SCENE Together

Three couples share their wedding day – Cuza + Galan, Baum + Greenberg & Phillips + Nemecek

CUZA + GALAN

For high school sweethearts Kalynne and Gabriel, their dream wedding at The Oaks Country Club was the perfect beginning to the end of an enduring and endearing courtship that certainly stood the test of time.

But let’s start at the real beginning. This beautiful couple met while both attended Cardinal Mooney High School. Kalynne, who graduated in 2007, is the daughter of Fernando and Kristi Cuza, and Gabriel, who graduated in 2006, is the son of Pedro and Maria Galan.

Evidently this was no puppy love, as their relationship continued strong during their college years and beyond. Both of them attended Florida State University and graduated in 2011 – Gabriel with a major in Biology and a minor in Chemistry, and Kalynne with a major in Accounting.

They then both moved to Miami to pursue their postgraduate education. Kalynne graduated from University of Miami in 2012 with a Masters in Accounting, and Gabriel graduated from Barry University with a Doctorate in Podiatric Medicine in 2015.

Today, Kalynne is Certified Public Accountant, having previously worked for KPMG, a big four accounting firm. She currently works for Carnival Corporation in the Global Accounting Department located in Miami. After 4 years of Podiatry school, Gabriel is now a second year Resident Physician at West Regional Medical Center in Plantation, where he specializes in foot and ankle surgery.

Gabriel and Kalynne got engaged at Kalynne’s parents’ vacation home in the Dominican Republic. He proposed to Kalynne on the beach with the help of a very cute local monkey that sat on her shoulder as Gabriel got down on one knee.

Fast forward to their Great Gatsby-themed wedding at The Oaks Country Club orchestrated by planner extraordinaire Maria Brady. Everything, including the art-deco invitations and stunning gold sequin bridesmaid dresses, was inspired by the glamour of that time period.

The cocktail reception was reminiscent of a speakeasy with live ragtime jazz piano. The signature drink was sparkling rose champagne served in flutes rimmed with edible 23K gold flakes.

The spectacular dinner reception in the ballroom had dimmed lights, opulent florals, lots of candlelight and sparkle, and a mix of tables either donned with gold sequin linens or made of antique mirror, which all added to the glamour.

At the end of the evening, guests set off “wish lanterns.” The lanterns made everything even more magical as everyone made a wish and sent them off into the sky! The bride and groom left their special night in an authentic 1931 Model A Ford.

Kaylnne and Gabriel are now busy planning and saving for their dream honeymoon to Australia and New Zealand, which they hope to take this time next year.

BAUM + GREENBERG

This adorable couple found each other the modern way, but once they did, everything else about their courtship and wedding was traditional and endearing.

Born in Sarasota, Michael is the son of Steve and Sue Greenberg. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida State University. Sharing his attorney father’s love of the law, he then attended law school at Villanova University. Michael currently works as a Family Law attorney at the law office of Philip J. Schipani in Sarasota.

Kaitlyn, born in St. Louis, MO, is the daughter of Ron and Jane Baum. She received her bachelor’s of science in nursing from Saint Louis University and will graduate from USF this summer with a master’s degree as a family nurse practitioner. Kaitlyn currently works as a registered nurse at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

Now for the fun part. Michael and Kaitlyn met on an online dating site – the modern way. Michael had been living and working in Philadelphia and had recently moved back to Sarasota. Kaitlyn had just decided to quit her job as a travel nurse and settle in Sarasota. Fate would take over.

“It was Michael’s contagious smile that initially caught my eye and I had to connect with him,” said Kaitlyn. “We began talking every day until we finally met in person about two weeks later. His funny and energetic personality were addictive to be around. I felt a connection to him early on and knew he was the one. Michael was always trying to make sure our next date was planned before the current date was finished.”

“In order to get me to go on a second date with him, Michael challenged me to a game of basketball. He set the stakes though, so no matter if he won or lost, the result involved me going somewhere with him. I found his creativity endearing and cute, and I was already excited to go anywhere with him. He was persistent, and we quickly became inseparable, always laughing together and making each other smile.” A traditional and endearing courtship for sure!

Being a sentimental gal, Kaitlyn had always loved her grandmother’s wedding dress, but she was too tall to wear it. Her mother was able to remake her grandmother’s gown, and also used the lace from her own wedding gown to make the sleeves. For Kaitlyn, it was such a special opportunity to honor both her mother and grandmother, and she wore the dress during her reception. For her ceremony, she designed the wedding gown of her dreams.

