Lavish Black and White New Year’s Eve Wedding | The University of Tampa

Tampa Bay Wedding Planning Advice Group

Sarah and Ralph’s swanky downtown Tampa wedding kept the New Year’s Eve atmosphere in check for their guest list of 140 with an upscale ambiance and designated dessert room. Welcoming loved ones from all over the world, the St. Pete bride and groom ensured the start to the year and their lives together were a fabulous event dripping with elegance.

“We love to have fun and live extravagantly. Given Ralph has lived all over the world and was having friends come from many different countries, the most important element to the wedding was making sure our closest friends and family had an amazing time,” the bride gushed. “To Ralph, this meant creating an extravagant custom menu that featured six stations and included a sushi chef station, a fillet carving station, seafood indulgence station, antipasto station, and of course a buffet station that included lamb chops, pork belly skewers, paella, salmon, stuffed chicken and so much more! To top it all off, at 10:30 p.m. we opened an entirely different room that was full of all types of upscale deserts, a custom ice sculpture that had cosmopolitans running through it, an upscale coffee bar, and of course, a chocolate fountain. Ralph is a huge foodie, so he completely designed the menu and dessert room. We actually incorporated a surprise every hour which made for such an exciting way to keep everyone on their feet! It was so much fun.”

MORE: LUXURIOUS WEDDING INSPIRATION

Planning a wedding can be stressful, but circumstances were beyond typical for Sarah and Ralph, with the bride finishing her degree in health care and the groom overcoming health issues.

“For the first month, I didn’t have a wedding planner, then I realized I was in over my head! Both of our families live out-of-town, we both work full-time, and I was finishing my Master’s degree in nursing, which included 30 hours a week of clinical rotations. All of this while having to travel to Houston for Ralph’s cancer treatments every two months,” the bride revealed.

Sarah turned to Marry Me Tampa Bay at the beginning of the planning process, “to get ideas on where to start.”

“We toured a few venues that were featured on Marry Me Tampa Bay and went through the vendor list when creating a list to start inquiring about our date. Once we found our planner and photographer, we went through the site to confirm that they were the right choices for us and to see more of their portfolios and reviews,” the bride shared. “When planning decorations and themes with my planner, I often referred to local weddings that were published on Marry Me Tampa Bay for ideas on how to incorporate my vision into real life, and I read up on the destination bachelorette party that was featured on the site and ended up choosing an all-inclusive resort in Mexico, which was amazing!”

To make their wedding day a memorable experience, the couple hired a Tampa wedding planner with style, design experience, and a “unique” eye.

“Being a nurse, I often find myself struggling with creative projects, which is exactly where Staci came in handy. I would have a very vague idea, and she would run with it and create something amazing. I could go on and on about how beneficial and great UNIQUE Weddings + Events was for the planning process, but that was just half of their skill. The name UNIQUE is truly how I would describe her style, which is one of the main reasons I chose her for my New Year’s Eve wedding. We had a lot of wild ideas that did not intimidate her at all and it was refreshing to see her perfectly capture our vision,” the bride gushed. “During the week of the wedding, Staci put out so many fires that would have had me freaking out. She never once panicked or didn’t have a solution. For example, two days prior to the wedding, my photobooth vendor canceled. Instead of calling me and asking what I wanted her to do, she called and said she had already contacted two other companies got the pricing and details!”

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Every couple goes into planning their big day with one detail they absolutely want to nail, and for Sarah, choosing just the right wedding photographer was the top of her list.

“Picking a photographer was very difficult in the beginning. I would scroll through Instagram for hours looking at #tampaweddingphotographer tags for the right match. One night, I came across Shauna & Jordon Photography and I just knew. Their photos are light, airy, and timeless, exactly what I was looking for,” the bride beamed. “I chose them because they were flexible, kind, and confident, but most importantly, I truly felt at ease and comfortable with them. Ralph was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and his appearance has changed significantly throughout all of his treatment. When Shauna asked me why photos are important, and I explained our situation and the importance of having a skilled and experienced photographer, she immediately teared up and hugged me. When you are a “Cooney Couple” you are more than just another bride and groom. Shauna and Jordon will laugh with you, cry with you, and make you feel like the most beautiful couple in the world. This is their life and you can truly see that through all of their photos!”

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Sometimes fate brings people together and for the bride, meeting Christine, owner of Femme Akoi Beauty Studio was the unplanned connection she needed.

“I have a friend who owns a local home decor shop in Dunedin. As I was browsing the shop one day, a very sweet woman came and offered to braid my hair for free! Three minutes later I had a gorgeous updo that people would have thought took hours to do. After inquiring about wedding services and researching Femme Akoi on Instagram and Marry Me Tampa Bay, I knew I had to book them fast, specifically Christine,” the bride gushed. “My favorite thing about Femme Akoi is that they keep you looking very natural. No one wants to not look like themselves on their wedding day, and Christine made me feel so beautiful and confident, while still making me look natural and feel like myself.”

