Written by Caite Hamilton

First comes love, then comes marriage. And in between? A whole lot of planning for the big day.

Consider the following six weddings a real-life Pinterest board. Each is bursting with enviable ideas to borrow for your own celebration, from an elegant color palette to an unexpected catering choice.


Say “cheese”
After the ceremony, the couple’s photographer took the whole bridal party downtown for a quick photo session. “We all went to the street and strutted our stuff,” Ellie says. “She got some amazing pictures that we love.”

Ellie Eschbach and Gordon Choate // September 26, 2019 //  The Sommer Building

Photography by Halle Morgan Photography

Simple yet elegant. That was the order of the day for Ellie and Gordon, who wanted their late-September wedding at The Sommer Building to be one of ease and warmth. For the couple, that meant making choices based not on traditions, but on their own personal preferences.

They eschewed a sit-down dinner, instead opting for passed hors d’oeuvres and charcuterie platters. They bought a cake from Publix and filled the dessert table with multiple choices (for people, like Gordon, who don’t care too much for cake). They chose the wedding colors — dark green, navy, and white — simply because, well, those are their favorites.

But their most cherished detail? The vows.

“We wrote our own vows, and they brought us both to tears,” Gordon says. Take, for example, something Gordon said to Ellie: “I vow to accept all your quirks — like putting my cups in the dishwasher before I’ve finished using them, or losing all rational thoughts and emotions when you see something so cute, you have to squish it.”

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Event Planner: Bethany Thomas
Officiant: Elijah Hollis
Catering: Frescos
Flowers: April Hamilton
Cake: Publix
DJ: Michael Steiner
Bride’s Attire: Jessi Rae Bridal
Shoes: Sonoma
Groom’s Attire: Nathan’s Men’s Store
Rings: Wilson Diamond Brokers
Hair and Makeup: Melissa Kinsey
Videographer: KAL Visuals

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Petal pushers
Teresa wasn’t too picky about the flowers. All she knew was that she wanted white flowers in a bed of green leaves for the bouquets. She left the rest up to her mom. “Lucky I did,” she says. “They turned out amazing.”

Teresa Dao and Hoang Huynh // October 4-5, 2019 // St. Joseph Catholic Church

Photography by Meche Ausina

A wedding so nice, they did it twice. That’s what one might say of Teresa and Hoang’s two-day event. They kicked off the celebration with a traditional tea ceremony — a Vietnamese ritual in which the bride and groom serve tea to their future in-laws as a sign of respect — at their parents’ houses, followed by a vow exchange at Hollis Garden. On day two, they were married at St. Joseph Catholic Church before attending their reception at Haus 820.

It was a jam-packed weekend, but that only created more opportunities for making memories. Teresa will never forget her favorite one: the moment Hoang surprised her with a choreographed dance to Korean pop song “Call Me Baby” by EXO. Along with his groomsmen — who all practiced separately in St. Petersburg; Gainesville; and Asheville, North Carolina — Hoang pulled off a seamless performance in front of their 450 guests.

“This was my favorite moment because it made me admire Hoang that much more,” Teresa says. “Despite our very hectic two-day wedding, he willingly chose to burden himself with this extra stress while also managing the wedding festivities, just to see me happy.”


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Event Planner: Blue Skies Weddings and Events
Garden Ceremony: Hollis Garden
Church Ceremony: St. Joseph Catholic Church
Reception: Haus 820
Officiant: Phong Nguyen (garden ceremony), Father Nam Hai (church ceremony)
Catering: Hao Wah
Flowers: Bride’s mom
Music: DJ Spynfamous
Bride’s Attire: Custom-made in Vietnam
Shoes: LuLu’s
Groom’s Attire: Traditional Vietnamese ao dai, made in Vietnam (tea ceremony), The Black Tux (other events)
Groomsmen’s Attire: The Black Tux
Bridesmaids’ Dresses: LuLu’s
Rings: Blue Nile
Makeup: Angelica Chrysler Beauty
Videographer: Ben Blondel of Wayfarer Film Co.
Reception Décor: Cindy’s Floral

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School romance
After their first meeting during the homecoming dance at George Jenkins High School, Courtney and Brent dated a few years before going their separate ways. “Inevitably, in a town the size of Lakeland, we would run into each other a few times over the years,” Courtney says. “Despite being apart, we never forgot about each other.” They were married almost 16 years after that first dance.