Michael and Kaitlyn had a special rehearsal dinner at Cafe L’Europe on St. Armands, and their ceremony and reception at IMG Academy Golf & Country Club where a great time was had by all. The couple had a giant Jenga game as their guest book, so, according to Kaitlyn, “Each time we play the game in the future, we get to enjoy fun memories.”

The couple honeymooned in Rome, Florence and Paris. Since neither had ever been out of the country, they were excited to explore new places together and, as Kaitlyn adorably shared, “Stuff our faces with pizza, pasta, and wine!”

PHILLIPS + NEMECEK

The love story of this couple started with long distance texting and ended happily ever after, but not before it took an adorable journey.

The year was 2013 and town matchmaker Ana Molinari decided that her friend Rechelle was a match for Michael, a customer at her Palm Avenue salon. Unbeknownst to Michael, Ana called Rechelle so they could meet. It wasn’t the love connection Ana hoped for, but a good friendship was forged. In fact, Michael, being the consummate gentleman, invited Ana and Rechelle to his birthday party a few weeks later.

But that night, Ana and Rechelle already had their next plan in motion – Rechelle’s sister Nicci would be a good match for Michael! There was only one problem. Nicci lived in California. So, acting like two schoolgirls, Ana and Rechelle called and sent text messages to Nicci telling her about Michael, how handsome he is, and to look him up on Facebook.

Fast-forward a couple weeks. Nicci and Rechelle were on the phone talking like they did most every night. Nicci asked Rechelle if she and Ana were going to Michael’s birthday party. Rechelle said she didn’t think so and Nicci asked her why not. Rechelle told her that she would only go if Nicci would come as well.

So Nicci decided to ask Michael to be a Facebook friend in hopes of bringing her out to the party. He accepted her friend request and curiosity took over.  That night they texted back and forth for hours. After that, they started talking on the phone for hours every day.

The day before Halloween 2013, Nicci came to Sarasota to finally meet Michael in person and visit both her mom and sister. She never left.

Nicci shared, a bit embarrassingly, that the series finale of the television show “Gossip Girl” inspired the vision for their wedding. In this series, the couple was married in the living room of their best friend’s New York City townhome, in front of their closest friends and family. After watching that scene, Nicci and Michael knew exactly what they wanted for their wedding – an intimate and warm affair yet absolutely magical. And it was!

Nicci shared, “Every aspect of our wedding, from our flowers to our bartender, were personally selected to represent our vision and the people who were invited to celebrate our special day with us. It was a true labor of love.”

With only 40 very special guests, the couple decided to forego a wedding planner. They leaned heavily on friends, family and other connections in town to make their day perfect.

“Luckily for us,” said Nicci, Liebe Gamble, the owner of June Simmons Jewelry, was by our side the entire journey. Her expertise, talent and creativity turned our wedding from a well-decorated intimate ceremony, to a lavish experience witnessed only by our closest and most dear.”

Nicci, born in Albuquerque, grew up in California and attended the University of Arizona. Her parents are Andrew Phillips and Kathryn Jill Phillips, and her stepmother is Susan Phillips. She is now the general manager of two June Simmons Jewelry stores.

Michael was born in Venice and attended USF for both his undergrad and MBA. His parents are Kimberly and Todd Nemecek. Michael is a financial analyst at Densply.

Weddings With A Purpose

Local wedding planner Jennifer Matteo brings together philanthropy and weddings

We all know that our community is a very philanthropic one, with so many giving and caring people who give so generously to the area’s arts and human service organizations. But what does philanthropy have to do with weddings? Well, for Sarasota event planner Jennifer Matteo, philanthropy is quickly becoming a trend in wedding planning for both young and older couples alike.

The “party with a purpose” theme is nothing new around this town. But Jennifer is encouraging couples to add the “purpose” theme not just to events and galas, but to weddings as well. In order to show couples how much fun “weddings with a purpose” can be, Jennifer came up with the idea to photograph a simulated philanthropic wedding in order to better market the concept.

