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Meant to be TAYLOR AND AUSTIN

PHOTOGRAPHY BY KAYDEE ALBRITTON

Rain clouds hung dark in the sky on the morning of Taylor and Austin’s wedding day. It was not at all what the couple had hoped for.

“Our wedding ceremony was planned for 5 p.m. We had gone through planning the wedding during the pandemic and were so happy that everything would finally be happening. And then there’s a 100 percent chance of rain,” Taylor says with an ex- asperated look that turns into a large smile; in retrospect, the weather was just one of many instances where things came together beautifully, just in time, like it was meant to be.

While their wedding organizers and venue representatives immediately provided a solution to move the wedding indoors, Taylor did not want to give up on her outdoor wedding dream and remained hopeful that the clouds would clear. She asked every- one to just keep waiting, and to everyone’s surprise, the sun peeked through the clouds just a few hours later, illuminating a celebration that was even more beautiful than she had imagined.

Family and friends witnessed the couple’s deep love and compassion during the heartfelt ceremony that was highlighted by elegant décor, with white flower arrangements and amenities to ensure the safety of all guests.

Thinking back, Taylor and Austin know that the most important thing about their wedding was the shared happiness and time with their families.

While they hold all events of the day very dear, there was one very special moment. “Our favorite memory on our wedding day was when we had a moment to ourselves, right after the ceremony,” Austin says. “We went on a golf cart to take pictures next to a picturesque boardwalk, and on our way back, the sun started setting. It was breathtaking. I stopped the golf cart, and we were just sitting there, Taylor in her wedding dress, me in my suit. I looked at Taylor and asked her, ‘Just remember this, remember this moment right here, because every time we see a sunset like this, we can think back to the moment that we got married, that special moment that we shared, the vows that we just took.’ It was beautiful.”

It is one thing the couple would recommend to any couples who are nervous and emotional about their big day: just take a step back and take a moment to breathe and be in peace.

When Austin moved to Panama City Beach from Tampa in 2016 to work as a mechanical engineer for the Navy base, he was new to the area and slowly made new friends. He later found out his and Taylor’s paths should have crossed many times as they knew many of the same people. They even discovered that they had been on a flight together just months before meeting for the first time.

It took both their initiative to get to know each other, and Austin was persistent for months before Taylor agreed to go out with him something that might not have happened if he hadn’t adopted a four-legged friend.

“I was busy with work and with grad school,” Taylor explains. “I didn’t really have the time at that point. But then, one day, he sent me a picture of the dog and, two days after that, we went out on our first date. We have been inseparable ever since.” They both smile and laugh wholeheartedly because, again, the timing was just right.

Austin had a chance to make a huge impact on Taylor and her entire family six months after they met. When Hurricane Michael devastated large areas of Panama City and Lynn Haven, including Taylor’s parents’ house, Austin was there to help and support them.

“We have learned to take life in stride. Whether going through a category five hurricane or going through a pandemic, all of it just solidified our relationship. I would say it made us the couple that we are today.”

“Austin had just bought his first house on the beach, and the beach was under mandatory evacuation. My parents were saying, ‘Just tell Austin to come here. Pack up the house and be here with us during the storm.’ We had just gotten his house renovated. We painted every wall in the house, cleaned everything up, and made it perfect, and then the hurricane threatened to take it all. What we didn’t expect is that his house would remain unharmed but my parents’ house would be destroyed.”

Taylor explains that it’s not in her nature to just let things happen. She is a planner. At the time, she worked full-time as an ICU Registered Nurse. Despite the destruction around her, she also had school deadlines to meet, and with no electricity at her parents’ house, she could not complete her assignments. “Austin just said, ‘Come, stay with me. It’s fine.’ I was thinking to myself, ‘We’ve only been dating for six months. I can’t come live with you at this point.’ We were not even engaged.”

But she knew that it just made sense to move in with Austin, and Austin didn’t think twice. He helped where help was needed. Whether with her parents’ house or getting everything ready so that Taylor would have a place to work, he made it happen.

“Everything just fell into place,” Taylor remembers. “It was perfect. There’s not a single thing that’s selfish about him. I am a type one diabetic and I have been for 20 years. With me having medical conditions and having to adapt my life around it, finding a partner who is willing to adapt his life around it and learn and know that it is something that I will be living with for the rest of my life… He has just completely gone into it with no questions asked, always help- ing. I couldn’t ask for a better person to marry. And I know one day that when we have children, he will be the best father because he already is the best husband.”

Along the way, there have been many signs that they were meant to be together. “As a Christian, I pray and ask for a sign. It seems God has shown me that I am on the right path,” Austin explains. “One day, I decided to open up the Bible and point to a verse. ‘I will ask about our future and our relationship,’ I told Taylor. I put my finger down and it was Corinthians 13:4-8.”

“I asked him if he had this planned or had marked the page in the Bible,” Taylor remarks, laughingly. “Of course, he did not. The verse is what we live by. We both included it in our vows, and we posted the words inside one of the walls in our new house that is being built.”

The couple looks at the future with anticipation as they are certain they have found their life partner. “I’ve heard people say that going from a relationship to marriage is difficult,” Taylor remarks. “For us, it has just fallen into place and nothing has changed. We had a re- ally strong relationship prior to being married. It’s the same, but it’s better because we are planning for the next steps. Our house that is being constructed is big enough to start a family.”

“Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

All of the experiences and hardships they have mastered together have ultimately made their relationship better. “We have learned to take life in stride. Whether going through a category five hurricane or going through a pandemic, all of it just solidified our relationship. I would say it made us the couple that we are today. It feels as if we have been together for 15 years at this point. Trusting your partner and learning to lean on each other for support… If you don’t have that support and that love for each other to get through the hard times early on, you are not going to be able to make it through those hard times later on. I believe, with all we have already been through, we are very well prepared.”

TAYLOR RAE (HASTINGS) SCHWARZ AND AUSTIN CHARLES SCHWARZ

BRIDE’S PARENTS

JEFF AND MISSIE HASTINGS

GROOM’S PARENTS

GEORGE AND AMY SCHWARZ

MAID OF HONOR SHELBY MURRAY

BRIDESMAID MARISA BOOTY

BEST MAN CHRIS SCHWARZ

GROOMSMAN NICK SCHWARZ

OFFICIANT PASTOR DAVID HANSEL

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