When you’re the governor’s daughter and you’re getting married, a huge splashy wedding with lots of dignitaries might be expected. Not so for Gov. John Bel Edwards’ daughter Samantha, who grew up in the small town of Amite. For her, it was all about family and friends.
Samantha Bel Edwards, 24, and Jonathan Paul Ricau, 25, exchanged vows in an evening ceremony May 21 at Amite’s St. Helena Catholic Church before the Rev. Mark Beard. It’s the same church where her parents and paternal grandparents were married. The groom is the son of Alison and Jackson “Jack” Ricau Jr., of Baton Rouge.
Samantha planned most of her wedding while on the campaign trail for her dad — she and her fiancé even appeared in a commercial for the governor — but once the inauguration was over and she got busy with school, mom Donna Edwards took over.
“We tried to honor Samantha’s wishes,” explains Donna Edwards. “She didn’t want a political wedding. Most of the guest list came from her and was composed of people who have surrounded her her whole life — her school teachers, her dance teacher, her dentist.”
As for her father, he couldn’t have been more excited about the wedding of the oldest of his three children.
“I’ll just tell you it will be one of the proudest days of my life to be able to walk her down the aisle,” the governor told reporters just days before the wedding. “While Donna was pregnant with Samantha, we had no idea if she would ever walk at all, because we knew that she had spina bifida. We had no idea how bad it might be.”
After the I-dos in Amite, the newlyweds and their 400 guests hit the road to Baton Rouge for the reception at the Governor’s Mansion, which had been transformed by the bride’s paternal aunt, juvenile Judge Blair Edwards, and a host of family members and friends.
“The flowers were absolutely beautiful,” says Donna Edwards. “We did all the flower arrangements at the mansion. We went up to the third floor and got all the teapots and silver ice buckets we could find, cleaned them up and used them for the arrangements. The magnolias used to decorate the banister were from our yard in Amite. Everything for both the wedding and reception was done by people in our hometown and family.
“We took a large group of Amite and brought it here,” she continues with a laugh. “Friend Audrey Hendry did the wreaths on the front door and all the bows in the garden. Vicki Travis did all of our hair, and Samantha’s friend, Lauren Michelet, did everyone’s makeup. We basically turned the third floor of the mansion into a hair and makeup studio.”
At the church, family friend Carroll Glasgow coordinated the service, Debra Lea Potts played the organ, while Danny Keen served as cantor and Lee Wheeler photographed the day for posterity. From Aunt Alice Stevens came the six pence to slip into Samantha’s shoe for luck.
And she carried a little bit of family down the aisle. Tucked into her bouquet were the handkerchiefs carried by her mom, grandmothers — Helen Hutto and Dora Jean Edwards — and her paternal great-grandmother on their wedding days. She also held close a rosary blessed by Pope John Paul.
When it came time to party at the reception, uncle Daniel Edwards’ gift to the newlyweds — entertainment by the band Phunky Monkey — had everyone on the dance floor.
And when they played “Butterfly Kisses,” the bride danced with her dad.
“I looked over and they were both crying,” says Donna Edwards. “They danced to the same song at her 16th birthday … It was a real down-home wedding.”
Samantha and Jonathan met as students at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond.
“His dad was a principal, so he comes from a family of educators as well,” says Donna Edwards, a teacher. “Jonathan is a history major and teaches social studies, and Samantha is working on her master’s to be a school counselor.”
Two years ago, after getting the blessing from the then governor-to-be, Jonathan got down on one knee at a party celebrating Samantha’s graduation from college and asked her to be his bride.
“She patiently waited through a campaign, Christmas and the inauguration,” says Donna Edwards. “She’s an amazing woman.”
When the big day finally came, Louisiana’s first family wanted those who know them best to share in it.
Sarah Ellen Edwards was her sister’s maid of honor and cousin Kathryn “Katie” Hutto McElveen was her matron of honor. Bridesmaids were Shelby Reid, Whitney Watkins, Daphne Collins and Kristina Temple Dale, who also sang “Ave Maria” during the ceremony.
Jackson “Jay” Ricau III was his brother’s best man. Groomsmen were Michael Burks, Brandon Ankeny, Adam Abraham, Christopher Wood and the bride’s brother, John Miller Edwards. Her cousins, Ella Claire McElveen and Emmalyne Hutto, were flower girls.
And her cousin, Brockson Hutto, carried the rings down aisle, cradling them on the same pillow that once held the bride’s parents’ rings.
“My mom had taken all of the flowers John Bel had given me, dried them and stuffed them into a pillow that our ringbearer carried,” recalls Donna Edwards.
“She was a beautiful bride — glowed the whole time,” Samantha’s mom adds, her voice catching just a little. “It was a true Southern wedding.”