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So many memories will stay with Sarah and Ralph forever, but getting the opportunity to be surrounded by their closest friends and family on New Year’s Eve truly meant the most.

“The most memorable moment was when the clock struck midnight! We planned so much around this exact minute that we truly wanted it to be special,” the bride reminisced. “Every guest was on the dance floor when Ralph snuck into a full sequin tuxedo jacket, and NYE hats and poppers were handed out. All eyes were on our glittery clock hanging above the dance floor as our amazing DJ from Grant Hemond & Associates led us on a countdown to midnight! Then as everyone screamed with joy, a streamer gun went off over the dance floor and all of the windows looking out to downtown Tampa were filled with fireworks! Ralph popped a bottle of champagne and we had our very first New Year’s kiss as a married couple. It was truly something out of a movie and we wish we could relive that moment over and over!”

Elegant Classic White and Gold Wedding Invitation Suite | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography

Round Solitaire Diamond Engagement Ring | Tampa Bay Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography

Elegant Classic Plunging V Neckline Ballgown with Hidden Pockets Andrina Style Wtoo by Watters Wedding Dress | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography

Tampa Bride and Bridesmaids in Pink Robes Champagne Cheers Getting Wedding Ready Hotel Portrait | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Wedding Hair and Makeup Femme Akoi Beauty Studio

Tampa Groom in Black Tuxedo and Bride in Plunging Neckline Ballgown Wtoo by Watters Wedding Dress | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Wedding Hair and Makeup Femme Akoi

The Proposal:
I was planning on proposing to Sarah when I was taking her to Lebanon for the first time. I had perfect plans of proposing on the top of a mountain that overlooks all of Lebanon. However a few months before the trip, I was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer and had to undergo multiple surgeries, as well as several cycles of chemotherapy. Our trip was canceled, but our love was not, and I still wanted to propose. During chemotherapy, I reached out to my best friend and his wife and they helped me plan the proposal. Sarah was at work as a pediatric nurse for 12 hours. During that time we decorated and prepared my house. Upon Sarah walking into the house, there were candles and roses everywhere, balloons with pictures of us hanging from them, and soft romantic music playing in the background. She was completely shocked and surprised!

Classic Groom in Black Tuxedo and Bowtie and White Rose Boutonniere | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events

Classic Elegant Tampa Bride Beauty Portrait in Plunging V Neckline Ballgown Wtoo by Watters Wedding Dress Holding White Roses Floral Bouquet, Braided Updo, Long Veil | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Wedding Hair and Makeup Femme Akoi Beauty Studio | Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events

What were your hair and makeup inspiration?
I have a friend who owns a local home decor shop in Dunedin. As I was browsing the shop one day, a very sweet woman came and offered to braid my hair for free! Three minutes later I had a gorgeous updo that people would have thought took hours to do.

After inquiring about wedding services and researching Femme Akoi Beauty Studio on Instagram and Marry Me Tampa Bay, I knew I had to book them fast, specifically Christine. My favorite thing about Femme Akoi is that they keep you looking very natural. No one wants to not look like themselves on their wedding day, and Christine made me feel so beautiful and confident, while still making me look natural and feel like myself. They were very organized, and the logistics were so easy to work out. I had two artists for myself, three bridesmaids, and my mom. Everyone loved their hair and makeup on the first try, and both artists were calm, sweet, and patient on the wedding day! Absolutely recommend!

Classic Bride with Bridesmaids in Matching Black Dresses Holding White Floral Bouquets | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events | Wedding Hair and Makeup Femme Akoi Beauty Studio

Romantic Classic Bride and Groom Wedding Portrait with Veil Blowing in Wind | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events | Tampa Bay Wedding Hair and Makeup Femme Akoi Beauty Studio

Classic Elegant Bride and Groom with Wedding Party in Black Tie Attire | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events | Tampa Bay Wedding Hair and Makeup Femme Akoi Beauty Studio

Simple Classic New Year's Eve Wedding Ceremony Decor, Arch with White Draped Linens, Greenery Arrangement and White Florals, Red Brick Fireplace Backdrop, Tampa Agliano Park Courtyard | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events | Wedding Rentals A Chair Affair

Elegant Classic Wedding Ceremony Decor, White Draped Arch with Greenery and White Roses and Hydrangeas, White Pedestals with Floating Candle Vases, Red Brick Fireplace Backdrop | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events |

Elegant Classic Wedding Ceremony Decor, Tall White Pedestals with Floating Candle Vases | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events

New Year's Eve Elegant Classic Nighttime Wedding Ceremony, Bride and Groom Exchanging Vows, White Draped Arch with Greenery and White Floral Arrangement, Red Brick Fireplace Backdrop | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events

New Year's Eve Nighttime Classic Bride and Groom Wedding Ceremony Portrait in Courtyard at Tampa Agliano Park | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events

Romantic Classic Bride and Groom Veil Blowing Portrait | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events

What did you look for in a wedding photographer?
I have always been very into photography. From day one of planning, I knew photography was one of the most important aspects of the wedding. When the day is over, photos are the only thing you have to remember your special day, so I wanted to make sure I found a photographer who was experienced, patient, and could tell us exactly what to do to ensure successful portraits.

