MEXICO BEACH — Eleven days after Hurricane Michael destroyed their hometown and their wedding venue, Panama City couple Cori Clark and Bryon Hughes said their "I dos.”

They got married Sunday, the day they had set more than a year earlier and at the venue they had chosen, even though the two-story Gulf-front home in Mexico Beach had been reduced to rubble.

Cori, a Panama City police officer, and Bryon, a Mexico Beach volunteer firefighter, have been working nearly nonstop since the storm. Cori thought about cancelling the wedding, but he talked her out of it. 

“I told him (Bryon) how stressed I was already — as the hardest part was finding a venue, and I already paid all my vendors, and we kept thinking about the money we will have to spend on repairs — and he said, ‘Hurricane Michael has already taken enough from us, we can’t let it take our wedding.’”

With that, the wedding was back on, and Cori said that despite some setbacks, the stress fell away, and everything else seemed to fall into place. They didn't have their rings, her dress, their families or most of the bridal party. But her dad surprised her, arriving the night before the wedding.

“He walked me down the aisle — well you can’t really call it an aisle — he walked me down the road. My dad was the only family member from my side that was able to make it and Bryon’s brother was the only one from his side.”

Cori said that because their families could not make it to the wedding, they invited their second families to help them celebrate.

“We kind of made it an open invitation to the first responders in the area because that’s our family right now,” she said. “When I pulled up (for the wedding) and the whole street was just lined with fire tucks and police cars and that was just really cool to me.”

Cori said that she has mixed emotions about losing out on the wedding she planned. She is grateful to be alive, but feels the loss of what was meant to be.

“I was supposed to wear my grandmother’s dress that was hand made by my great-grandmother," she said. "My rings are also not the rings we were going to have, the ones we were supposed to have I was getting cleaned.”

The dress and their rings are still in shops closed since the storm. 

However, Cori says there are moments of her wedding that she wouldn’t change for the world.

“One of the songs that I had picked out for our wedding, was “We Found Love (in a hopeless place),” by Rihanna, and I was getting ready alone. It felt like I was getting ready for prom with no date. Then that song came on and it just felt so perfect with all the destruction and everything I just felt like it was fitting.”

Cori had hired long-time friend and photographer Sara Lynsey Patterson of Photography & Art by Sara Lynsey LLC to take her wedding photos, and thankfully, Patterson kept the job.

"I’ve known Cori for a long time, we went to Bay High School together and my husband works with Cori at the police department, so when she told me the wedding was back on I was excited," Patterson said. 

Patterson photographed Cori and Bryon walking the beach, surrounded by devastation, he in his firefighters uniform, and she in her stand-in wedding dress and, at one point, a bullet-proof police vest.

The Panama City photographer said she uses her images to tell a story, and the Hughes’ love story, is one the Florida panhandle really needs to hear right now.

“The whole thing was just amazing, there was so much raw emotion that day,” she said. “The destruction was everywhere but it was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen, and if anyone deserves a perfect sunset it’s them.

"I want everyone to see Panama City for what it really is, the kindness and the love and not just the destruction. I just think it’s a great story, the perfect recipe, I just want to help the local people have a little hope.”