“I really wanted to showcase how you can do something quite unique that is special to Sarasota and that has not yet been done,” said Jennifer. “Picking a nonprofit organization at which to hold your wedding is the first way to start. People don’t think about hosting a wedding at The Big Top, but why not? I think a circus-style wedding is perfect! Maybe you were a kid who grew up here loving the circus? Not only has the circus been a rich part of Sarasota’s history, giving us the best of circus for over 100 years, but The Circus Arts Conservatory’s Sailor Circus program, America’s oldest youth circus, has helped children develop life managements skills, gain self-discipline and bolster confidence. This organization gives so much back to the community; what better place to host a fun event like a wedding?”

Another way to incorporate philanthropy into your special day is to donate the florals to a local nursing home, a support facility or any other organization that would benefit from such an uplifting gift. Jennifer says to assign that duty to your wedding planner.

Another way, Jennifer shared, is to choose like-minded vendors who give back to the community, keeping the philanthropy theme local. Jennifer can share a list of these vendors with you.

Instead of wedding favors, make a donation to your favorite charity. Place a card at each seat that lets guests know a donation has been made in their name as a thank-you for sharing your special day.

Feed the hungry with the leftovers, donate your dress, and if this is not your first wedding and you don’t need gifts to start your life together, select your favorite charities and ask your guests to make a donation as your gift instead of giving you another toaster oven.

Jennifer has always had a passion for entertaining, hosting events and thinking outside of the box to create not just a party, but also a special experience for all guests.

“I began planning private parties and events in Pennsylvania, where I am originally from. My husband and I moved to Sarasota in 2011 seeking a warmer climate.  It didn’t take long for me to miss planning private events and weddings, so I started searching for something that would allow me to get back into the industry. I managed an events company for three years, opened a new venue, and learned a lot about the wedding industry here,” said Jennifer.

Last May, she decided it was time to launch her own company – Jennifer Matteo Event Planning (941-315-8212 | jennifermatteo.com). She specializes in weddings, but loves to work on private and charity events, galas and other events.

“I love to explore the diversity each client and event brings. No two events are alike, and each should be treated as a unique experience. I love to play with color and layer my events to keep the guests guessing and talking about it for years to come!” Jacqueline Miller

 

Photography: Katelyn Prisco, Beauty: Brides by Kelly Anne, Location: The Circus Arts Conservatory, Gown: Blush Bridal Sarasota, Designer: Ines Di Santo, Florals: Oh Darling Events
Sarasota Architectural Salvage, Write On Sarasota, Gigi’s Cupcakes Sarasota, Florida – St. Armands Circle, La Dona Donuts, Diamond Vault, US Tent Rental, So Staged Event Design + Rentals, Ever After, JustaBasketcase Events Stephanie Lynn

SCENE Together

Couples on their Wedding Day

 

Phillips + Wolfe

Rechelle “Chelle” Phillips and Marc Wolfe first met each other twelve years ago when she was cutting his son Joshua’s hair at Ana Molinari Hair Salon on Palm Avenue.  Despite developing a crush on Marc from the time she first met him, Chelle and Marc would remain just acquaintances for several years.  Little did she realize during these “secret crush” years that good things would come to those who wait.

A few years ago while Marc was out on a date with his then girlfriend enjoying the food and music at downtown’s Blue Rooster, Ana Molinari was also there with Chelle.  Without Chelle’s knowledge, Ana approached Marc and told him of Chelle’s longtime crush.  When a mortified Chelle found out what Ana did after she returned to their table, Chelle immediately bolted from the restaurant. But Ana succeeded in her mission.  Marc was intrigued and eventually, when both he and Chelle became unattached, Marc connected via Facebook, started dating Chelle, and never looked back.

The engagement came as a total surprise. Chelle didn’t have a clue!  Marc surprised her during a private wine tasting at the Hourglass Vineyards in Napa Valley inside one of its very romantic wine caves created by fractured bedrock under the Vaca mountain range. To add even more surprise, Marc secretly hired a musician who drove from Oakland to Napa to perform the couple’s favorite song before the proposal.  The story on how he pulled this off is what makes this proposal so special.

While the couple enjoyed their wine tasting in the cave with Todd, one of the vineyard’s winemakers, the silhouette of someone else appeared at the entrance to the long cave.  As this person got closer, he appeared to be a drifter holding a guitar.  He then told Chelle and Marc he heard the wine was great at this vineyard, that he was in-between gigs, and would they mind if he tasted some wine with them.  How odd, Chelle thought!  People don’t just pop up at this special place!