Picking a photographer was very difficult in the beginning. I would scroll through Instagram for hours looking at #tampaweddingphotographer tags for the right match. One night, I came across Shauna & Jordon Photography and I just knew. Their photos are light, airy, and timeless, exactly what I was looking for. We set up an inquiry meeting and instantly knew Shauna and Jordon were more than just photographers. I chose them because they were flexible, kind, and confident, but most importantly, I truly felt at ease and comfortable with them. Ralph was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2018, and his appearance has changed significantly throughout all of his treatment. When Shauna asked me why photos are important and I explained our situation and the importance of having a skilled and experienced photographer, she immediately teared up and gave me a hug. When you are a “Cooney Couple” you are more than just another bride and groom. Shauna and Jordon will laugh with you, cry with you, and make you feel like the most beautiful couple in the world! Not to mention they are excellent with service and communication. They were, and still are, quick to respond and are very professional when dealing with anyone. This is not a side gig for them, this is their life and you can truly see that through all of their photos!

Classic Bride and Groom on the Streets at The University of Tampa | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography

Classic Bride with White Fur Shawl and Groom on the Streets at The University of Tampa | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Wedding Hair and Makeup Femme Akoi Beauty Studio

New Year's Eve Wedding Reception Decor, Gold and Navy Blue Clock Seating Chart | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events

How would you describe your theme/wedding design inspiration?
Our wedding was on New Year’s Eve, so we definitely used the holiday as an inspiration for our theme. We focused on black, white, and gold to keep it classy yet formal. We also put a lot of focus on midnight by using clocks as decoration! Ralph is a total foodie, so we made sure that food was a huge part of our wedding, especially fun deserts. Our cocktail hour and reception combined lasted a total of five-ish hours. During that time, we incorporated fun surprises almost every hour to keep the party going! We chose New Year’s Eve because we knew it would make for a fun and exciting party with our closest friends and family!

What were your colors?
Black, white, and gold. My bridesmaids were in black sequins, and the groomsmen were in classic black tuxedos. I wanted all soft, white flowers to pop against the mostly dark decor. One of my favorite features from the florist was that most of the greenery was painted gold to match our theme. We also loved the black and white checkerboard dance floor! It definitely made the room more whimsical and fun!

Large LOVE Wedding Reception Decor Standing Sign | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events | Wedding Rentals A Chair Affair

New Year's Eve Wedding Reception Decor, Custom Navy Blue and Gold Font Napkins, Personalized Ice Sculptures and Vodka Martini Glass Table | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events | Wedding Rentals A Chair Affair

New Year's Eve Wedding Reception Decor, Custom Bride and Groom Laser Cut White Name Sign and Vegetable Platter | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events | Wedding Rentals A Chair Affair

Formal New Year's Eve Wedding Reception Decor, Sweetheart Table with Black and Gold Tablecloth, Romantic Candles and Greenery, Gold Chiavari Chairs | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events, Wedding Rentals A Chair Affair

Formal New Year's Eve Wedding Reception Decor, Round Tables with Black Linens, Gold Chiavari Chairs, Tall Vase with Gold Painted Palm Monstera Leaves and White Orchids Centerpieces, White and Gokd Clocks | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Bay Wedding Rentals A Chair Affair | Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events

What type of rentals did you get from A Chair Affair?
A Chair Affair provided chairs for the ceremony and reception, dance floor, and some tables. The gold chairs for the reception created an elegant contrast with the black linens, and the black and white checkered dance floor created the classic look we were hoping to capture. A Chair Affair also provided the furniture for the lounge area during cocktail hour and dessert room.

Formal New Year's Eve Wedding Reception Decor, Black and White Clock, White Roses and Hydrangeas Floral Centerpiece, Gold Charger with White Linen, Black Tablecloth | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events | Wedding Rentals A Chair Affair

Formal New Year's Eve Wedding Reception Decor, Round Tables with Black Linens, Gold Chiavari Chairs, Tall Vase with Gold Painted Palm Monstera Leaves and White Orchids Centerpieces, White and Gokd Clocks | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Bay Wedding Rentals A Chair Affair | Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events

Classic Three Tier White Wedding Cake with Roses and Custom Gold Cake Topper on Table with Gold Sequin Tablecloth and Candles | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events

Classic Formal Bride and Groom First Dance Wedding Portrait on Black and White Checkered Dance Floor | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Wedding DJ Grant Hemond and Associates | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events

What did you look for in a wedding DJ?
We wanted someone who knew how to keep a party going. We were going to have a decent mix of younger and older guests and wanted to make everyone happy with our choices. Ralph really wanted European club-like music, and I’m the world’s biggest Britney Spears fan, so we needed a fun mix of both.

