On May 14, 2016, as the sun dipped low in the sky along the Georgia coast, five years of long distance, patience and love culminated in the gorgeous Sea Island wedding that Holly Simpson and Ryan Sims had carefully planned; it was the beginning of the marriage they had long dreamed of.

This bride and groom dated long distance for all four years of their relationship before getting engaged. Needless to say, their wedding day was a long time coming!

This bride and groom dated long distance for all four years of their relationship before getting engaged. Needless to say, their wedding day was a long time coming!

This sweet pair met when they were juniors in college at The University of Alabama and Auburn University, respectively — a rivalry that will, of course, come into play on their wedding day. When Holly’s best friend Lauren and Ryan’s best friend Barry started dating, they invited Holly and Ryan along with some other friends out for a weekend on Lake Martin. “Ryan texted me when I was on my way home from the lake that weekend, and we started talking every day from then on,” Holly says. They were a perfect match, and, conveniently, their best friends were as well. Holly and Lauren and Ryan and Barry spent the remainder of their undergraduate years traveling back and forth between Tuscaloosa and Auburn for Sigma Nu date parties and weekends at the lake.

The end of undergrad brought a new chapter in Holly and Ryan’s long-distance saga, as Holly settled in Birmingham for pharmacy school and Ryan moved to Tennessee. Fast-forward through three additional years of long-distance love to the conclusion of Holly’s pharmacy school, when her sister invited Ryan and Holly over for dinner under the guise of a birthday celebration. When Holly arrived, she instead discovered Ryan waiting for her in the backyard with a ring in hand. Holly had mentioned to Ryan long ago that she hoped for a surprise proposal, and a surprise it was!

Holly knew she had found her dream wedding gown the moment she saw it. “They had one of the Monique Lhuillier dresses that I had seen online, and I immediately knew it was the one before even putting it on,” Holly says. “I tried it on and couldn’t stop smiling!”

Holly knew she had found her dream wedding gown the moment she saw it. “They had one of the Monique Lhuillier dresses that I had seen online, and I immediately knew it was the one before even putting it on,” Holly says. “I tried it on and couldn’t stop smiling!”

All of the custom paper products, including the invitations, watercolor map, weekender, wedding program and the beautiful stationary suite were all designed with the wedding colors and destination theme in mind. Shelley Kyle created the custom invitation suite for Holly and Ryan, and Boo Owens did the calligraphy.

All of the custom paper products, including the invitations, watercolor map, weekender, wedding program and the beautiful stationary suite were all designed with the wedding colors and destination theme in mind. Shelley Kyle created the custom invitation suite for Holly and Ryan, and Boo Owens of Dallas, Texas, did the calligraphy.

Holly kept with tradition and incorporated something old, new, borrowed and blue into her wedding-day attire. Beautiful pearl and diamond earrings from Jordan Alexander were a wedding gift from her parents and her “something new”; she borrowed her sister’s old diamond bracelet, which she wore on her own wedding day; and she added a touch of blue with her garter. And, of course, a sixpence for her shoe!

Holly kept with tradition and incorporated something old, new, borrowed and blue into her wedding-day attire. Beautiful pearl and diamond earrings from JA Collections (formerly Jordan Alexander) were a wedding gift from her parents and her something new; she borrowed her sister’s old diamond bracelet, which she wore on her own wedding day; and she added a touch of blue with her garter. And, of course, a sixpence for her shoe!

Ryan puts on the finishing touches before seeing his bride for the first time!

Ryan puts on the finishing touches before seeing his bride for the first time!

One of the highlights of the day for Holly and Ryan both was their first look before the ceremony. Such a special moment to look back on for years to come!

One of the highlights of the day for Holly and Ryan both was their first look before the ceremony. Such a special moment to look back on for years to come!

The happy couple can't stop beaming on their special day!

The happy couple can’t stop beaming on their special day!

