Looking back, Kay says it didn’t take long for her to fall in love with Ryan’s “sweet and nerdy charm,” which she was first introduced to when they met as teens working in a mall candy shop. More than a decade would pass before they’d actually begin dating, but time wasn’t the only obstacle their relationship faced. As a member of the U.S. Air Force, Kay was deployed to Germany for four months, during which time Ryan cared for her 5-year-old son.

“To know he was holding down the fort and doing everything I did as a single mom…warmed my heart,” she shares. “Without a doubt in my mind, I knew this guy truly loves us. Fortunately for us, Ryan was able to visit me.”

Feeling emboldened by her love, Kay planned to propose with a Tiffany & Co. compass, a symbol of where the couple had been and where they were going, but ultimately couldn’t decide how she wanted to go about it. Luckily, Ryan had plans of his own. “On an overnight trip to Paris, he asked me to marry him on the Pont des Amoureux (Love Lock Bridge),” she shares. “I never cried so much in front of so many people! Best day of my life.”

Although Kay was still overseas when they began the planning process, there was one thing both bride and groom knew for sure—they would wed in the fall to honor their anniversary and the birth of Kay’s son. “We went back and forth for a while for the type of wedding we wanted,” Ryan explains. “We both discussed the pros and cons of a big wedding versus a small, intimate on. We even considered eloping!” Ultimately, they decided to surprise guests with a backyard celebration masquerading as an engagement party.

“Our favorite place to be is our home where we’ve lived together long before the engagement, so it was natural for us to have our ceremony and reception there,” Kay shares. “Being 6,000 miles apart only made that feeling stronger for me. I just wanted to be home where my heart was.”

When it was time for the big reveal, guests were touched by the couple’s attention to romantic details, including a replica Love Lock Bridge and handmade, shabby-chic Parisian desserts created by a friend of the bride.

“A huge surprise that came out of the whole thing was getting job offers after our awesome photographer, Liz Zimbelman, posted our pictures to her blog,” Kay reveals. “I now have the honor of coordinating weddings and other special events.”

Adds Ryan, “I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d say ‘I do’ over and over again and relive that moment with Kay.”

―Morgan Cásarez