hand-made by her great-grandmother, but it was still at the alterations shop. Instead, she wore her reception gown. Bryon wore his bunker gear and expected his bride to be in uniform. He was caught by surprise to see Cori walking toward him in a white gown.

“I purchased the dress on Amazon so I wouldn’t get my grandmother’s dress all dirty during the reception,” Cori said. “Seeing the look on Bryon’s face…that was worth the $90 I spent.”

Cori and Bryon have been together for five years and engaged for three. They were introduced through Cori’s cousin — ironically named Michael. They bonded over being dog lovers, Jeep owners, and first responders.

“And we’ve been inseparable ever since,” Cori said.  

Oct. 21 had no significance to the couple until now. Despite circumstances their wedding day ended up being “perfect,” Cori said.

Credit Sara Patterson, Photography & Art by Sara Lynsey
Cori Hughes stands among the wreckage on Mexico Beach.

Local photographer and Cori’s high school friend, Sara Patterson, documented the wedding day.  The Lynn Haven resident said she welcomed the chance to be a part of their day.

“I don’t think there was one area that wasn’t affected. But Cori and Bryon overpowered everything,” she said. “Against all odds, they had a great wedding. The light was gorgeous and the weather was cooling down. It was one of the smoothest weddings I’ve photographed.”

Patterson shared the photos on her Facebook page on Monday afternoon. “Their love is stronger than a hurricane,” she wrote.

The photos show the couple walking along the beach at sunset, saying their vows next to a handful of emergency officials and sharing a kiss around a pile of bricks where the beach house they rented once stood. 

The photos went viral with more than 40,000 likes and more than 5,000 comments, most of which were best wishes for the couple. Both Patterson and Cori have been inundated with interview requests from local and national media. 

Credit Sara Patterson, Photography & Art by Sara Lynsey
Cori and Bryon at the site of the beach home they rented for their wedding.

Less than two weeks after Hurricane Michael changed the landscape of the Bay County area, it was the kind of story that people needed.

“theira story of strength,” Patterson said. “We need to be uplifted now.”

More than 40 employees of the Panama City Police Department have lost their homes to Hurricane Michael, Cori said. You can support Panama City Police Officers here or here. A GoFundMe campaign has also been set up for Mexico Beach Fire Rescue to purchase new equipment that was damaged from the storm.