Winemaker Todd immediately told the man he had to leave, but Marc immediately told the man to stay, telling him the more the merrier.  So the musician, Peter, shared wine and chatted with the couple for a bit.  Marc then told Peter that since he was drinking their wine, it would only be fair that he play a song for them.  “Any song,” the couple told him.  Peter starts playing and singing “their song,” which is not very well known – James Blunt’s “Postcards.” Chelle is shocked by this amazing coincidence and keeps saying during the song, “What are the odds?” After Peter finishes playing, Marc confesses he arranged for Peter to be there, got down on one knee and proposed, much to Chelle’s joy and disbelief.

During peak fall foliage on Sunday, October 9th, the couple married among family and close friends at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont, with its stunning mountain views and Austrian architecture. The weekend festivities started with a wine tasting at the Trapp Lodge on Friday night, followed by a house party at the couple’s second home in Hyde Park on Saturday night featuring an ice luge and music by the band “The Last Kid Picked.” The wedding and reception on Sunday capped off the couple’s dream wedding.

Chelle and Marc honeymooned through Northern New England and into the Maritime Provinces in Canada stating that the pinnacle of their trip was staying at the Fogo Island Inn on Fogo Island, with its 420-million-year-old geologic history that includes stunning and fascinating contortions of rock formed by ice, fire, and sea.  It is one of the few places on earth where you can see the full spectrum of the magma chamber exposed.

Marc is owner of Southern Financial Trust in Sarasota. Rechelle is owner of Chelle Salon and Spa on Bee Ridge Road where she is a master hair stylist and colorist.

 

 

 

Convery + Miller

Since she was a little girl growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Cara Marie Convery vacationed on Longboat Key while visiting family members living on the Key. So when her mother also moved to Longboat Key, Cara knew there was no better place with so many great memories to return to and marry her love, Matthew Ryan Miller.

Matthew, a product manager for NCR in Atlanta, met his bride Cara, who is Senior Assistant District Attorney working in the sex crimes department in downtown Atlanta, with the help of his college buddy, Matthew Huckeba. Matt’s wife, Blair, has been Cara’s Realtor since she moved to Atlanta after law school.  Blair not only has a great eye for picking out great homes for her clients, but it seems she also thought Matthew and Cara would make a well-suited and beautiful couple.  Blair arranged a blind date for Cara and Matthew; a date on which the two couples would go out together.  But at the last minute, the Huckeba’s cancelled, leaving Cara and Matthew to meet solo. The rest, as they say, is history. Blair not only found Cara her new home, but her husband as well!

Now ready to plan their Sarasota wedding, enter wedding planner Maria Brady of Choreographed Events, who perfectly planned every detail. The festivities started with a cocktail reception at the Ritz-Carlton and then a magnificent dinner at her aunt’s home overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.  On Friday afternoon, the bride and her bridal party enjoyed a sushi luncheon while relishing in the luxury nail services at Paint Nail Bar on 1st Street downtown. That evening at the rehearsal dinner, Cara and Matthew, along with family and their wedding attendants, savored both the wonderful dinner upstairs at Marina Jacks, and the magnificent sunset views during the rehearsal dinner.

Cara got ready for her special day in the Ritz-Carlton bridal suite.  Despite this being the weekend of threats from the destructive Hurricane Matthew, the weather was perfect for Cara and Matthew’s wedding ceremony on the Ritz-Carlton lawn followed by a magnificent dinner reception in the Ritz ballroom, with both events designed with incredible props and furniture by local company So Staged.  The band, Power House, kept every dancing all evening and DJ Joey took over for the after party with more delicious late night snacks and a donut bar.

Immediately after the wedding, Cara and Matthew flew to Los Angeles and stayed at the fabulous Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills for two nights before flying off to Bora Bora in French Polynesia for a week stay also at a Four Seasons. While on the island, the couple snorkeled, swam with sharks, and explored the main island on an ATV.

 

 

 

Notaro + Berg

The meeting and wooing of Emily Anne Notaro by David Wheaton Berg gives true meaning to the slogan of the company they both work for. That company is J.P. Morgan and its slogan is “So You Can.”

Emily is a Client Portfolio Manager for Global Fixed Income and David is the CFO of Global Investment Management Marketing, and while they work on the same floor, they did not interact during their normal business day. David would walk by Emily’s workspace and chat, trying out his charm, but Emily showed zero interest. According to David, a mutual friend from work, Faryn, took pity on David’s efforts and invited him to join a spin class where Emily would be to see if he could woo Emily outside the workplace. It would take months.

