Stephanie, one of my best friends and the bride from today’s previous Real Wedding, has been sweet enough to stop by and share with us some of the details that made her wedding truly special…

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All photos by Sarah Bussey, Bridal Gown by Jenny Lee Couture, Bridesmaids Dresses by J Crew, Flowers by Fifty 50 Floral Art of Naples, Wedding Planning by Jon Berry of Celebrations Unlimited

From Stephanie...

1. We made the ceremony our own. My brother was one of my “bridesmaids” and Robert’s sister was one of his “groomsmen”. Both of us have very strong relationships with our parents and we wanted to include them in the ceremony. So, after my father and I walked down the aisle, my parents and Robert’s parents all stood with us for the first part of the ceremony. After the Reverend asked my father “Who gives this bride in marriage?” he then asked, “Who blesses this marriage?” to which our parents all replied in unison “We do.” These were little touches that allowed us to make the ceremony more about us as a family and include those most important to us.

2. My family brought all of their creativity and talent into the day. My grandmother made my beautiful garter. My aunt made a lace handkerchief with our initials and wedding date hand embroidered. Most special of all was the surprise my mom pulled off. On the inside bottom hem of my dress, she cross-stitched mine and Robert’s name in blue separated by a pink heart. Next to it she sewed a tiny button that she had taken from one of my baby dresses that she had made for me. This was my “something blue and something old” and I could not think of anything more meaningful.

3. Our photographer, Sarah Bussey, was phenomenal. (www.sarahbusseyphotography.com) When we began planning the wedding, we booked a different photographer that was local to Naples, Florida. However, after taking some engagement shots, it just did not feel “right.” I made the difficult decision to change photographers. This is one of the single best decisions I made throughout the entire process. Our photographer is incredibly talented and was a true joy to be around. As a result of following my instinct and not being afraid to make a change, I have some amazing photographs that will last a lifetime.

4. I am pretty traditional in some ways and I was originally adamant that I did not want to see Robert before I walked down the aisle. For various reasons, we decided to see each other before the ceremony and I am very glad we did. Our photographer found a beautiful spot for us to meet and the photos from these moments are priceless. It also completely calmed my nerves and allowed me to be much more relaxed throughout the ceremony. We were also able to take our posed group shots before the ceremony so once the wedding was over, our family and bridal party could immediately go and enjoy the cocktail hour. I am so happy that I did not stick with what is considered “tradition” and went with what was right for us.

5. The flowers! Oh, the flowers! They were exquisite and I cannot say enough good things about our florist, Matthew Huddleston, and his team at Fifty 50 Floral Art in Naples. My vision from the beginning was to keep all of the colors of the wedding neutral with rich champagnes, golds and creams and then bring in vibrant pops of color with the florals. Matthew did that to perfection with warm shades of orange, deep coral and golden hues, accented with touches of raspberry. For the ceremony, he had all of these gorgeous flowers surrounding dozens of candle-lit lanterns that created a warm and lovely ambiance at sunset. Simply stunning.

6. As a surprise to Robert, I brought in an artist from California, Rich Flynn, who created oil paintings of both the ceremony and the reception. We now have two incredible paintings that we can hang in our home to remind us of our wedding day. (www.richflynn.com)

7. The weather was very windy during our outdoor ceremony and, about three minutes into the wedding, my veil took fight! The wind pulled it out of my hair and it sailed off into the sky. It was actually beautiful to watch! My hair was fine sans veil and I just laughed as it flew away. It was truly a special moment and all night everyone was talking about the “flying veil!”

8. Our sushi chef! I love all kinds of sushi and we had a chef at the rehearsal dinner in my parent’s home making rolls and laying out sushi all night.

9. I loved our favors! I am a huge Starbucks fan so we filled little palm leaf bags with coffee beans and a Starbucks card. On the front was a note that read “We are so grateful you could be here! As you get up tomorrow and head on your way, here’s a little something to help start your day!” (palm leaf bags from www.blissweddingsmarket.com)

10. Our welcome bags were a labor of love. Along with filling the bags with lots of goodies, we created a series of puzzles with the help of my super creative brother. Each bag had a packet of games – a word search, cryptogram, maze and sudoko puzzle – personalized with things about us and the wedding. It was a fun and whimsical way to add another personal touch to the weekend.

The best part of the weekend was simply how much fun Robert and I had. Someone had told me that as long as the bride and groom are having fun at the wedding, everyone else will too. I completely took this advice to heart, tried to not worry about a single thing and just enjoy every moment. Robert and I had a blast and I can only hope that everyone else did too!

Thanks SO much Steph! I love that so many of these details are easy to incorporate!

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