Heather and Stephen's Love Story:
Stephen and I met in college through a mutual friend at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. We began dating in December of 2005. We had a blast together and spent as much time as we could around each other.
Six months after our relationship began, Stephen graduated and moved home to St. Petersburg to attend Law School at Stetson University. During that time Stephen drove to Orlando almost every weekend to visit me. When we weren’t together, we were thinking about the next time we could be together. His long distance visits were always romantic and exciting.
Once I was finished with my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Communication in December 2012, we packed up my stuff and I moved to St. Petersburg. We shared a condo (our first home together) with our miniature Dachshund, Brighton, who we’ve been totally in obsessed with since adopting her as a puppy in 2007.
Almost exactly one year after moving in together in St. Petersburg and seven years after we started dating, Stephen got down on one knee and asked me to marry him!
T’was two nights before Christmas and we had just finished a dinner with his family at Grazzi Italian Grille in Downtown St. Pete. On the way to the car, Stephen suggested we grab a cup of coffee at Paciugo on Beach Drive and take a stroll through North Straub Park, which at that time of year is beautifully studded with hundreds of lights. As we circled the park, Stephen started guiding us closer to the middle of the grass. Then, he grabbed my shoulder and turned me around so we were standing face to face. It was then that he said “Heather, I have a question for you.” As he reached into his pocket, I knew what he was about to say. I think my coffee and my jaw dropped simultaneously.
He said “Heather, will you marry me?”
I am quite a talkative gal and I was rendered absolutely speechless. I will never forget the way his eyes were glowing and how the ring sparkled under the Christmas lights. After about 20 seconds of tears and shock, I finally got the word “YES” to form between my lips. We had discussed marriage seriously for several years, but Stephen 100% surprised me with his proposal.
Then, his parents, sister and brother-in-law surprised us both. They had followed us to the park, knowing the proposal was going to happen, but Stephen didn’t know they had tagged along. They emerged from the other side of the park to congratulate us! It was one of the most joy-filled and exciting nights of our lives, and we will always carry it in our minds and hearts.
With the couple now living together in St. Petersburg, Fl, they decided to also tie the knot in their “new” hometown.
“I grew up in Boca Raton and Stephen was born and raised here in St. Petersburg. After college, I didn’t think twice about moving to St. Pete. We are a very laid back couple, so the easygoing pace of St. Pete is perfect for us,” Heather explained. “We chose to have our wedding here for this very reason. It was a wonderful way to introduce my family and friends to the beautiful Tampa Bay area that I have fallen in love with!”
To keep their St. Pete wedding timeless, Heather and Stephen chose black, charcoal, silver and white for their Renaissance Vinoy wedding.
“We absolutely love the rich history and the landmark status that the Vinoy holds,” the bride shared. “We wanted an outdoor ceremony, but without the wind and lack of privacy of the beach, and the Vinoy’s Tea Garden gave us just that. We also did not want the reception to be in a windowless standard ballroom, which is why the Sunset Ballroom at the Vinoy Golf Club was a perfect fit for us. Plus, all of our guests got to enjoy the beautiful Bay, Beach Drive and even check out the park where Stephen and I got engaged (right in front of The Vinoy)!”
Food and drink played an important part of the couple's wedding day celebration, and the couple wanted more than just your average buffet.
“We wanted our reception to be an interactive food and cocktail experience, and the Renaissance Vinoy truly delivered in this category. We chose a hot station style dinner which included: a macaroni and cheese station, a local farm station and even a Cigar City Brewery Station, where all the food was paired with flights of Cigar City’s craft brews. Stephen and I are both big craft beer people so this station really fit our personalities well,” the bride explained. “We also had a signature liquor drink called The Dizzy Dachshund, which incorporated our crazy love for our dachshund Brighton.”
So that the bride and groom could focus on enjoying their big day, they hired St. Petersburg wedding planner Burkle Events.
“A lot of hard work and preparation went into making the day as special and memorable as it was, and we wanted to be able to enjoy every second of it. Even though I only hired Burkle Events to make sure the actual wedding day ran smoothly, they went above and beyond to act as our advocates throughout the entire process,” Heather shared. “They exceeded their description of services by keeping track of vendors far before the wedding day, attending walkthroughs at The Vinoy and answering any questions or concerns that I had from the first day I hired them.”
Looking back, the bride said the most important element of the couple's wedding day was celebrating their love for one another.
“Above all else we made sure that the focus was placed on the loving bond shared between my husband and I,” Heather reminisced. “The support, encouragement and love that our family and friends surrounded us with on that day played a huge role in preserving that element.”
“Instead of writing individual vows, we wrote one vow together that we recited to each other. Writing our vow together was a beautiful way for us to bond over planning our ceremony.” – The Bride
“Burkle Events went above and beyond to act as our advocates throughout the entire process. They exceeded their description of services by keeping track of vendors far before the wedding day, attending walkthroughs at The Vinoy and answering any questions or concerns that I had from the first day I hired them.” – The Bride
“Above all else we made sure that the focus was placed on the loving bond shared between my husband and I. The support, encouragement and love that our family and friends surrounded us with on that day played a huge role in preserving that element.” – The Bride
What advice would you give other Tampa Bay Brides?
As important as your family and friends are to planning and executing a once-in-a-lifetime wedding, make sure you make wedding decisions based on what is right for you and your fiancé.
When wedding planning gets stressful or at any point stops feeling fun, exciting and positive; take a step back and remember what it’s all about. Have a date night with your fiancé and remind yourself why you’re doing all of this. At the end of the day, it’s the two of you walking off into the sunset (or Florida monsoon) on life’s journey together.
St. Petersburg Wedding Reception Venue: Renaissance Vinoy *Preferred Marry Me Tampa Bay Wedding Venue
St. Petersburg Wedding Photographer: Photography by Avery
St. Petersburg Wedding Planner: Burkle Events
St. Petersburg Wedding Florist: Delma’s, The Flower Booth
St. Petersburg Wedding Caterer: Renaissance Vinoy
St. Petersburg Wedding Cake: Renaissance Vinoy
St. Petersburg Wedding Rentals: Rent All City
St. Petersburg Wedding DJ: Grant Hemond & Associates – DJ Ben Daniele *Preferred Marry Me Tampa Bay Vendor
St. Petersburg Wedding Officiant: Harvey H Harling (Family Friend)
St. Petersburg Wedding Invitations: Carlson Crafts
St. Petersburg Wedding Dress: The Dressing Room
St. Petersburg Wedding Hair & Makeup: Destiny and Light Hair & Makeup
St. Petersburg Wedding Cigar Rollers: Rodriguez and Menendez Cigars
We are proud to have Burkle Events as a Marry Me Tampa Bay sponsor!