Both families celebrated over dinner at Ocean, followed by an engagement party, where Ryan had one last surprise in store for his bride-to-be. “Ryan had called Barry a few days before, and he and Lauren came into town that day so they could be there to celebrate with us,” Holly says. “They surprised me by showing up to the celebration that night!” There, with the friends who had been so integral in Holly and Ryan crossing paths in the first place, things really had come full circle.

When it came to planning the wedding, Holly had a clear vision as her starting point. “I have always wanted a spring or summer wedding somewhere coastal,” Holly says. “I wanted a wedding weekend where our guests would all be close to us, and they could view it as a vacation that celebrated our marriage, but that they also would look forward to it and have a fabulous time!”

The bridesmaids were stunning in bellini-colored chiffon gowns that elegantly draped off the shoulder, echoing the beautiful tulle wrap Holly wore around her shoulders for the ceremony.

The bridesmaids were stunning in bellini-colored chiffon gowns that elegantly draped off the shoulder, echoing the beautiful tulle wrap Holly wore around her shoulders for the ceremony.

The groom wore a custom Hickey-Freeman tuxedo, and looked especially dapper alongside his groomsmen in their classic white dinner jackets under the live oaks and Spanish moss.

The groom wore a custom Hickey Freeman tuxedo, and looked especially dapper alongside his groomsmen in their classic white dinner jackets under the live oaks and Spanish moss.

Among the many highlights of the wedding day for Holly was spending the morning sipping champagne, relaxing and getting ready with her fifteen bridesmaids!

Among the many highlights of the wedding day for Holly was spending the morning sipping champagne, relaxing and getting ready with her fifteen bridesmaids!

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The bridal bouquet, awash in the filtered sunlight of this arched window, is a sight to behold.

The bridal bouquet, awash in the filtered sunlight of this arched window, is a sight to behold.

One of Holly’s favorite details were the gift boxes created by Caroline Borders, of Mariée Ami. “Caroline designed a beautiful watercolor map of the venue,” Holly says. “She also crafted wonderfully thoughtful hotel arrival boxes for guests, which included a ‘remedy kit’ for anyone who might have been struggling a bit after too much fun the night before.”

Some of Holly’s favorite details were in the gift boxes created by Caroline Borders, of Mariée Ami. “Caroline designed a beautiful watercolor map of the venue,” Holly says. “She also crafted wonderfully thoughtful hotel arrival boxes for guests, which included a ‘remedy kit’ for anyone who might have been struggling a bit after too much fun the night before.”

After first spotting the venue on a wedding blog, she had a feeling that Sea Island, Georgia, would be a good fit for the weekend getaway she had imagined. A visit to the coast with her mother confirmed it: Sea Island was absolutely perfect, and Holly and her mom turned to the talented team at Mariée Ami to help with the details of Holly and Ryan’s perfect day.

Holly chose a romantic, neutral color palette to serve as the perfect understated accent for their refined coastal wedding. Shades of pale peach, pink, cream and white were incorporated throughout the day, from the Bellini-colored chiffon bridesmaids’ dresses, to the lush clusters of white peonies and peach garden roses the girls carried down the aisle and the romantic arrangements that adorned the tables at the reception. An elegant garden ceremony, a gorgeous reception with sweeping views of the coastline and impeccable details thoughtfully curated and perfectly executed by Mariée Ami combined to create a truly special day.

On that pleasant May evening on the Georgia coast, after a year of careful planning, 185 guests gathered in The Cloister Garden at Sea Island to witness Holly and Ryan’s marriage. Dappled evening light filtered through the palm trees and live oaks as a string quartet played and Holly made her way down the aisle. Holly describes the ceremony as sweet and beautiful, the centerpiece of a perfect day spent relaxing, reminiscing and celebrating alongside her groom, closest friends and family members.

Holly’s joy is contagious as she walks arm-in-arm with her father toward her groom!

Holly’s joy is contagious as she walks arm-in-arm with her father toward her groom!