During those months in waiting, in true millennial fashion, they talked more and more via instant messages, discussing a trip to Paris by Emily and Faryn, and Emily’s love of literature, and in particular, Ulysses, by James Joyce.  While he had never read this book, thanks to Google, he was able to discuss the book at length.

David then dragged his friend Jerry to a co-worker’s birthday party, so he could distract Emily’s friends while he flirted with Emily. According to David, “Even though Jerry is an appalling wingman, I managed to get a date with Emily. Emily then cancelled on me and I did the logical thing and got blind drunk. To my absolute shock, I was awakened the next day by a text message from her asking if we could get brunch.  For anyone else, I would have rolled back over and slept off the hangover, but I knew that Emily was different, and so out to brunch I went. We went on three dates in one week and became inseparable.”

Since David’s parents, Kristina and Jonathan Berg reside on Longboat Key, the couple visits Sarasota many times each year. They wanted their wedding to be glamorous and formal, yet relaxed and comfortable, so they chose The Ringling. One of their guests said she felt as if she was at a beautiful event in a private home, which is just what Emily and David wanted. The bright, bold jewel tones they selected for the décor were the perfect compliment to The Ringling.

Having a meaningful ceremony was also quite important to Emily and David, and their rabbi, a family friend, not only illuminated what made their relationship special, but also helped guests, many of whom were not Jewish, understand key dimensions of the religious ceremony, as well as Emily’s decision to convert. A string quartet learned some of their favorite contemporary songs for the ceremony.

Being foodies, they spent a lot of time on custom cocktails, inspired by their favorite New York restaurants, as well as a menu that would give their guests lots of options and flexibility. A sufferer of food allergies, Emily chose gluten and dairy free cupcakes, gluten free crepes, and ice cream sandwiches served from an ice cream cart.

Emily and David both love Sarasota, and have been inspired by the warmth of the community, and thrilled by the support they received to make their wedding weekend exceptional, especially the generosity of Arthur Lopes at Pomona, who rented out his restaurant for the rehearsal party; the creativity of the welcome bags made by Sarasota Chocolate Bark Company; and, the vision of So Staged, which built a birch tree Chuppah with an ombré hydrangea crown from the ground up. And they credit their seamless and extraordinary weekend filled with love to Maria Brady, who made planning a wedding from afar, a dream.

The couple honeymooned in South Africa, where they went on a safari, visited wine country and went diving with the sharks.

Scene Together

MADDIE GIBBS + ALEX DEME
As youngsters, Maddie Gibbs visited Sarasota every summer with her grandmother and family, and Alex Deme constantly visited his grandparents in Sarasota. They both loved it here, so it comes as no surprise that both would eventually make Sarasota their home, meeting on the first day Maddie moved here two years ago.
Maddie graduated Purdue University with a degree in speech language pathology and is working as a PreK diagnostic specialist for Sarasota County. Alex, who moved to Sarasota three years ago, attended the University of Florida and is now an excavation and underground utilities project manager and estimator for Sarasota Land Services.

This beautiful couple chose the bayfront Powel Crosley Estate for their special day because of their mutual love of the water and boating. Maddie’s entire family from the Midwest was able to be there, including her 93-year-old grandfather, and close friends from Sweden and Norway. After the ceremony, the couple’s dog Bentley joined the festivities.

With their affinity for nature and outdoor sports, Maddie and Alex chose Costa Rica for their honeymoon, doing lots of zip-lining, white water rafting, fishing and hiking, and, of course, enjoying a few days of rest and relaxation on the beach. Maddie’s parents are Karen and Gary Gibbs, and Alex’s parents are Andrew Deme, Sr., and Kim Deme-Fulcher and Kevin Fulcher.







JILL LONSTEIN + STUART MEISTRICH
The meeting and eventual union of this dynamic couple is indeed a feel-good story.
Jill, originally from St. Petersburg, graduated from USF with a degree in marketing and moved to Sarasota over 21 years ago. She married, had a son (who is now 14 years old), co-owned a medical billing and coding company, and is now retired. She is involved in charities such as Make-A-Wish, Saks Fifth Avenue’s Key to the Cure benefiting Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation, and Embracing Our Differences.

