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

Making Life’s Occasions Special

Beneva Flowers

Beneva Flowers & Gifts has been helping make key moments in people’s lives memorable and special for 30 years. It began when the Conforti family came to Sarasota in 1986 and started a flower shop, which quickly grew in popularity, gained a stellar reputation, and became synonymous with creating exquisite florals. Beneva Flowers was purchased in late 2015 by a lovely couple from Chicago, David and Shannon Shuel, who are excited to continue its legacy of making life’s occasions truly special.

“When we purchased Beneva Flowers, (6980 Beneva Road | 941.923.7401) we acquired a brand and local identity that is amazing. Customers have come to expect the highest level of service and the best quality products at competitive prices,” said David Shuel. “Whether it’s for a wedding, special event, birthday, or anniversary, we enjoy making a difference in people’s lives by ensuring a positive experience, recommending and creating exquisite florals and gift baskets, and being a part of their special occasion.”

Since the joy and comfort of receiving beautiful flowers brings together those who give them and those who receive them, Beneva Flowers was the perfect business choice to bring together the family-oriented Shuels, who love to spend time together. “My wife’s parents are in Naples, and we spent a lot of time there and in Fort Myers, so we knew we wanted to live and acquire a business on the West Coast,” David said. “My kids, who are 10 and 11, come in all the time. I’m all about my family, and I take that approach with our employees. We have an open-door policy, and they know they can come to us with anything.”

The business has about 50 employees, and during the holiday rush, another 35 to 40 temporary helpers are added. The entire staff was retained following the sale to allow for a seamless transition for customers. “Keeping the exceptional quality and creativeness Beneva Flowers’ designers have produced throughout the years was very important to us. Their arrangements are very artistic and unique, and we allow them to expand on their creativity, he added.”

The Shuels are business-savvy, customer-oriented and entrepreneurial, but the floral business, with its retail component and a highly perishable product, was a new experience. They sold a very successful wholesale distributor of industrial and building maintenance supplies in 2014 and decided to leave winters behind. According to David, “We looked at several companies, but fell in love with the Beneva Flowers brand. It’s been a fun experience. We love the white sand beaches on the West Coast and felt Sarasota was a great community and more our speed.”

The Shuels have been investing in the business, continuing to build its online presence with Yelp and Google and participating very actively in social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. They also have made improvements to Beneva Flowers’ bricks-and-mortar operation at 6980 Beneva Road in Sarasota, replacing infrastructure items like new vans and coolers and making cosmetic upgrades.

Today, Beneva Flowers (941.923.7401/beneva.com) is one of the top 20 florists in the country. In addition to a large selection of cut-flower arrangements and green and flowering plants, Beneva Flowers offers a range of gift baskets and gift items. Customers can even include a bottle of wine or champagne with their order.

Looking forward, David and Shannon have set a high bar for growth. “We plan to grow the current business organically and to diversify the business by expanding into plant sales, rental and maintenance for home and commercial. We’re also expanding our wedding and special events division and want to extend our geography by looking for the right acquisitions,” David said. And while they continue to grow the business, the tradition of stellar customer service will remain the same, including remaining open 365 days a year.

David and Shannon are proud community supporters and are delighted to continue Beneva Flowers’ dedication to the community through their involvement with local charities and local chambers of commerce. David is involved with several charitable organizations in town, is a member of the CEO Forum, and participated in Real Men Wear Pink for breast cancer awareness. Shannon is active in fundraising and leadership with local nonprofits. “We feel it is important to stay engaged and be part of the community,” Shannon said. “Everyone has been so welcoming and kind to us. This is a wonderful place to live, and we are very happy to be here.”