The gardens proved the perfect spot for Holly and Ryan’s wedding ceremony. With the stunning architecture of The Cloister as the backdrop and looming live oaks overhead, it was one of the most romantic and beautiful outdoor ceremonies we’ve ever seen!

The gardens proved the perfect spot for Holly and Ryan’s wedding ceremony. With the stunning architecture of The Cloister as the backdrop and looming live oaks overhead, this is one of the most romantic and beautiful outdoor ceremonies we’ve ever seen!

We can never get enough of those post-ceremony smiles!

We can never get enough of those post-ceremony smiles!

Is there a more romantic setting to steal away for a few photos than under these sprawling live oaks? We think not!

Is there a more romantic setting to steal away for a few photos than under these sprawling live oaks? We think not!

The gorgeous coastal view was a high priority for Holly and Ryan, so they had a clear tent constructed to maximize the stunning scenery.

The gorgeous coastal view was a high priority for Holly and Ryan, so they had a clear tent constructed to maximize the stunning scenery.

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Cream and blush petals enhance the subdued yet elegant beauty of the scene.

Cream and blush petals enhance the subdued yet elegant beauty of the scene.

Framed photographs of the bride and groom’s parents and grandparents on their own wedding days were featured on the welcome table at the reception, a personal touch that paid tribute to the marriages that laid the foundation for their own.

Framed photographs of the bride and groom’s parents and grandparents on their own wedding days were featured on the welcome table at the reception, a personal touch that paid tribute to the marriages that laid the foundation for their own.

The bartenders at Sea Island created a signature drink for guests to enjoy during cocktail hour: a watermelon-cucumber martini, garnished with a slice of cucumber.

The bartenders at Sea Island created a signature drink for guests to enjoy during cocktail hour: a watermelon-cucumber martini, garnished with a slice of cucumber.

Following the ceremony, guests made their way to a cocktail hour and stunning reception at the beach club at The Cloister. Neutral tones featured in the linens, furnishings and even a white dance floor allowed the incredible setting to shine as the focal point. “It is right on the water, and I loved its ‘classy beachy look,’ with the palm trees, water and the beautiful architecture of The Cloister buildings behind us,” Holly says. “I really wanted to have the Sea Island beach view as the setting for our guests to enjoy, and so we used a clear-top tent that allowed for amazing 360-degree views.” Strings of lights filled the top of the tent, illuminating it with an enchanting glow long into the evening as Holly and Ryan danced and celebrated with their guests.

Cocktail hour featured passed hors d’oeuvres, and guests indulged in low country favorites at the reception, including a raw seafood bar, shrimp and grits station, crab cake station and more. A watermelon and cucumber martini served as the signature drink, and, after hours, the dancing guests were served a late-night snack of sliders and truffle fries.

Holly and Ryan take the dance floor for the first time as husband and wife to “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne.

Holly and Ryan take the dance floor for the first time as husband and wife to “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne.

The wedding cake, a six-tier white buttercream cake with alternating layers of vanilla genoise and limoncello cake and raspberries, with gorgeous flowers cascading down it, was absolutely beautiful. However, the groom’s cake provided perhaps a better story. Holly surprised Ryan, an Auburn fan, with an elaborate orange and blue cake in the shape of Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. But the true surprise came when he cut into it and discovered red velvet cake with cream cheese icing inside, a special touch from his University of Alabama-loyal bride. 

The wedding cake, a six-tier white buttercream cake with alternating layers of vanilla genoise and limoncello cake and raspberries, with gorgeous flowers cascading down it, was absolutely beautiful. However, the groom’s cake provided perhaps a better story. Holly surprised Ryan, an Auburn fan, with an elaborate orange and blue cake in the shape of Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. But the true surprise came when he cut into it and discovered red velvet cake with cream cheese icing inside, a special touch from his University of Alabama-loyal bride.