Stuart is originally from New York. He graduated from Columbia University, practiced law and was also an investment banker. He moved to Sarasota over 17 years ago, has two sons and is now President of R&W Distributors, a construction materials company.

Both Jill and Stuart enjoyed downtown Sarasota condo living for several years and lived only a half a mile apart; but while they may have passed each other a few times, they never met. Both wanting to find their forever mate, they joined a professional dating service. They were matched, fell in love, and married one year after their first date. Now, two downtown condos have become one on Golden Gate Point, which they now call home.

The couple chose to have a small, intimate wedding with close friends and family, tying the knot in a heartfelt ceremony officiated by Rabbi Brenner Glickman under a stunning red chuppah in the beautiful atrium at Michael’s on East. They also wanted a fun affair with surprises, which started with Jill being introduced with trumpets blaring “Super Freak” by Rick James, and then walking down the aisle to Sarasota Orchestra musicians playing a beautiful rendition of Ravels “Bolero.” So Staged elegantly decorated the reception in Michael’s Wine Cellar, and stunning chandeliers were placed by Affairs in the Air. Guests enjoyed a delicious family-style dinner and danced the night away to the awesome SoulRCoaster band. Jill credits the absolute perfection of her special day to the talent of Maria Brady of Choreographed Events, who, Jill says, “is truly amazing.” The couple cruised the Eastern Caribbean for their honeymoon.







JORDAN ELIZABETH LAND + CHASE BARTLETT LINDSAY
The magnificent setting at Bay Preserve at Osprey on Little Sarasota Bay made the perfect backdrop for everything this couple dreamed their wedding would be.
Chase, a Sarasota High School graduate, was born and raised in Sarasota. When it came time to select a college, he decided on Florida State University, from which he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. Chase is now a Sr. VP & Sales Team Leader for Brown and Brown Insurance. But it was his college selection of FSU that would prove to be the choice that would steer the course of his love life. That is where he met and fell in love with the beautiful Jordan Land, an Orlando native, who also attended FSU, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She is now Director of Recruiting at Kforce, Inc.

Jordan always dreamed of a glamorous southern wedding with a modern twist, and that is exactly what she got. Guests were greeted with glasses of celebratory champagne (the bride’s favorite), and the contemporary sounds of a live saxophone. Chase wore a navy Tom James tux with black peak lapels. Jordan was escorted down the aisle to a live sax rendition of Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do.” During the lively cocktail hour, the “get up and dance” sounds of the sax delighted all as the groom’s hors d’oeuvre choice of bacon was served (as well as other delectable choices). Clear “ghost” chairs made the remarkable sunset glow even more magnificently and everyone danced until evening’s end to the sounds of the Matt Winter Band. The sentiments of family and dear friends made throughout the evening, along with Chase and his closest fraternity brothers singing the FSU Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) song, brought lots of tears and laughter. The couple closed the night with the cutting of their naked cakes (beautiful bare cakes minus the fondant decals or buttercream ruffles are all the rage now), and piping hot chicken fingers and fries were ready for guests to enjoy on their ride home. They stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota for a few nights and will be honeymooning in St. Barths in November. Jordan and Chase pronounced their wedding day “the best day ever.”

The couple loves the beautiful waters of Siesta. Chase’s father, Bob Lindsay of Bob Lindsay Insurance Agency, and his stepmother Kristen Lindsay, are the couple’s boating partners on weekends. Chase’s mother, Kem Lindsay, is their fashion and fitness advisor since most of her career has been devoted to in-home luxury shopping and personal training. Jordan’s mother, Ann Land, lives in New Smyrna Beach.

Scene Together

Love and Beauty Reign at Three Local Weddings

LEA MEI + JAMES BUCHANAN
The magnificent wedding of Lea Mei and James Buchanan was undoubtedly the event of the year, and one that those who were fortunate enough to attend will talk about for a long time. I know because I was one of the fortunate ones.

It all started with the traditional nuptials held at First Baptist Church of Sarasota that were filled with heartfelt moments and lots of tears. As the very beautiful and elegant Lea walked down the aisle on the arm of her father, Cafe Baci owner Roberto Mei, family and friends caught the first glimpse of her jaw-dropping custom-fit Ines Di Santo “Cologne” ivory tulle ball gown adorned with pearls, crystals, and delicate beaded lace appliqués. Her cathedral length veil dotted with pearls and crystals was framed by a beautiful custom tiara made by one of Sarasota’s most well known jewelry designers, Nikki Sedacca, who also made Lea’s matching bracelet.  

