My family has been visiting The Gasparilla Inn on Boca Grande since I was three years old. To us, it is a place that symbolizes pure joy, relaxation and togetherness and these seemed like the perfect traits upon which to build a wedding weekend. Zach and I wanted to be able to spend as much time with our guests as we could, both in our bathing suits and in our wedding best, and having our wedding at the Inn enabled us to do that. All of our guests stayed at the Inn, including Zach and I and both of our families. In essence, our guests were our captives for the entire weekend! From the casual festivities to the more formal ones, everything was within walking distance of the Inn and you could see little parades of people making their way to the beach, to the golf course and to the ceremony. Everyone was together and this was ultimately the most important thing to Zach and I. It meant the world to us to have all of our nearest and dearest friends and family in one place, celebrating us, for an entire weekend. In truth it meant more to us that weekend than we ever could have expected when we planned the wedding a year and a half ago. Zach and I moved, somewhat unexpectedly, to Zurich, Switzerland five months before the wedding so to be back in the states, surrounded by all of the people we love and who love us was incredibly special.
The Gasparilla Inn and Boca Grande already exude a wonderfully simple, casual style. In our planning and pondering my mom and I really just wanted to accentuate the style that already permeates the island. Our style catch phrase became organic island elegance, three words we must have repeated a gazillion times. For the ceremony site it meant a public street, in town, transformed for a few hours into a natural cathedral. For the flowers that meant peonies, sweet peas, parrot tulips, springs of green and the assurance the the table decorations would flow and move and not be static. For my dress it meant a combination of simple and elegant, with a plain tuille top meeting a delicate lace skirt, tied together with a big bow in the back. For the stationary it meant pairing hand caligraphed letters with a playful drawing that I had done, all pressed into crisp white paper. We didn't plan with "colors" in mind, but instead considered each piece in itself and how it would lend something to the larger picture. The bridesmaids dresses didn't match the blue of the invitations which were both considered separately from the flowers, but everything came together into a wedding that was rich with detail and very much reflective of Zach and I as a couple.
I treasured the moments throughout the day where Zach and I were truly together. Those moments took on different shapes and emotions and were spread out throughout the day: from the morning when I was getting ready to go to the beach and he was getting ready to go play golf and all we kept saying was, "we are getting married TODAY, today as in a few hours, as in holy cow wooweeey today;" to the first look, which was an amazingly peaceful moment where we really had a chance to take it all in and cherish the day before the celebration began; to the ceremony, where it felt like we were alone under the Banyan trees, just us, our vows and the glow from the sun; to the parade back to the Inn, which we led, arm in arm through town to the music of a bagpiper and to the cheers of local spectators; and to our first dance, which we hadn't practiced, but was perfect in it's spontaneous spins, which were led off by my whispers of "okay, spin me now!"
The joy I felt during the ceremony is an emotion that still comes to find me in the quiet moments of life back in Zürich. It is a pure, complete, and amazing sense of happiness. The ceremony was truly a moment unto itself which I will always remember with love and a smile. The walk down the aisle with my teary-eyed dad, smiling and crying standing next to Zach, the moment of silence, the readings, our vows, and then the walk back down the aisle as husband and wife, were all amazing moments. I find joy and love in those memories everyday.
The wedding weekend was scattered with person details, family traditions and what we hope will be new traditions. From the very early planning stages I was very interested and involved in the stationery. We worked very closely with Mr. Boddington's Studio to create a paper suite that fit us and the place where we were getting married. I have always loved to draw and doing the drawing for the weekend accordion was certainly a highlight and added a very personal and fun twist to our invitation suite. We brought the drawing to the weekend itself by printing it on the canvas beach bags that we handed out as a welcome to Boca Grande gift. Our invitations were further personalized by my aunt, who painted the image for the rehearsal dinner invitation, which was bright and colorful and worked wonderfully with the rest of the paper.
A truly special and meaningful detail and tradition was my wedding veil. It was purchased in 1939 by my great-great grandmother, Irene Talley Bradley, who also happens to be my namesake, for her daughter Kate. Since then it has been worn by all of the Bradley girls, including my grandmother and my mother, and so for me to be the ninth Bradley to wear it was wonderfully emotional and special.
In an effort to personalize our ceremony we honored Zach's Quaker school upbringing by having a moment of silence followed by the singing of the quaker hymn, Simple Gifts. The moment of silence was a highlight for both of us. It allowed us wake up from the 'wedding dream' and be in the moment with each other and with all of our guests.
One way in which we tied all of our years at the Inn into our wedding weekend was standup Bingo at dinner. The Inn hosts Bingo twice a week and we always used to play, and in fact we still play. I've never won, but my favorite game of Bingo is standup, where when a number on your card is called you have to sit down. We printed the dinner menu, which was also everyone's place card, on the back of Bingo cards and played a giant game of Bingo before we all sat down for dinner. My brother and his closest friend, who has also been coming down to Boca Grande as long as we have, called Bingo and one of my friends from high school won! It was a fun way to get everyone ready for dinner.
My only real advice is to do a first look. It was the best wedding decision we made. Zach and I knew we would see each other throughout the day, whether it was at the beach or at lunch, so seeing each other before the ceremony didn't bother us. The photos from the first look are among our favorites, we were giddy, excited, full of smiles and very much ourselves. Not only are the photos wonderful, but the ability to share those moments with Zach before the ceremony and celebration began was really special. The day goes by in a blurry, amazing, smiley flash, but it goes by quickly. Having time before the ceremony to take it all in and cherish each other and our day was amazing.
Photography: Orchard Cove Photography / Ceremony Location: Banyan Street, Gasparilla Island / Reception Location: Gasparilla Inn / Florist: Urban Chic, Inc. / Band: Powerhouse Band / Event Planner: Camille Williams / Paper Suite: Mr. Boddington / Reception Dress: Calypso St. Barth / Bridesmaid's Dresses: Amsale / Hair: Courtyard Hair / Bridesmaid's Hair & Makeup : James Griffith Salon / Rentals: New York Party Rentals & Panache / Honeymoon: South Africa