“I have always been drawn to anything mauve so we went with a mauve and dusty rose color combination with gold accents,” the bride shared. “I also love jewel tones so we made sure we had lots of greenery to pair with the dusty florals.”
Although the couple now resides in Westchester, New York, Gina attended school in Tampa Bay and created lots of memories in St. Pete, making it an ideal location for her January wedding.
“We wanted a venue and an area that would provide entertainment for our guests, aside from our wedding, especially for those who came from out-of-town. If people were coming to Florida in the winter, we wanted to make it worth their while and give them other entertainment, dining, and hotel options,” the bride explained. “I was very familiar with downtown St. Pete; I went to college here, I lived down here, and going to The Canopy rooftop bar or Birch & Vine restaurant was an expected stop whenever we would hang out, so I knew I wanted to incorporate The Birchwood into our day somehow. Kevin agreed to the venue without even seeing it in person; he trusted me. Thankfully when he saw it he loved it!”
While planning her destination wedding, Gina utilized Marry Me Tampa Bay to help narrow down her vendor selection.
“We used Marry Me Tampa Bay often through our planning process. I used the website a lot to get a feel for the different venues, inspiration for floral arrangements, and even photography ideas and looks,” the bride divulged. “I would send questions about different vendors I was considering and also when we were thinking about canceling all together due to COVID-19, and Marry Me Tampa Bay was very helpful. We found our planner and hair and makeup artist from the site.”
To guide them during the wedding planning process Gina and Kevin searched for a wedding planner with a strong network of vendors who could handle all of the logistics.
“We knew we were comfortable handling the contracts for additional vendors and administrative-type tasks, but we appreciated that Kelly Kennedy Weddings and Events would check in with us frequently to say, ‘This week you should be doing this, and next week you should have this done.' That was very helpful; it was exactly what we were looking for in a planner. Kelly was a calm presence during a very difficult period when we weren’t sure whether to cancel our wedding all together or to push forward with the changes. She made us feel confident in our decision to go forward, and she helped make our day gorgeous and stress-free even though the logistics changed many times,” Gina raved.
One of the most important parts of the day for the couple was sharing their love and commitment in front of their 69 guests.
“Writing our own vows was important to us and a way for us to incorporate our personalities and also tell a story of our love for our guests,” the bride recalled fondly. “Our families and friends had never really met prior to our wedding day, so it was important to express our love for each other but also help everyone get to know our better half, through our vows.”
What were your wedding hair and makeup inspiration?
I was going for an “Old Hollywood” look, with long hair and wavy curls and light but elegant makeup. I wanted to be playful and glamorous, not serious.
I choose Femme Akoi Beauty Studio and specifically, Maggie, because she really nailed the look I was going for. I did two trials and really felt that she was a great fit. Femme Akoi made the contract process easy. I was easily able to make adjustments as I had two bridesmaids who could not come due to COVID.
Kevin proposed during our Labor Day trip to Florida. He took me to pick out a ring and then we played putt-putt golf and had dinner with friends.
What did you look for in a wedding planner?
We wanted someone who would guide us and help us make the best decisions for our day based on our personalities and level of comfort. We knew we weren't going to do a lot of DIY stuff based on location and travel. We wanted a planner who had a good network and vendors to recommend.
Kelly Kennedy Weddings and Events offers full-service wedding planning, though we knew we were comfortable handling the contracts for additional vendors and administrative-type tasks, we appreciated that she would check in with us frequently to say, ‘This week you should be doing this, and next week you should have this done.' That was very helpful; it was exactly what we were looking for in a planner. We had ideas but knew we needed help on executing them or wanted someone to say if that idea would work and how it would look with our particular venue and set up. We also wanted someone to handle logistics; we absolutely had no desire to handle any of that.
I chose Kelly Kennedy Weddings and Events because our personalities meshed well. She was easy to talk to and really listened to my requests and concerns; she understood what I wanted, and she did not try to sell me services that we really did not need. She was always available by phone or email, and if she wasn't she would let me know ahead of time. Most importantly, she would always get back to me by the time she promised. She was a calm presence during a very difficult period when we weren’t sure whether to cancel our wedding all together or to push forward with the changes. She made us feel confident in our decision to go forward, and she helped make our day gorgeous and stress-free even though the logistics changed many times. We can’t thank Kelly enough. Kelly and Anna really made us feel special and helped make our wedding so beautiful and made the day run seamlessly. Kelly and her team were truly invaluable.
Where are you going on your honeymoon?
We have not taken our honeymoon yet. Kevin wants to go to Hawaii so we will wait until the fall and see if things are better. In the meantime, we are considering going on a mini-moon.
What did you look for in a wedding photographer?
I wanted a wedding photographer who had a light and airy vibe, was experienced, and who had personality and would bring out our playful side. A lot of times weddings can be very serious and professionally our careers are very serious, so I wanted our pictures to be loving and playful and not serious at all. I also did not want a photographer that did the same old shots we see all the time or that are outdated. I would say simple, but elegant, and nothing over the top. I also wanted to make sure there were two photographers, some packages only offer one, but Lifelong Photography offered an option with two which was still reasonable.
