Winners of Jacksonville Magazine’s fourth annual great wedding giveaway enjoy a spectacular oceanside ceremony and reception.
photography by Palm Tree Studios • from the Fall/Winter edition of Bride
For most people, the morning of May 14 passed like any ordinary Monday. For Sherry and Gil, the winners of Jacksonville Magazine’s fourth annual Great Wedding Giveaway, that day marked a milestone in their lives. Not only did this lucky couple win a wedding worth over $40,000, they were married at 8 AM live on WJXT Channel 4’s The Morning Show. How’s that for wedding-day jitters?
Channel 4 began coverage of the big day at 4:30 AM, when Sherry and her bridal party arrived at Serenata Beach Club to get transformed by the stylists of Bellezza Salon. Gil and his groomsmen filtered in shortly afterwards. Television viewers at home were able to watch all the preparations behind-the-scenes and catch interviews with Sherry and Gil, as well as their parents and guests, who trickled in just after 7 AM.
The string quartet from Wehner’s Weddings began the processional just after 8 AM with their rendition of “Yellow” by Coldplay, a special request by the couple. After Gil escorted his mother down the aisle, the groomsmen appeared from the beach, and the bridesmaids processed in.
Gil and Sherry’s dogs, a Boston terrier and a pug, served as the ring bearer and flower girl and were escorted by Gil’s twin nephews, Miles and Morgan. This foursome stole the show, and giggles were shared when the Boston terrier took off down the aisle upon seeing Gil. Sherry made her grand entrance from the pool area. It was a dramatic solo journey to her parents, who then escorted the bride the rest of the way to the chuppah, the ceremonial canopy which was built by the groom for the special day.
The ceremony was a tribute to the couple’s creativity and mutual respect. It joined their cultural traditions and symbolized their commitment to honoring their very different roots and building a partnership based on sharing, learning, and celebration. Gil’s uncle, Keith, presided over the ceremony. The bride and groom included their parents and sponsors in the rituals and exchanged heartfelt, personalized vows.
Since Gil and Sherry love the outdoors, the bride chose the colors of brown and apple green to be in harmony with nature, particularly with Serenata’s beautiful backdrop of the dunes and the Atlantic Ocean. Their floral arrangements from Floriade incorporated curly willow branches, succulents, and the whimsical addition of Granny Smith apples.
The bride and groom’s creativity extended beyond the ceremony and into the reception. Instead of a standard guest book, the couple created a guest “sign” post. The wooden sign post identified both the geographical areas from which guests came and the miles they traveled in order to take part in the wedding. Guests were asked to sign on the arrow that indicated his or her region as a way for the couple to convey their appreciation for their guests.
Attendees were given candy apples with attached pinwheels that displayed their table assignments. Each table in the dining room was named after a country or city visited by the couple on one of their special trips together. Cookie favors were arranged at each place setting, and guests were also offered an elaborate candy bar.
Sherry and Gil had another treat for their guests: a choreographed first dance that they had been keeping a secret. The performance brought down the house. The dance began slowly and then took a whirlwind spin through Haddaway’s “What is Love,” Soulja Boy’s “Crank That,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and finally Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark.”
The energy remained high throughout the day, and the dance floor was always filled with smiling faces. The bride and groom said their farewells shortly after 1 PM and left with wonderful memories. Sherry and Gil continued their celebration the following weekend with a honeymoon stay at the gorgeous Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys. After months of wedding planning, they were excited to slow down the pace and indulge in each other’s company. The newlyweds relaxed by the pool, savored delicious meals, took a dip in the saltwater lagoon, tried stand-up paddleboarding, and explored the island. It was a perfect finale to an unforgettable occasion.
It’s Good to Be Sherry & Gil
This incredible oceanside wedding would not have been possible without the generous contributions of the 2012 Great Wedding Giveaway sponsors. Here, Sherry describes her experiences working with the service providers who gave her and Gil the $40,000 wedding of their dreams.
