Statement necklaces get me every time. Every.single.time. And this Bride’s stunning J. Crew bauble is the perfect example of why. It adds the perfect pop of wow to this seriously stunning day, and compliments the traditional yet preppy party in an oh-so fashionable way. This is a wedding where every detail should be adored, and you can do just that right here.

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From Vitalic PhotographyKara & Stephen’s Johns Island wedding was classic, preppy and the perfect amount of a laid back Florida vibe. Their reception decor was colorful, the centerpiece trees pleasantly unexpected and the striped table linens from La Tavola added a unique touch to the look. Kara’s Priscilla of Boston dress fit her chic style perfectly, and her J. Crew accessories were bold yet understated. Kara also put her own personal DIY touches on their invitations and printed pieces.

From the Bride… Stephen and I had two engagements, really. A couple years before the official engagement, Stephen had asked me to marry him, but we decided to keep it between us because Stephen’s younger brother was getting married later that year and we didn’t want to step on any toes. After that wedding, there was an illness in the family, and again we put our plans on hold. Finally, the last day of August, 2011, Stephen proposed on bended knee while we visited my dad’s grave on a trip to California. It might seem like an odd choice to some, but my dad was my best friend, and it was Stephen’s way of ensuring that even though he was gone he was still a part of our special moment. We initially planned for an October 2012 wedding, but sometimes life has a way of making other plans…

Fast forward a couple months, and after a trip to the doctor for what I thought was my thyroid, I found out I was pregnant! The baby was definitely not planned, but was so welcome and loved from second number one. It was important to Stephen that I be able to enjoy the wedding festivities (and lose the 70 pounds of baby weight I added to my normally fit frame), so we decided to postpone the wedding until the following April 2013. Avery Jane Todd was born on July 11, 2012. She was a big girl (8 lb, 6 oz, and 21 inches) and just the sweetest and most wonderful little baby. 

Wedding Planning: I can’t say that I recommend planning a wedding during pregnancy (while you are trying to decorate a nursery and purchase baby gear and take baby/pregnancy classes) and while raising a newborn and then infant (are there ever enough hours in the day to fit in all the eating, naps, diaper changes, baths, walks, tummy time, pediatrician visits, and classes and still find time to eat and sleep yourself), but you do what you can with what you are given – and I will say it really forces you to make decisions much more quickly. Despite having all that lead time before the wedding, the day approached pretty quickly, and before we knew it our daughter, Avery, was 9 months old and we were flying to Florida for the wedding!

Location: I’m an only child, and while my heart and roots are in the Bay Area (yeah, NorCal!) we didn’t feel it was practical to make the majority of our guests, who reside in the Midwest, trek all the way out to California. We wanted to do a destination wedding, in order to try to keep it small (small is a relative term) and give Stephen a beach in April, but again, wanted to give people an option that was close enough to travel to within a couple hours and also a place that wouldn’t break the bank. Ultimately we picked John’s Island, as it has special significance to Stephen, and his family (and to me and our little family as well!). Stephen’s grandparents were one of the first people to buy a home in John’s Island, and because he and Stephen’s grandmother retired there, Stephen and his family made multiple trips there every year to visit. Eventually Stephen’s parents ended up buying there as well, so we have been going to John’s Island about twice a year since we started dating to go and visit them. We had initially hoped that Stephen’s grandfather, who was 99 when we got engaged, would be able to attend, but unfortunately he passed away a couple months later. But both he and Stephen’s grandmother were there in spirit. 

Weekend Events: John’s Island is truly a magical and lovely place – it’s got such a wonderful Florida feel, a little more buttoned up and preppy than Miami, but a little more relaxed than Palm Beach. When planning the wedding weekend, we decided that if people were going to take the time to fly down to Florida to be there for our big day, we wanted to make sure it was worth their while! Stephen’s aunts and uncles were kind enough to offer to host a Thursday night welcome dinner in a neighboring town called Sebastian, at a restaurant called Capt. Hiram’s Resort. It’s as kitschy as it sounds, but abounds with charm and fun – it’s very Florida Keys, and if you are a Parrot Head you would feel right at home there. The evening was very low key and it was such a great opportunity for people to meet and begin to unwind. 