Courtney Athans and Brent LaPonsey // February 16, 2019 // Rocking H Ranch

Photography by Lindsey Cassidy

Having lived in Lakeland most of their lives, Courtney and Brent knew Swan City would play an important role in their big day, from the locale to the overall vibe. They picked a date in February, which happened to fall right in the middle of orange season. “We chose to decorate using oranges and magnolias — two items that are distinctly Southern, and definitely Lakeland,” Courtney says. The fruit and flowers (plus a few books, since both Courtney and Brent are avid readers) covered the reception tables, which sat beneath Spanish moss trees strung with lights. “The open sky, the rustic barn, the old house, and the sprawling grounds never let us forget that we were out in the gorgeous Florida landscape,” Courtney says. Creating that feeling of home was even more important to the couple while they were planning, as shortly after they got engaged, they moved to Atlanta for work. Says Courtney, “We wanted to revel in everything we loved and missed about our home, and I think that we got exactly that in every aspect of our wedding.”

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Ceremony Venue: St. Joseph Catholic Church
Officiant: Fr. Glenn Lopez
Catering: Mission BBQ
Flowers: Taylormade Floral & Event Design
Cake: A Piece of Cake by Maggi in Auburndale
Music: DJ Mini
Bride’s Attire: Eva’s Bridal International (Chicago, Illinois)
Shoes: Badgley Mischka
Groom’s Attire: Van Heusen
Rings: Kay Jewelers
Hair: Josh Vasquez | Kortne Fagundo (bridesmaids)
Makeup: Christie Thornsberry (bride), 
Videographer: Clayton Cassidy at Devoted Films
Linens: Marilyn’s Linens and Rentals
Alcohol: Spunky Spirits
Seating Chart: Stationery Loft


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Rhiannon says she considers the whole wedding DIY’d, since she and Elijah planned it on their own. Almost everything was thrifted or purchased on Facebook Marketplace.

Rhiannon Matthews and Elijah Ray // October 7, 2018 // Haus 820

Photography by Brandon Burridge of The Portos

The wedding of Rhiannon and Elijah is a textbook lesson in “you do you” for your big day. The couple, who met in a criminology class at Southeastern University, left no detail unpersonalized, starting with Rhiannon walking down the aisle to a violin version of their favorite rap song and their Boba tea cocktail hour, to the chicken wing food truck and Volkswagen photo-booth bus send-off.

Let’s back up. Chicken wings?

“Chef Marcus from Gertrude’s Low Country Wing Truck went above and beyond to ensure the food service was smooth,” Rhiannon says. “Elijah and I decided to have that because we love wings, and we only wanted things that we love to be at our wedding.”

And, during dinner, another personal touch: Motown videos on the projector. “The whole day was us,” Rhiannon says. “I loved that.”

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Officiant: Travis Lowe
Day-of Coordinators: Angelina Colhouer and Samantha of The Apostolic Wife
Catering: Gertrude’s Low Country Wings Food Truck
Flowers: Thistle + Weeds Floral Co.
Cake: J’aime Cakes
Bride’s Attire: Alfred Angelo
Groom’s Attire: Amazon
Rings: Olive Avenue Jewelry
Hair: Schatzi C
Makeup: Ariel Amir
Videographer: Janeya Caryn
Boba Tea: Green Island Tea and Yogurt
Photo-booth Bus: WildHearts Photo Bus

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A moment like this
After the ceremony, the couple drove to Lake Mirror for photos. They count the car ride among their favorite moments of the day. “It was the first time we were able to escape the noise after saying ‘I do,’” Connor says. They knew all that was left to do was celebrate.