We took recommendations from our wedding planner and a few couples who used Grant Hemond & Associates. The company was easy to contact and quick to respond when developing a quote. Our DJ was Eric Harding. He was open to all suggestions and kept everyone dancing past midnight!

Classic Formal Bride and Groom First Dance Wedding Portrait on Black and White Checkered Dance Floor | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Wedding DJ Grant Hemond and Associates | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events

Fun New Year's Eve Wedding Midnight Kiss Portrait, Confetti and Champagne | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events | Wedding DJ Grant Hemond & Associates

What did you look for in a wedding planner?
For the first month, I didn’t have a wedding planner, then I realized I was in over my head! Both of our families live out-of-town, we both work full-time, and I was finishing my Master’s degree in nursing, which included 30 hours a week of clinical rotations. All of this while having to travel to Houston for Ralph’s cancer treatments every two months. I knew after choosing our venue that I needed someone to help me transform it into exactly what we imagined.

After searching through several wedding planner websites, I found UNIQUE Weddings + Events and saw that Staci had done the only other wedding at our venue. Lucky for me, I had a friend who had previously worked with her and she gave nothing but glowing reviews. After scheduling a consultation call that lasted almost two hours, I knew Staci was the right person for the job. She was eager and full of ideas! I was so thankful for her throughout the wedding process because she was always on top of everything. Ralph and I were busy with so many other things, but Staci truly kept us in the loop with the planning while respecting our desires and budget preferences. The name UNIQUE is truly how I would describe her style, which is one of the main reasons I chose her for my New Year’s Eve wedding. We had a lot of wild ideas that didn’t intimidate her at all, and it was refreshing to see her perfectly capture our vision.

Being a nurse, I often find myself struggling with creative projects, which is exactly where Staci came in handy. I would have a very vague idea, and she would run with it and create something amazing. Even a few weeks later when I changed my mind, she would revamp ideas without a complaint. I could go on and on about how beneficial and great UNIQUE Weddings + Events was for the planning process but that was just half of their skill. During the week of the wedding, Staci put out so many fires that would have had me freaking out. She never once panicked or didn’t have a solution. For example, two days prior to the wedding, my photobooth vendor canceled. Instead of calling me and asking what I wanted her to do, she called and said she had already contacted two other companies got the pricing and details!

Formal New Year's Eve Bride and Groom Exiting Reception | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner UNIQUE Weddings + Events

Tampa Bride and Groom in White Vintage Getaway Car | Wedding Photographer Shauna and Jordon Photography

What advice would you give to other Tampa Bay couples?
Be flexible and hire a wedding planner! Your mind will change every day and planners help you reel it all in and make things actually happen. Try to just go with the flow, and let things fall naturally. A wedding planner or even a day-of coordinator is the best investment you can make because things will happen on the wedding day, and you truly do not want to be stressed! I can’t tell you how many problems Staci solved without stressing me out! Most importantly, enjoy the little things and forget the rest. Time goes by so fast, so truly enjoy every single moment!

Ceremony Venue: The University of Tampa Agliano Park
Reception Venue: The University of Tampa Vaughn Center
Photographer: Shauna and Jordon Photography *Preferred Marry Me Tampa Bay Wedding Pros
Videographer: A Peachy Life Productions
Planner: UNIQUE Weddings + Events *Preferred Marry Me Tampa Bay Wedding Pro
Draping and Florist: Events in Bloom
Caterer: Sodexo USA at the University of Tampa
Dance Floor, Chairs, Table, and Furniture Rentals: A Chair Affair *Preferred Marry Me Tampa Bay Wedding Pro
Lighting and Special Effects: Cory Barron & Co.
Cake: Publix
DJ: Grant Hemond & Associates – Eric Harding *Preferred Marry Me Tampa Bay Wedding Pros
Officiant: Sensational Ceremonies
Invitations: Minted
Transportation: Ambassador Limo
Dress and Veil: Wtoo by Waters Andrina and Sara Gabriel
Bridesmaid Dress Shop: David’s Bridal
Hair & Makeup: Femme Akoi Beauty Studio *Preferred Marry Me Tampa Bay Wedding Pro
Photo Booth: Say Queso Photo Booth
Wedding Day Stationery: WeddingInvy Stationery Studio




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