With her classic, regal look, simple yet sophisticated hairstyle, warm and welcoming smile and sparkle that never left her eyes, this standout bride was indeed our local royalty on her very special day, and most deserving of my thoughts of a brunette Grace Kelly – she was our Princess Lea. 

Her proud mother, the lovely and vivacious Denise Mei, beamed with pride and also shined brightly as her daughter exchanged vows under a grand canopy of white and gold flowers with the man of her dreams, the charming and accomplished James Buchanan. Lea was flanked by her maid of honor, Rachel Palladino, matrons of honor, sister-in-laws Nicole Mei and Diana Buchanan, and eight bridesmaids who all looked stunning in their shimmering gold gowns and sleek chignons.

Denise helped her daughter honor family through traditional wedding elements. For “something old,” Lea wore a diamond cocktail ring given to her by her late grandmother, Marie Palladino, with whom she shared a very close and loving relationship. Her mother’s diamond earrings were worn for “something borrowed,” and the blue garter she wore all evening was the “something blue.”

James is the eldest son of another dynamic and much-beloved Sarasota couple – Sandy and Congressman Vern Buchanan.  And while grooms never get the same coverage about what they wear (sorry guys!), James and his groomsmen, including best man brother Matt, looked dashing in their tuxedos with James’ bow tie framed by a classy white border. With tradition, family love and pride also an important part of the Buchanan family, James added a unique and sentimental touch to incorporate memories of those he loved.  His grandfather was a fisherman and James inherited his fishing equipment.  He used his grandfather’s fishing flies to make the cufflinks he and his groomsmen wore and also placed more of his grandfather’s fishing flies inside the boutonnieres.

The stunning reception was held at our iconic Ringling Museum Courtyard.  From the creative archways of greenery with hanging chandeliers, to the specially made artistic boards displaying the table cards, to the flutist, guitar player and ballet dancers, to the elegant table settings, everything was perfect. Catered by Paul Mattison with the help of Café Baci, guests dined on several exquisitely prepared and presented courses.  

A prayer for the couple was read by Sandy Buchanan and Congressman Buchanan delivered a wonderful, heartfelt speech about his son and his bride.  But there was not a dry eye when Lea’s father, Roberto, spoke so eloquently about his love for his daughter, welcomed James to his family, and toasted the couple with a very special 1987 Chateau d’Yguem, Lur Saluces – a wine given to Roberto by Denise’s late mother who told Roberto that it was to be opened only at Lea’s wedding.
The divinely delicious eight-tier wedding cake was designed with cream and gold-colored roses, and “pearls” around each layer.  Everyone then enjoyed dancing on the custom floor adorned with the couple’s initials surrounded with plush lounge seating, and late night bites as the fun continued close to the midnight hour. The evening ended with a spectacular fireworks display after which the couple left the reception walking under the green archways as their attendants lined around them holding sparklers.  As guests departed, they received a memento of a beautifully framed work of art – a gold rose – by local artist Debbie Danheisser.  
And there it ended. But with that ending, an exciting life journey began for Lea and James. It was indeed a fairy-tale wedding befitting a prince and princess that everyone in attendance will never forget. 


SARA SARDELLI + KENNY RACHON
This former principal dancer for Sarasota Ballet, who now serves as its outreach coordinator, packs a lot of punch in her tiny, delicate frame.  For the six years Sara Sardelli graced the Ballet’s stage, her strength and artistry wowed audiences as she shined brightly in whatever role she danced.  So it came as no surprise that on her wedding day, this Sarasota star again shined brilliantly as she began a new role as wife to her new leading man, Kenny.

Sara met Kenny in Indianapolis through mutual friends during their college years. She attended Butler University and Kenny attended Indiana University and Purdue, where he played Division One Tennis. They never dated then, but always had lots of fun and good times whenever they were together.

Fast-forward ten years to November 2014. Kenny was visiting his parents in Fort Myers and connected with Sara to have dinner in Sarasota the night before Thanksgiving. The couple immediately realized that the strong connection they made during their college years was still there and from that dinner on, they became inseparable.