Serenata Beach Club • Wedding Ceremony & Reception
Serenata Beach Club was the beautiful oceanfront setting for both our ceremony and reception. The director of sales, Cordel Crowley, was absolutely amazing! He has so much experience in planning and executing a flawless wedding. Kourtney McClure and the rest of the Serenata staff were very professional and attentive as well. After our first meeting with Cordel, Gil and I left feeling confident that we were in good hands and did not have to worry about a thing! Our ceremony was held on the second-floor verandah, which offered our guests a breathtaking, 180-degree view of the Atlantic Ocean over the sand dunes. The view is stunning! I received so many compliments from family and friends on the food and high quality of service. The chef customized a delicious brunch buffet that more than satisfied every one of our guests. So many of our guests told me that it was the best wedding they have attended. Much of the day’s success is owed to the expertise and performance of Serenata’s staff. (904) 823-3368 • SerenataClub.com
Palm Tree Studios • Photography Package
Palm Tree Studios, a family business operated by Steve and Laura Janowicz, offers various photography and video services for any special occasion. Gil and I brought along our dogs for the engagement session at Memorial Park, and we had a blast. Steve and Laura made good use of the park and also found other interesting backdrops in the area. They provided three photographers for our wedding to ensure that all of our important moments were captured at just the right angles. They were great at documenting both the candid, emotional experiences of the day and also the formal portraiture needed for such a gathering. (904) 264-0388 • PalmTreeStudios.com
Casa Marina Hotel • Bridal Shower
Rebekah Blakely Lowry at Casa Marina was such a pleasure to work with! She organized my bridal shower in their Penthouse Lounge, which consists of three areas. The first section consisted of the well-stocked bar and a comfortable lounge seating area, where my guests were able to relax upon their arrival. They were treated to mimosas and chicken empanadas. For lunch, we moved to the upper dining section of the Lounge, which provided stunning views of the ocean while we dined on our choice of flat iron steak or teriyaki grilled pork chops. After dessert and games, we enjoyed the sights and sounds of the beach in the Lounge’s outdoor balcony area. (904) 270-0025 • CasaMarinaHotel.com
McGee Entertainment • DJ Services
Milton McGee was a very professional and entertaining DJ. He made sure that the energy was high and the dance floor was always filled, an amazing accomplishment considering the reception began at 10 AM on a Monday! During the planning stage, I really liked using McGee Entertainment’s online tool to work out the timeline and music for the reception events (such as the cake-cutting ceremony and the toasts). A DJ can easily make or break a reception, so it is vital you have confidence in the one you choose. I highly recommend McGee Entertainment. (904) 744-3535 • McGeeEntertainment.com
Publix • Wedding Cake for 100
Gil and I planned our three-tier wedding cake with Bridget Mason and Lucy Fergus at the Publix bakery in the Vilano Beach Town Center, St. Augustine. They had wonderful recommendations and were so sweet to work with! I chose one vanilla creme tier and two chocolate creme tiers with buttercream frosting. The cake was completely covered in chocolate ganache and decorated with beautiful gum paste flowers. It was so moist and absolutely delicious! Our guests loved it. Publix offers such a great value for their high-quality products and service. Publix.com
LOVE, A Bridal Boutique • Gown Gift Certificate
I have been in large bridal shop chains in the North Florida area. Those stores were always crowded, and I felt rushed during my appointments. When I went to Love Bridal Boutique, it was such a refreshing and fun experience. My bridal consultant, Melissa Militano, was very attentive, and I never felt rushed by her to make a decision. The intimate boutique provides that much-needed, one-on-one service to find the perfect dress, and they offer a nice variety of styles from high-quality designers. I chose a gorgeous Essence of Australia gown and loved wearing it the entire day of the wedding. (904) 242-9800 • LoveBridalBoutique.com
Hawks Cay Resort • Honeymoon Stay
Hawks Cay Resort treated us to a three-night stay with a sunset cruise and daily breakfast buffet. Hawks Cay is situated on Duck Key, right in the middle of the Keys, about an hour north of Key West. Our guest room was well-appointed and had a private patio with views of the Atlantic Ocean. The staff was friendly and attentive during our entire stay. We enjoyed stand-up paddleboarding and rented a tandem bike to explore the island. We also relaxed by one of their multiple swimming pools and took a dip in the saltwater lagoon. Our favorite part of our stay was simply watching the brilliant colors of the sunset every night from one of the docks at the marina. It was a memorable trip, and we felt rejuvenated after our stay. (724) 466-1920
Faith Jewelers • Wedding Bands