On Friday the rehearsal dinner took place at the West Course Clubhouse. John’s Island is such a truly lovely place – there are so many gorgeous venues you just can’t go wrong. We wanted to try to incorporate as many venues as we could, so it made sense that we would have the rehearsal dinner at the West Course. The evening was such a blast – Nicki from Vitalic Photo came out and photographed the guests, and also took a huge Todd/Brown family photo (the great thing about Stephen’s family is that it is hard to tell where his mom’s side, the Browns, ends and his dad’s side, the Todds, begins). After a fantastic dinner, and a run of speeches (I think nearly every member of the wedding party spoke with the exception of the Best Man, Maid of Honor, and 2 other attendants who made speeches at the wedding), we cut into the groom’s cake – Stephen’s favorite, red velvet, decorated like a sheet of Michigan hockey ice (his family are die-hard U of M fans, and Stephen plays hockey, so….) and topped with a groom in a tux with hockey skates and stick, and the bride cheering him on with a megaphone and foam finger. While I was an athlete (water polo) and not a cheerleader, I may have missed my calling – so the cake toppers were perfect! The end of the evening ended at Rafters, the bar at the Beach Club (where it ends every night we are at John’s Island). I went home to try to get some sleep, while Stephen stayed to try to catch up with family and friends. 

Wedding Day: Saturday morning came and everything seemed to move so quickly! First thing in the morning we got mani/pedis, then headed back to our rented house to get ready. The hairstylists and make up artist set up shop and I was amazed at how efficient they were! Everyone was so sweet and helpful with one another, and took turns watching Avery and my friend’s twins, our gorgeous flower girl and darling ring bearer. By the time Nicki and Chrissy showed up we were just about ready to go! Putting on my dress was such a magical moment – I had dreamed about doing that ever since I was a little girl. And the dress turned out exactly the way I had hoped – it was a Priscilla of Boston style that I altered by shortening the train and adding a peplum waist and sweetheart neckline. I’m always altering clothes and putting my own spin on things, so I figured my wedding dress would be no different. My sandals, so appropriate for a California girl, were Tory Burch. I think a lot of people were surprised not to see me in heels (I love stilettos and I love being taller than my already tall 5’9″) but I think those who really know me understand that while I love fashion, I also like to be comfortable. The sandals were a perfect marriage of style and comfort. The jewelry I sourced from one of my favorites, J. Crew, although the earrings were Kate Spade. My something old was my grandmother’s brooch – she had passed away a few months prior to the wedding and my aunt very thoughtfully gifted it to me just for the wedding. My something new was nearly everything I wore, my something borrowed was one of my bridesmaid’s wedding band (for luck, she said!) and my blue was my engagement ring – the cushion-cut sapphire that took me over a year to pick out. 

We arrived at the Beach Club to take photographs, and to do the first look. I thought I would be nervous, but I was just so excited – I love Stephen in a suit, and he looked so fantastic, better than I could have imagined. It was an incredible moment – and one I will remember forever. I had been told numerous times by as many people that the most important thing was to relax and try to enjoy the day and live in the moment. And I think I did that. There were some pretty big snafus, but after stressing about details the entire week, I felt that the one day I would let things go would be my wedding day. Never mind that I had an inflamed eye, my original hair style was a disaster (but with a little help from my style guru cousins I was able to salvage something from the wreckage), Avery’s headband got left behind, we were running tight on time for pictures…I could go on and on. But it honestly didn’t matter. I just couldn’t wait to see Stephen and to “get the show on the road”, as my dad used to say! 

After taking group photographs (in gusty winds, no less) we headed across the street to the golf clubhouse for the ceremony. While we had wanted to have the entire celebration outdoors, we knew that we would be contending with the unpredictable nature of Florida weather, so we decided to have our reception indoors, and our ceremony outdoors. Moving a ceremony is often much easier than moving the reception, and it was a good thing we had a back up plan because it rained off and on the morning of the wedding, and it was windy as well. Not ideal weather for an outdoor ceremony! The night before the wedding we decided to move the ceremony indoors, down the hall from the reception site, into one of the beautiful rooms in the Golf Clubhouse they use for meetings and luncheons. It seemed like it was meant to be – the decor of the room matched the girls’ dresses and our floral schematic perfectly, as if it had been planned that way all along! We propped the interior doors open so that we could hear the sounds of the fountain in the atrium beyond. I was told later by numerous guests that they were thankful the ceremony had been moved inside – it ended up being quite hot, muggy, and windy, and I think everyone found the temperature controlled room preferable to the Florida elements. 