“Ryan and I used silver wine goblets originally from my parents’ wedding for our toast,” Holly says. “The goblets are engraved with the initials and wedding dates of my parents and my sister and her husband, who each used them before us. Our initials and wedding date were added just before the wedding. It was very special getting to incorporate a Simpson family tradition into our wedding.”

“Ryan and I used silver wine goblets originally from my parents’ wedding for our toast,” Holly says. “The goblets are engraved with the initials and wedding dates of my parents and my sister and her husband, who each used them before us. Our initials and wedding date were added just before the wedding. It was very special getting to incorporate a Simpson family tradition into our wedding.”

“We had lots of fun party accessories that we provided for the reception: glow-in-the-dark tambourines and glow sticks were a huge hit,” Holly says. “But our personalized selfie sticks with the wedding hashtags definitely won the night.”

“We had lots of fun party accessories that we provided for the reception: glow-in-the-dark tambourines and glow sticks were a huge hit,” Holly says. “But our personalized selfie sticks with the wedding hashtags definitely won the night.”

Low country food was at its absolute best at Holly and Ryan’s wedding. Guests could choose from a variety of different stations during the reception, which included a raw seafood station, a sushi bar, a shrimp and grits station, a crab cake station, a beef tenderloin and potatoes station, and a salad bar featuring a variety of artisanal vegetables.

Low country food was at its absolute best at Holly and Ryan’s wedding. Guests could choose from a variety of different stations during the reception, which included a raw seafood station, a sushi bar, a shrimp and grits station, a crab cake station, a beef tenderloin and potatoes station and a salad bar featuring a variety of artisanal vegetables.

The reception tent glowed long into the night thanks to the strands of twinkle lights strung across the clear ceiling, great music, good food and joyous celebration with friends!

The reception tent glowed long into the night thanks to the strands of twinkle lights strung across the clear ceiling, great music, good food and joyous celebration with friends and family!

After being showered with rose petals, the bride and groom head out into the night, flanked by twinkling sparklers.

After being showered with rose petals, the bride and groom head out into the night, flanked by twinkling sparklers.

At the end of their perfect wedding day, Holly and Ryan were showered with rose petals as they headed off into the evening as husband and wife.

A little over one year later, Holly’s best advice for other brides is to enjoy the planning process and then relax and enjoy the week of the wedding itself. “You only get to plan your special day once, and it goes by way too fast,” Holly says. “Everything will be perfect in the end, and all that matters is that you are happily married and you had the best time celebrating!”

Cheers to you, Holly and Ryan! We wish you many years of wedded bliss!

RESOURCES

Photography: 6 of Four Photography
Videographer: Mike Cyr of Buzz Media Company
Wedding planner: Mariée Ami
Local planner: Kacee Popa of The Cloister at Sea Island
Wedding dress: Monique Lhuillier from Ivory and White
Wedding day and rehearsal dinner earrings: JA Collections (formerly Jordan Alexander)
Engagement ring and wedding bands: Levy’s Fine Jewelry
Bridesmaids’ dresses: Amsale from Bella Bridesmaids
Groom’s attire: Custom Hickey Freeman tuxedo from Mobley & Sons
Groomsmen’s attire: Mr. Burch Formal Wear
Cake: The Cloister
Flowers: The Vine
Venue: The Cloister
Ceremony: The Cloister Garden at Sea Island
Reception: The Ocean Room – The Beach Club at Sea Island
Rehearsal dinner: The Lodge at Sea Island
Catering: The Cloister
Band: Simply Irresistible of East Coast Entertainment
Hair and makeup: Brittany Massey
Wedding invitation and program: Shelley Kyle of Kyle Fine Stationery
Save the date, cups, koozies and napkins: Mariée Ami
Watercolor map: Caroline Borders of Mariée Ami
Weekender: Alyssa Reeves of Paradise Design Co.
Calligraphy: Boo Owens, (214) 526-3015

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