What I love most about DIY weddings is the ability couples have to infuse meaning into every element of the day. From the location to the photography (the day was captured gorgeously by friend Beca Companioni), Stephanie and Dave brought their personalities and love story out for all their guests - and now us! - to see.
Stephanie's friends and family stepped in to provide nearly every detail of the day: her childhood friend Monica did her hair, keeping it "as close to my natural curls as possible, as requested by Dave", and her friend Natalie Diaz did her makeup. Natalie, a graphic designer, also designed their save the dates, wedding invitations, and program. The flowers came from Field of Flowers in Davie, and were a random mix of wild flowers Stephanie chose and ordered with her mom. "I have a natural habit of making wildflower bouquets and bringing them into the home, so a special day like this was the perfect time to reflect that."
Stephanie has been visiting her aunt's Executive Bay Club townhome in Islamorada since childhood, and the place also has special meaning in her and Dave's relationship. They met in 2008, through a friend Stephanie gained by teaching kids to snorkel in Ft. Lauderdale. Stephanie joined her friend on a trip to Canada to visit Dave's family: Dave and I had only ever conversed through messages online but as soon as the front door opened and our eyes met... a connection formed that I can still feel pulse through my body whether we are together or apart. We dated for 8 months after that visit. The ocean, our love and curiosity of it became a bonding point. On his first visit to Florida, I was aching to take him to the sea turtle hospital where I donated money in his name that sponsored the life of an injured turtle as a Christmas gift. On the way down we stopped at Executive Bay Club so I could share the beauty of this place with him as well. We snapped a couple pics on the dock and shared a few stories and went on our way to the hospital where we were awed by the work those folks do for those precious little creatures.
Unfortunately, the weight of the distance took its toll on our relationship. We didn't have the finances to keep the visits as often as we wanted so we decided to end the relationship. It was such a hard thing, but we did. Only, moving on was even harder. We both tried, but couldn't move forward with another. Dave never left my mind, or heart. Sometimes I was upset over the situation and other times I was hopeful and overflowing with prayers. As it turns out... so were our mothers. I received a phone call from his mom telling me what Dave had been going through. She found out it was the same for me and bought me a ticket to Canada to talk with Dave face to face and "just see where things were." We left it a surprise... a wonderful April fool's surprise for Dave. A month later, he was on a flight to Florida to ask my dad for my hand in marriage. He proposed with a 6 cm tungsten band as we spoke about (I'm more of a practical girl) but he added a surprise. Knowing that I would soon be leaving the seaside life, he added an inlay of mother of pearl... to reflect all the marine colors that I am so infatuated with. And even though I had to leave the ocean I love so much, I'll always have a piece of it with me. We were engaged in Key Largo and that day received a phone call from my aunt offering Executive Bay Club as our wedding location. It was the perfect place for so many reasons.
The reception room is one of Stephanie's "favorite rooms ever", and her vision was to create a soft, romantic feel touched by the natural beauty of the Keys. Her family and wedding party dove in to help, creating a true DIY affair with tons of meaningful details and moments. From Stephanie: My father and I pulled apart some old lobster traps from a local fishery, white washed them, and placed yellow painted wooden letters for a sign above a mailbox I painted for the guests who gifted us with cards. I also used that same lobster trap wood and smaller wooden letters to make 3 small signs that read "always, a small heart, all ways". These words came from a little knick knack my father gave my mother long before I could read. But I used to see it every time I went in their room and as I grew older I understood just how deep those few words were. I knew when I felt THAT way about someone else.. that's when it's for keeps. I told Dave about that knick knack when we were together again the second time around, we would say them signing off skype and when we would tell each other we love each other. Those 3 little wooden signs hung over us as we exchanged vows on the beach front that day.
To symbolize their different origins, the couple used a Keys-bought photo book as their guestbook, having guests sign postcards from each of their home towns; they also brought sand from Canada and South Florida to mix for their ceremony. The reception decor was all DIY, from the lanterns and tealight holders that Stephanie spray-painted to the beer bottle (Mickey's) hanging floral arrangements hung with twine from the spiral staircase. "As for the cake, I'm not huge on purchased cakes and blessed with a very talented aunt and sister... we really liked the idea of a cake for us to slice and cupcakes for the guests. It felt like another way to express our playful/creative side. The cake was dairy free (to be sensitive to Dave... he's lactose intolerant) with a rose pattern chosen and recreated by my sister. I wanted the guests to have a selection so the cupcakes complimented some of my favorite flavors... keylime, cookies and cream, and red velvet. These ladies did a better job than I could have dreamed of.
For our wedding favors we didn't want to purchase something just to give... being in the keys, we wanted to support the locals as much as possible, so we decided to take the money we budgeted for favors and donate it to the turtle hospital that we supported and toured in our first year together. With the money we purchased a sea turtle hatchling magnet for each family or single guest attending. We enclosed a little scroll explained the magnet, the work the hospital does, and the phrase Dave and I have said to each other since we met "create ripples, make waves." The same phrase, encouraging positive action, is etched on the inside of our rings.
Our catering was done by Craig's Restaurant in Islamorada. He is incredible to work with and his food is mouth watering delicious. So many of the guests raved about his food, we are so glad we had him as our guy. Our photographer Beca, is a girl that I knew of through a friend when she was still in high school. I used to see photos she would shoot of friends as a hobby and sometimes for hire... I was blown away by her natural knack for playing with natural light and angles. When Dave and I spoke about getting married outside around sunset... she was the only photographer I wanted but I didn't even know if she would do it! She was as excited as we were and even did an engagement shoot with us while Dave was down before the wedding. We are so grateful for her talent and the way she captured our special day.
And because I can't sum it up any better than the bride: We are forever grateful for the mesh of loved ones that came together to help us in so many ways that week. I couldn't have been happier with everything about our day.
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Executive Bay Club, Islamorada | Photography: Beca Companioni Photography | Catering: Craig's Restaurant | Invitations: Natalie Diaz | Bride's Dress: David's Bridal | Bride's Hair Accessory: Virginia Geiger Jewels | Bridesmaids Dresses: Marshalls | Men's Attire: Macy's | Shoes: Toms | Videography: Rich Adams | DJ: Jayson Escalona