Ceremony: It’s hard to say which part of the ceremony I liked best – the bagpiper was a nod to Stephen’s Scottish heritage (Todd) and because both my dad and I love bagpipes. The officiant was Stephen’s cousin, Casey, who performed his duties with humor and aplomb, as he does just about everything in life – it meant the world to us that he became ordained just for our ceremony, but he did such a good job he was told by more than a few people that he might have found a new vocation! The flower girl and ring bearer (Isla and Jack) were too cute in their J. Crew outfits and were a hit, even though they were less than thrilled about walking down the aisle. But I think my favorite part was something that I couldn’t see at the time but that everyone told us about afterward: while Stephen and I exchanged our vows, Avery smiled and beamed at us the entire time, almost as if she knew what was going on and couldn’t be happier that her parents were (finally!) tying the knot! Looking back at the photographs I could see what they were talking about!

Reception: The string quartet from the ceremony played contemporary hits during the cocktail hour and I have to say I was beyond thrilled – I have always loved classical music, and love even more when contemporary songs are played on classical instruments. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, as they received many compliments from our guests. 

Vitalic has a photo booth called The Snapbooth and it was a HUGE hit! People loved it and couldn’t get enough of it – my only regret is that we didn’t have it for the entire night…people would have been in there all night! But the props were hilarious, and their props coupled with a few I bought on Etsy made for some really hilarious and memorable pictures. 

Linda and Monica from John’s Island took me aside a few moments before we escorted the guests into the ballroom for the dinner seating. My jaw literally dropped to the floor. Between the colors, and the lanterns and candlelight and flowers…it was all just so perfect.
After the food was served the dancing began in earnest. Stephen and I are pretty sure that we had never seen a wedding where that many people danced at the same time, and for that long. I don’t think the dance floor was ever empty! Our first dance was to Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am”. For some reason we have always gravitated toward that song, and love to sing it to each other. I think it suits us and acts as the perfect caption to our relationship – Stephen is definitely the yin to my yang. 

The speeches were wonderful – my maid of honor, who we affectionately refer to as “Pissa” (her name is Lissa, but she can be a wicked pissah, so the name kind of stuck. Oops.), could barely choke her speech out. Which of course made both Stephen and I cry too! Stephen’s brothers (one is older, one is younger – yes, Stephen is the quintessential middle child) were co-best men, and their tag-team effort on their speech was hilarious…just enough roast to singe the edges a bit. And speaking of roasts, my oldest friend (since kindergarten!) Megan, did a little of her own, with the desired effect – roars and peals of laughter. 

The only thing missing from the night was my dad – but I know he was there in a way. It was definitely a difficult moment walking down the aisle by myself, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. If my dad wasn’t there physically to do it, then he was there with me in spirit, as he has been for the past 14 years. We picked our wedding day because it was 14 years to the day since he died. I wanted to make April 20th a day to celebrate and be happy, and so that is the last April 20th I will spend mourning his loss and instead will spend it celebrating the (official) start of my life with my new best friend. I know my dad would have loved Stephen and would have been proud. 

Decor: I love to decorate. I love to entertain. Needless to say, this wedding was the perfect opportunity for me to showcase two of my favorite hobbies! Stephen is so laid back, he more or less let me run with my vision, his only request was a minimum of flowers. He doesn’t like cut flowers, never has – so it made me get creative, and I was actually really happy with the result.
Traditionally I am not a country-club-ballroom-wedding-reception kind of gal. That is not a knock on anyone who is, but that’s just not my style. Stephen and I like to stay at boutique hotels when we travel, as we like decor and ambiance that are a little outside-the-box, a little out of the ordinary, a hint different. The ballroom itself is decorated with lovely wall coverings and drapes, but they just didn’t jive with my initial vision of a neutral palette with clean lines, minimalist decor and an emphasis on fine linens and accent pieces of china and flatware. So instead of fighting the decor, I decided to change the vision completely, embrace the locale and my preppiness, and go with a Palm Beach Chic theme. Kelly green in the dominant color in the room, with hints of bright pink (the kind you would find in a Lilly Pulitzer print). Navy is my favorite spring/summer neutral, so that was the obvious choice to complement the kelly and pink. 

