Newlyweds nearing med school graduation surprised by neighborhood second line
BATON ROUGE - With their wedding date quickly approaching during the COVID pandemic, Patrick and Shannon, like many couples, had tough decisions to make.
Would they either cancel their wedding, postpone in hopes of social distancing restrictions easing soon, or continue with only immediate family?
First, meet Shannon McDuff and Patrick Johnson. She is a Baton Rouge native and he is from Rayville, La. They met while attending LSU medical school in New Orleans.
“We are about to graduate medical school, officially, via virtual ceremony in about two weeks. And then, we’re both starting our medical residency at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. So, we move next month. Which is also one of the big reasons why we wanted to have the wedding,” Shannon said.
Around St. Patrick's Day last month, they knew a decision about their wedding, which was planned for mid-April, had to be made. The couple originally planned for 300 people to attend their reception.
“Things were changing day to day, minute to minute for a little while. We considered every option from totally canceling and postponing to far in the future, postponing to just a little while in the future. As well as just going for it with what we could and ultimately we knew the most important thing is that she and I get to be together,” Patrick said. “And St. Thomas Moore is the church where her parents and grandparents got married. So, it was a special thing kind of for just us only.”
On April 17, Shannon walked down the aisle in the empty church, and the two exchanged ‘I dos’ with just their parents and siblings in attendance.
“It was very special and intimate,” Shannon said.
What happened next was also very special. The two noticed something as they drove up to Shannon’s parent’s house.
“All our neighborhood kids, they had done this really cute artwork on all the driveways for our wedding. And thought that was really cute and thought that was the surprise,” Shannon said.
But that wasn’t the actual surprise, as Patrick and Shannon would soon discover.
“We went in the backyard where we did and then the photographer told us to come out to the front yard to take a few pictures. And as we were walking down the driveway, I started hearing New Orleans second-line music. I saw a white umbrella open and it was handed to me, Patrick was given a glass of champagne, and I just realized what was happening,” Shannon said.
The family had secretly organized a neighborhood second line.
People could be seen parading around in their yards practicing social distancing, as the newly wedded Johnsons, with their a speaker in tow, made their way down the street as if they were in the French Quarter.
“It was awesome. It was one of the coolest experiences of our lives,” Shannon said.
And just when you thought the surprises were over, there’s one more.
“At the very end when we finished, we were standing in the middle of the street and I didn’t want anybody to leave because I was so excited that everyone was there. So after just looking around, we decided to have our first dance in the middle of the street. Just real quickly, we put it together. We rolled our speaker nearby and we had our first dance right there in the middle of the street with everyone to watch,” Shannon said.
“The second line was a surprise to us, but then the first dance was a surprise to everyone else,” Patrick said.
Looking back, the newlyweds say it wasn’t the wedding they planned for, it was even better than that.
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