Brianna Medina and Matt Brouckaert don’t have the traditional love story. Their paths first crossed on the high school soccer field, when Matt got injured playing a pickup game. “I heard a blood-curdling scream and sprang to action,” Brianna remembers. “Matt’s toe had gotten stuck in the turf and all that was left was white bone sticking straight out. I sat by his side and distracted him while someone went to get help. I talked to him to calm him down and introduced myself, and told him he would be okay.”
Little did they know, the roles would soon be reversed. In February 2014, Brianna, then a collegiate soccer player, was struck in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. “I sustained several life-threatening injuries, had multiple emergency surgeries, and was placed on a ventilator in a coma; I had a 5% chance of survival,” she shares. Preparing themselves, Brianna’s family reached out to notify a handful of close friends, Matt among them. “He lived five hours from the hospital but he packed his bags and left and stayed by my side for two weeks,” Brianna says. When she woke up, she learned she was paralyzed from the waist down. “I spent three months in that hospital and Matt came as often as he could, even forfeiting his spring break to put a projector in my room and buy a bunch of happy movies to sit next to me and watch.” When she was transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, he flew to visit. “He was the very first person to help me take ‘steps’ on a bodyweight-supported machine; he wanted to be involved as much as he could.”
Eventually, he took it one step further. Getting permission from the doctor to take Brianna out to dinner, he bought her a new dress and a ring. “He told me he had been in love with me since high school but never wanted to risk losing our friendship,” Brianna recalls. “He gave me a small silver ring and ‘proposed’ a relationship and asked me to be his girlfriend.” She said yes, and eight years later, Matt proposed again—this time for a marriage.
When it came to finding a venue, they found their aesthetic vision at odds with their needs. “I’ve always loved the Gilded Age and the opulence and history; I knew I wanted a venue that was romantic and timeless while still extravagant and moody,” Brianna describes. “It was very difficult to find what we were looking for in a venue while still needing it to be wheelchair accessible.” Then, they happened upon Rosecliff Mansion in Rhode Island. “Because the mansion is used today as a museum, they are in line with ADA guidelines.” It was the perfect fit.
They worked with wedding planner Em Devaud to bring their vision of a “moody, dreamy fairy tale” to life. Read on to see all the unique details of their October 29, 2022, wedding, photographed by A Sea of Love.
Skin prep was paramount for Brianna. “The night before the big day I used the NuFace microcurrent toning device with hyaluronic acid serum, and used Chanel hydrating eye patches with serum the morning of,” she says. “My artist and I decided on a glam look; I wanted my eyes to stand out most with sparkly lids and smoked-out corners and liner.”
Brianna says that her wedding dress-shopping experience was different from what most women experience. “Wedding dress shopping as a wheelchair user can be extremely intimidating,” Brianna shares. “You’re in a salon where there are tons of appointments going on at once. Seeing other brides standing and twirling in dresses up on a podium can be heartbreaking when that is what you dreamed you would be doing yourself one day.”
At Claire Pettibone, everything changed. “Claire has only one appointment at a time, so it was just me, my mother, sisters, best friend, and Claire Pettibone herself. [Shopping there] was hands down one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.” In the end, the bride chose a champagne-hued silk and ivory tulle plunging neckline gown with floral appliqués and a romantic train, which the designer personally ensured suited the bride’s every need. “The dress was nothing I thought I wanted and everything I needed,” Brianna says. “Claire walked me through every step of the process and was able to accommodate all the customizations I wanted or needed for the chair.”
Matt donned a striking blue tuxedo made from a mohair blend. His boutonniere added personal flair. “Matt and his father have always enjoyed pheasant hunting together, so we incorporated real feathers from their past hunt,” shares the florist.
The dress was nothing I thought I wanted and everything I needed.
“Our first look was special because we chose to exchange our wedding-day gifts and got to read our own nontraditional vows we had written, with inside jokes and little things we wanted to promise each other,” Brianna shares. “We got to cry, laugh, and just relish in that moment before we became husband and wife.”
“Brianna and Matt are a couple who truly, deeply, and wholly love each other,” reflects planner Em Devaud. “I watched so many incredible moments throughout our time together where their love was so infectious and bright! It’s easy to plan for a couple who so truly care for one another.”
The couple’s dogs—including service animal Dax—were an integral part of their big day. “Our dogs are so special to us, so including them was a necessity,” Brianna says. “Having the special memories of being with my service dog on my wedding day and the photos of us together will forever be one of my most treasured memories.”
“The wedding florals were inspired by the opulent, lush, and evocative nature of the infamous Dutch Master floral paintings,” says Em. “When Brianna and I first met each other, we immediately expressed our mutual love for this art form. This desire for mysterious, abundant, sensual, and dramatic design dictated our entire floral concept for her wedding.” Black, gold, and deep jewel tones set the ceremony scene. “It was like walking into an enchanted garden—and a little Alice-in-Wonderland-esque,” Brianna says.
Knowing what it took to get to that very moment—walking down the aisle was the very best moment of my life.
“After I found out I was paralyzed, one of the first things I said was ‘I’m never going to walk down the aisle in a wedding dress,’” Brianna recalls. “So doing so with two of my biggest supporters—my brother and dad—knowing what it took to get to that very moment, while looking at the love of my life, was more than I can put into words. It was the very best moment of my life.”
They’d shared private vows during their first look, but the couple wrote vows for the ceremony, too. “We wanted to add our own twist on the traditional vows to make them more ‘us,’” Brianna says. They shared an emotional first kiss, then recessed out to Bill Withers’ “Just the Two of Us.”
Espresso martinis—poured from a custom ice luge—were a sweet signature drink at cocktail hour.
The floral had to be as big, as grand, as loud, and as impressive as these two lovers.
Decor in the opulent reception space was rich. “We chose not to embrace a specific color palette, but rather to let the premier blooms of the season dictate our designs,” Em says. “In addition to the very best blooms, we sought unique botanical elements to include. For example, we hand-painted a wooden mushroom cluster in a magical, iridescent aqua, and strung garlands of vibrant periwinkle hyacinth florets from the head table. Seeing as it was October, we also incorporated hand-painted metallic gourds, mustard-colored strands of dates, and even sprayed smilax vine a very rich teal color.” She continues: “The result was a floral display as unique, vibrant, and impactful as this couple. Their love is big and their personalities radiate pure joy and electric energy. The floral had to be as big, as grand, as loud, and as impressive as these two lovers.”
The newlyweds shared a first dance to Ben Platt’s “Grow as We Go,” and the moment was one of Brianna’s favorite. “Our first dance was something very important to Matt,” she shares. “He doesn’t believe he’s much of a dancer, so his request was that we take lessons and have a choreographed dance. We took dance lessons for several weeks and the moment we completed the dance it was all worth it. He nailed it! And had everyone in tears. His smile throughout the whole dance and how connected we were with each movement was really special, and an experience of a lifetime.”
The Dutch Revivalist theme appeared in the moody wedding cake, too—a four-tiered black design with sugar florals in ivory, blush, and sage that matched the bride’s gown.
Brianna changed into a second look—a glittery fringed frock by Womance and a cropped jacket—for the dance party. And the last dance was just as memorable as the first. “Our last dance was a song Matt showed me when we first started dating and, unlike the first dance, we had nothing prepared,” Brianna shares. “We were completely surrounded by everyone who loves us and who we love, and we just held each other and swayed, as husband and wife, soaking up the incredible day and night.”