I scoured LaTavola’s site for the perfect linens to offset the floral print drapes and geometric patterned floor covering. Cheshire Stripe table linens with a seersucker stripe napkin were the winners. LaTavola is simply the best – the linens arrived perfectly pressed and ready to go and exactly as pictured and promised. I love old Palm Beach and looked to Pinterest for images of Florida decor – I loved the lanterns I kept seeing, as well as bamboo details ( in everything from furniture to wallpaper), and rattan and white EVERYWHERE. In a word, it was fabulous. Jamali Garden in New York is such a great resource for decor, so I purchased all my candlesticks and the white ceramic vases and bowls from them. My lanterns I sourced from Home Decorators Collection and the darling elephant planters came from Z Gallerie. We rented rattan chargers and green goblets to offset the white chivari chairs and pink flowers. My favorite detail might have been the limes – Florida is known for citrus, and I adore decorating with fruit (so underrated!), so it was a no-brainer. We probably cleaned out 3 or 4 of the local Publix of their limes! The little trees were to add a bit of visual interest to the tables – I love the dramatic juxtaposition between tall elements (the trees) and low elements (the chargers). We also had trees placed around the room to bit a bring of the outside in, and with some strategically placed warm orange-hued uplighting, the overall effect was, I hope, very Florida indeed! 

Staff: I really want to make sure everyone knows what a fantastic job the staff at John’s Island did for our wedding. The service was beyond impeccable – I mean, it always is, but sometimes when you do events on a large scale one of the first things to go is quality…quality of food and quality of service. Neither of these two elements was compromised in any way through the duration of the weekend and at every event we hosted at John’s Island: the rehearsal dinner, my bridal tea, and the wedding ceremony and reception. 
Linda and Monica of John’s Island may have answered literally hundreds of emails and a myriad of questions about food, guest policies and accommodations, venue changes, etc. They did so in the most timely manner possible and with the utmost professionalism. They were on top of every detail of every event, but were extremely subtle in their approach – you could barely tell they were there except when they would come by to say hello or ask a brief question. We hit a snafu the day of the wedding but they and their staff stepped in and helped set everything up to my specifications. 

The chef outdid himself – our tasting was impeccable, and Stephen’s concern was whether or not the chef would be able to replicate not only the look of our meal (beautifully sliced tenderloin atop a bed of spring vegetable farrotto) but the taste as well. He not only met our expectations, he exceeded them! The crab salad was nearly a full cup of crab meat resting atop a bed of greens, drizzled with a grapefruit olive oil emulsion and accent with avocado. My friends that usually don’t like seafood raved over the salad. Our dessert table was sumptuous and decadent to the extreme – I just wish we could have eaten off it for a week because it would have taken all of us (125 people) that long to get through it all. The macarons were on par with Laduree, and our wedding cake (traditional Swedish Princess Cake – my favorite) was custom created and about 2 feet bigger than we thought it would be. People raved about the food, and those who were fortunate enough to attend the “trifecta” (rehearsal, tea, and reception) all commented how amazed they were at the taste and presentation of the food. 

Photography: Vitalic Photo | Florist: Pink Pelican | Invitations: Minted | Bride's Shoes: Tory Burch | Bridesmaid Dresses: Ann Taylor | Calligraphy: Calligraphy by Crisinte | Entertainment: Class Act Productions | Groom's Attire: Hugo Boss | Groomsmens' Ties: Nordstrom | Bride's Jewelry: J. Crew | Day of Coordinator: John's Island Catering | Flower Girl Dresses: J. Crew | Linens: La Tavola | Musicians: City of Melbourne Pipes and Drums | Musicians: Classern String Quartet | Photo Booth: The Snap Booth | Veil: Vera Wang | Wedding Location: John's Island Club

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