Long before they were formally introduced, Jessica Edwards and Lieutenant Jesse Skinner of the U.S. Navy caught each other’s eye at a church-affiliated worship meeting. In fact, Jesse was so preoccupied by Jessica during the musical part of the service that he turned to face another direction so as not to be diverted from the task at hand. “I saw this guy facing a corner and singing his heart out, and smiled to myself,” Jessica recalls of her first glimpse of her future husband. “It wasn’t until much later that I would learn it was because I was a distraction he didn’t need.” Jesse even went so far as to walk out the door without introducing himself, convinced that their paths would cross if he and the beautiful girl he had seen were meant to be together. Five months later the two met properly through a mutual friend, and after a whirlwind courtship, Jesse proposed.

Securing a wedding venue was never an issue for the happy couple, as Jessica’s mother booked a stunning seaside resort before Jesse had popped the question. “When I started dating Jesse in November of 2007, we knew an engagement would come quickly,” explains the bride. “So, my mom jumped on the reservations to beat the Christmas rush!” When they saw they’d be getting married on a cliff overlooking the ocean, Jessica and Jesse were both grateful and in awe. “We honestly would have been content to get married anywhere, but the Montage was above and beyond all we could have ever dreamed or imagined,” says Jessica. In addition to a border of vivid orange and apricot rose petals, the grassy aisle was lined with wrought-iron holders from which arrangements of hydrangeas and roses were suspended. A wrought-iron arch swathed in vibrantly colored flowers and adorned with faceted crystals swept gracefully over a makeshift altar draped in chocolate-hued fabric. “We wanted the wedding to be elegant, but not feel too formal,” explains the bride. “The wrought iron made everything feel earthy, while the crystals gave it a punch of royalty.”

Programs that included a heartfelt note from the bride and groom were given to guests upon arrival at the ceremony. Their message conveyed the depths of the couple’s shared faith, their joy at having their loved ones around them, and the disclosure that the two had waited until that very day to kiss on the lips. “The long walk down the aisle was incredible,” Jessica confides. “I was so full of joy that I threw my hand in the air as if to say, ‘Here I am!’” Jesse literally doubled over with happiness at the sight of his radiant bride, and then the couple exchanged extraordinary self-written vows that brought many of their witnesses to tears. “I will serve you, honor you, and pursue you into our old age,” was among the promises Jesse made at the altar. “And I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor things present or things to come will be able to separate our love for each other. I promise that my love and affections for you will always increase and never diminish. This is my vow to you.” And then the couple sealed the ceremony with their very first kiss. “We stood there forehead to forehead for what seemed like an eternity, just laughing, before our lips finally locked,” Jessica recalls of the long-awaited moment. “Later we were told that it was an honor to be able to witness a couple’s first kiss on their wedding day.” The couple then recessed up the aisle through a military sword arch to “It’s A Beautiful Day” by U2, paying the “price of passage” with a kiss as they came to each pair of officers. As the duo passed through the final pairing, the last officer shouted, “Welcome to the Navy, Mrs. Skinner!” and gave Jessica a hardy swat on the behind with the flat side of his sword.

The couple’s vision of relaxed elegance spilled over into the reception, where chocolate-brown table linens set off brightly hued florals in various arrangements. Dazzling roses and dahlias in shades of peach and orange were arranged on wrought-iron stands with snowy hydrangeas and dendrobium orchids. The four stacked tiers of the couple’s wedding cake were trimmed with similar blooms, while white garlands of flowers and crystals were suspended overhead.

“Everything was extravagant, but I felt like I could make myself at home and run amuck on the dance floor,” asserts the bride. A three-course dinner concluded with tray-passed lollipops of dark-chocolate cheesecake before the dance floor opened for additional celebrating. Guests posed for photographers with dry-erase boards on which they’d written messages for the couple, and a photo booth in the ballroom captured additional fun. The final photograph was snapped as Jesse and Jessica rushed beneath a bridge of their loved ones’ outstretched arms. “They refused to stop and pose for even one more photograph,” laughs Annette Biggers of TripleCord Photography. “They said they were leaving for their honeymoon and hadn’t a second to spare!” It was an extraordinary day for an extraordinary couple, and the finale of a courtship that was truly made in heaven.