Almost a year later when Sara’s sister, Lisa O’Donovan, and her good friend, Sarasota Ballet marketing director Mike Marraccini, knew Kenny’s proposal was imminent, they prodded him to propose during Tea & Tutus, a wonderful family event Sara orchestrated for the Ballet. But Kenny, not being one that likes to have the spotlight on himself, chickened out, and instead deciding to propose his way. The night before the event, he came home and proposed with flowers and a bottle of champagne. For Sara, it could not have been more perfect. They celebrated with friends afterwards at Shore Restaurant, one of Sara’s favorites. 

The couple wed on May 6 at St. Martha’s Catholic Church followed by a reception at Michael’s On East. Sara planned every detail with co-owner Phil Mancini, who delivered everything exactly how Sara dreamed it would be. But the very organized Sara, who planned the evening with specific timelines, was totally surprised when her friends Anais Blake and Kate Walsh Honea planned an unbelievable flash mob with several of Sara’s favorite dancers from Sarasota Ballet. For Sara, who is not one who typically likes surprises, it was one of her favorite moments of not only her special night, but of her entire life. She still keeps watching the video over and over!

There were many special touches all evening long. Instead of the traditional tiny bride and groom sculptures atop their wedding cake, it was replicas of Sara and Kenny’s two dogs that made the top tier! Guests were also treated to a guided trolley tour in between the ceremony and the reception narrated by local attorney Bernard Walsh. Michael White provided caricatures for guests all night long and Jonathan Cortez entertained with his amazing vocals. After a delicious three-course dinner and three different cake choices, there was a late night slider station. But for this beautiful couple, the best part was having their parents and sisters there with them and loving every moment. That was their dream come true!
Sara’s “Sarasota mom” is dear friend and Sarasota Ballet supporter Sydney Goldstein. Sydney provided Sara with yet another very special moment. She passed her wedding band down to Sara who said, “It is so beautiful and special. I can’t stop looking at it!” 

Sara and Kenny took a “mini-moon” to Key West and will be going on their honeymoon later this summer.
 


SHANNON KATHERINE O’BRIEN + FRANK HOWARD KERNEY III
Shannon O’Brien learned from the day she was born that the fruits of life and knowledge were hers for the taking.  She only had to pick wisely.  And who better to teach Shannon about life’s many fruits than her parents, Tom and Leanne O’Brien, owners of O’Brien Family Farms in Bradenton! So when she married the man of her dreams, Frank Kerney, it was apparent that when it came to picking her life partner, her ability to select well was undeniable, and his was impeccable!

Frank, an attorney for Morgan & Morgan, is the son of Frank and Julie Kerney. He grew up in New Jersey attending Watchung Hills Regional H.S. in Warren, and then headed south to attend USF and Stetson University, College of Law.   

Shannon, a graduate of Manatee H.S. who received her college degree from the University of Florida and her undergraduate degree from UF’s Hough Graduate School of Business, is an accomplished businesswoman in her own right. The very fit and health conscious Shannon is the owner of Pure Barre in Brandon and Carrollwood.  And despite her rigorous schedule running both clubs, she also finds time to handle marketing for O’Brien Family Farms.

The couple met at a house party.  Shannon actually had a date that evening, but since it wasn’t going well, she decided to come home early.  Her good friend (who also knew Frank) begged Shannon to come with her to the house party.  She would soon learn that leaving her date early and attending the party would change her life forever. It was there she met Frank and the two quickly became inseparable.
Their engagement came on a Christmas Eve. Shannon got dressed preparing for a simple dinner with her parents and grandparents. But when she came downstairs, Frank played a video he made highlighting their best dating memories. He then got down on one knee and asked for her hand in marriage. Afterwards, both families got together for their first official family dinner. Frank made sure to get Shannon her first pair of Pure Barre “Bride to Be” exercise socks as a gift!

A little rain on the couple’s wedding day didn’t stop it from being perfect. The ceremony, conducted by Pastor Arthur McClellan of First Church, took place in front of a large wall of flowers at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, as guests looked on seated in modern ghost chairs. Shannon’s magnificent Inbal Dror dress was traditional, yet had a modern flair. During the ceremony and cocktail hour, Classern Quartet played a fun and unique mix of classical and contemporary pop music. The festivities continued as guests entered the Ritz Ballroom for the reception, which glowed throughout from the tabletop mirrors and candles, and linens of blush tones and sequins. Evolution Party Band from Atlanta rocked the party and everyone danced the night away.

Shannon and Frank plan on honeymooning this Fall in France, Spain and Italy.