Jennifer Cunningham and Connor Lockhart // May 25, 2019 // Haus 820

Photography by Nate Chappell

The best advice Connor and Jennifer received after they got engaged was this: “Guests generally care about three things: the food, the music, and how you made them feel.” The first was easy (they served chicken with a choice of sauces). The second and third were a bit more complicated.

Their main goal was to make guests feel comfortable — and ready to dance all night. Since music is their love language, that became the day’s most prominent detail.

“Music was the biggest part of our wedding day, and that’s reflective of our personal lives as well,” Connor says. From the ceremony music (Jennifer walked down the aisle to “Always” by Tyson Motsenbocker, which was playing when they got engaged) to the first dance (which Connor wrote and recorded himself), music took center stage. The couple even curated their own playlist for the cocktail hour.

“We didn’t get to experience it first-hand, but the ability to share something so immensely special with our guests in such a subtle fashion was very fun,” Connor says.

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Event Planner: Abigail Smart Events
Officiant: Ian Thomas
Catering: Affordable Catering
Flowers: Sarah Stewart Designs
Cake: Publix
Music: Chris Grainger of Graingertainment
Bride’s Attire: Truly Forever Bridal
Shoes: ModCloth
Groom’s Attire: Macy’s
Groomsmen’s Attire: Macy’s
Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Birdy Grey
Rings: Jeff Hogan Fine Jewelry
Hair: Made by Marissa Dela Cruz
Makeup: Butterfly Makeup by Olivia Aguirre
Videographer: Randall Productions
Bartending: Tucker’s Southside Package & Lounge
Rentals: Premier Party Rentals
Plant Rentals: Johnson Plant Rental

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Written by The Lakelander

Unforgettable: The Venue
The bride and her mother had discovered the venue of choice years earlier when the two were looking for a dream destination for Melody’s Quinceanera celebration. The largest private estate in Northern California, Sacramento’s Grand Island Mansion, built in 1920, is a spectacular Italian Renaissance-styled villa. Even if you have never been there, you have probably seen its picture. It has provided the setting for films and music videos, hosted events attended by well-known guests (think President Ronald Reagan), and has frequently been featured in magazines, including National Geographic, Architectural Digest, and more.

Melody Morales and Benny Robles Jr. // August 17, 2019, // Grand Island Mansion, Sacramento, CA

Photography by XSiGHT

Lakeland residents Benny and Melody Robles love to travel. “It’s the ultimate adventure. Plus, every trip exposes you to new types of people, different ways of living, and opens up your mind,” Melody says. “So, without hesitation, we decided upon a destination wedding.” The couple chose California because Melody had a great deal of family on the West Coast. Planning a wedding from 3,000 miles away required a lot of help — and a stroke of luck. “I Googled ‘Sacramento wedding planners’ and ended up going with the first one who called me back,” Melody says. Wedding planner Aubrey Silva of Alluring Events was not scared by the Robles’ vison — they wanted the most exciting wedding and reception possible. Formal, but fun. Luckily, between the couple and the planner, there was no shortage of ideas. As the 300 guests from around the country filed in, classical musicians set the tone. Despite the formality of the surroundings, the ceremony was lighthearted and whimsical. The father of the groom, Benny Robles Sr., officiated and offered an upbeat message of love, sharing many of his ideas in both English and Spanish. “It was my idea to have him officiate,” Melody says. “I wanted him to have a special part in our ceremony. The entire day was just unbelievably sensational.”, she concluded

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Event Planner: Alluring Events
Venue:  Grand Island Mansion
Officiant: Benny Robles Sr., father of the groom
Catering: Bella Bru
Desserts: Go West Baking and Events
Flowers: The Posh Posey
Music: DJ Kid Nemesis
Bride’s Attire: Galia Lahav
Shoes: Jimmy Choo
Groom’s Attire: Dolce and Gabbana
Groomsmen’s Attire: Milano Exchange
Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Various designers
Rings: Scott Shear
Hair: Rikke Gajda and Sara Starr Hair
Makeup: Miss Marissa Artistry
Videographer: Classic City Films

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