We chose Lifelong Photography Studio based on their portfolio and my comfort level with them as they did my sister’s wedding. I spent a lot of time on photographer blogs and websites, Instagram pages, and the Marry Me Tampa Bay, as well as taking the time to speak with many photographers about what services they offered and what their techniques and editing styles were, and I just kept coming back to Lifelong. They have a very soft style which I appreciate. I didn’t want anything super serious or dark.
Buffy was easy to work with, super friendly, and upbeat, and we got to work with her before our wedding when we did our engagement photos. She was very organized and efficient with the photographs and timeline, and she made sure that we got all the shots we were wanting, even when we were tired and ready to give up.
Where did you go for your bachelorette party?
My girlfriends and I rented a house on the water in Tampa and just swam in the pool. We did not feel comfortable traveling at that time, and I did not really want to do anything crazy.
What was your theme?
I wanted a mauve cool-toned vibe, with greenery, bright/light linens, beautiful flowers, and gold accents.
What were your colors?
I'm always drawn to anything mauve so we went with mauve/dusty rose color with gold accents. I also like jewel tones so we made sure we had lots of greenery with dusty florals.
What did you look for in a venue?
We wanted something that was all-inclusive because at the time we were not local to the area, and we did not have the time to handpick each and every vendor. That was very important to us. I saw how much stress my sister had when planning her garden wedding. She had to pick a vendor for every single thing such as tents, dance floor, tables and chairs, linens, flatware. etc. The thought of doing that was overwhelming and sounded very unpleasant. We already knew this would be a bit more difficult with us not being local, so we did not want to add any extra stress to the planning process.
Therefore, the venue had to provide most, if not all of that, and The Birchwood did! We wanted a venue and an area that would provide entertainment for our guests, aside from our wedding, especially for those who came from out-of-town. If people were coming to Florida in the winter, we wanted to make it worth their while and give them other entertainment, dining, and hotel options.
I was very familiar with downtown St. Pete; I went to college here, I lived down here, and going to The Canopy rooftop bar or Birch & Vine restaurant was an expected stop whenever we would hang out, so I knew I wanted to incorporate The Birchwood into our day somehow. Surprisingly enough, I never knew The Birchwood had a ballroom until our wedding planner enlightened me. Kevin agreed to the venue without even seeing it in person; he trusted me. Thankfully when he saw it he loved it! The Birchwood's service was wonderful! Heather and Mary were so helpful and easy to work with and were accommodating during COVID. The food was great, and the staff treated us and our guests wonderfully.
What did you look for in a wedding florist?
I wanted a florist who had talent, was easy to work with and had a bunch of prior work that I could see. We knew florals would be a big expense, but they were important. I could take or leave a lot of other “extras” but florals were not negotiable.
I chose Jean King, with Monarch Events and Design, after speaking with six other florists. Jean spent many hours over the last six months of our wedding planning, talking with me on the phone, texting with me, and meeting with me. I would randomly text her a photo of something that I liked or something that I wanted to add on, and she would give me her honest advice or recommendation, or simply just tell me that I had such wonderful taste. Who doesn’t love to hear that?
Jean exceeded our expectations as our centerpieces were even larger and grander than I anticipated. She understood my vision more than I even did! She also added in extra touches that we did not even talk about, but which made me so happy to see. It’s all in the details. She is a true gem! Jean really understood my vision, was able to execute it, and most importantly did not overcharge us. She had to revise our contract with my constant changes and add-ons about 10x and never once complained. Jean is such a kind person, and she truly wanted our day to look beautiful. It was such a pleasure working with her.
What did you look for in a wedding DJ? We absolutely wanted a DJ who was upbeat and that could keep the energy moving up. We wanted someone who was lively and got people on the dance floor but that did not play the same songs we always hear.
We specifically chose Adam with Grant Hemond and Associates because he DJ’d my sister’s wedding, and I just loved his vibe. He was super friendly and seemed excited to be there. He also kept people on the dance floor. Though we didn’t ask, Adam also recorded our toasts which was a nice touch!
Kevin was afraid that no one would want to dance because of social distancing but that was not the case at all. To know that family and friends took the time to travel and celebrate us and in the process were willing to potentially risk their health to do so; it made me emotional and grateful. When we were all dancing together it was nice to just be in that moment and appreciate the risks people took to be there for us. It was heartwarming and we felt really loved.
Ceremony and Reception Venue, Caterer: The Birchwood *Marry Me Tampa Bay Preferred Wedding Venue
Photographer: Lifelong Photography Studio *Marry Me Tampa Bay Preferred Wedding Pro
Planner: Kelly Kennedy Weddings and Events *Marry Me Tampa Bay Preferred Wedding Pro
Florist: Monarch Events and Design *Marry Me Tampa Bay Preferred Wedding Pro
DJ: Grant Hemond and Associates *Marry Me Tampa Bay Preferred Wedding Pro
Violinist: Julie Paradies
Officiant: Pastor Heath Watson
Dress Shop and Designer: Athena’s Bridal – Morilee by Madeline Gardener
Bridesmaid Dress Shop and Designer: David’s Bridal, Chianti
Hair & Makeup: Femme Akoi Beauty Studio *Marry Me Tampa Bay Preferred Wedding Pro
Rehearsal Dinner: Birch & Vine/The Canopy at The Birchwood
Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
*Preferred Marry Me Tampa Bay Wedding Pros are highly respected by our local wedding community and have been personally vetted by our editor.