Faith Jewelers is a family-operated business that has a great selection of jewelry for all occasions. Gwen Strickland, the owner, and her son, Josh, were so friendly and helpful. I wanted to find a wedding band that had baguettes similar to my engagement ring (which did not have a matching band from the manufacturer). I feared this would be too difficult a task, but Gwen went through her inventory and found the perfect wedding band. The baguettes lined up precisely with the ones in my engagement ring. It was a beautiful match. Gwen and Josh also found an attractive, lightweight ring for Gil in cobalt, a metal that is scratch-resistant and stronger than platinum. We are thrilled with our wedding bands and will certainly be returning to Faith Jewelers in the future. (904) 388-3340 • FaithJewelers.com
Bellezza Salon & Boutique • Hair & Makeup
Staff from Bellezza Salon went on-site at Serenata and provided hair and makeup services for my mother, mother-in-law, sponsor, bridesmaids and me. Pam Timberlake, the owner of Bellezza Salon, was the lead stylist for hair. For my look, I envisioned a half updo with a braid and flowing curls for a romantic and natural feel. She executed it perfectly! Kendra Timberlake was the lead makeup artist. She really listened to each person’s makeup preferences and made us look our best. The whole hair and makeup team was fantastic! Our hairstyles withstood the Florida humidity, and our makeup was unaffected by the inevitable tears of joy. (904) 280-4247 • BellezzaSalonandBoutique.com
Dr. Barton, Admira Dentistry • Teeth Whitening
Admira Dentistry provided a teeth whitening package for both Gil and me. Dr. Joseph Barton and his staff were so friendly, professional, and were able to answer our questions about the technical process of teeth whitening and the minimal maintenance afterwards. They made custom-molded trays that were so easy to use, and we saw immediate results from the treatment. Thanks to Dr. Barton, Gil and I were able to look our best on our wedding day and it is forever captured in our pictures and video. (904) 733-9144 • PowerfulSmiles.com
Ellie Bing • Vintage Jewelry
Ellie Bing has two locations, one in Avondale and one in Jacksonville Beach. The boutique has a great assortment of fun and unique jewelry for all occasions, but you can also find classic styles for those desiring a traditional look. Sheila Harper was passionate about the latest trends in fashion and showed us the many possibilities for accessorizing for the big day. I fell in love with their Parisian gold line and chose a gorgeous set of earrings and matching bracelet. My mother and godmother also found jewelry that complemented their dresses and personalities so well. (904) 249-6444, Jax Beach • 232-8866, Avondale
Bella Bridesmaid • Rehearsal Dinner Dress
Bella Bridesmaid is a wonderful boutique in the heart of San Marco with a wide variety of dresses in both classic and modern styles. Ashley English was so friendly and attentive to the style of dress I envisioned for my bridesmaids. She helped me choose a playful, strapless Alfred Sung dress in Appletini. The hidden pockets made it fun and practical, and the dress also mimicked the ruched, sweetheart bodice of my wedding gown. It was perfect. Ashley also provided me with a beautiful, one-shoulder Alfred Sung dress for my rehearsal dinner. I received so many compliments on it, and I cannot wait to wear it again. (904) 247-9755 • BellaBridesmaid.com
Wehner Weddings • String Quartet
Kyle Wehner was such a pleasure to work with during the planning process. I asked if it was possible to have string adaptations of modern songs during the processional (Coldplay, “Yellow”), bridal entrance (The Beatles, “Something”), and the recessional (The Beatles, “All You Need is Love”). His string quartet already knew The Beatles’ songs, and they accommodated my request easily with a beautiful rendition of the Coldplay song. Many of our guests started tearing up once they heard the strings begin the processional. Their music had such a powerful, emotional effect on our wedding. We were so fortunate to have this talented string quartet for the prelude, ceremony, and the cocktail hour. (904) 502-5526 • WehnerWeddings.com
The Write Touch • Invitations
The Write Touch has a vast collection of invitations for weddings and other special occasions in traditional formats, modern styles, and everything in between. With the help of Katie Hoffman and Rebekah Wirgau, it did not take long to find the perfect invitation with a textured, floral pattern and attractive lettering. The suite included the invitations, response set, and thank you cards. We were very pleased with the high-quality products. (904) 398-2009 • TheWriteTouch.com
Destination Planning • Wedding Planning Services
Ann Urban is an excellent and organized wedding coordinator. She guided our wedding party through the rehearsal and knew exactly what was needed in order to have a smooth flow of events on our big day. Ann’s experience and knowledge added to the success of our event. Knowing that every single detail or question would be addressed efficiently by Ann and/or Cordel made them not only our “dream team,” but it also lifted so much pressure and responsibility off our own shoulders. All we had to do was enjoy our wedding day. (904) 249-3729 • DestinationPlanning.com
The Reef Restaurant • Rehearsal Dinner
We coordinated our rehearsal dinner with Angie Welch-Raccioppi at The Reef Restaurant. They were so kind to take care of us the night before the big day, which happened to be Mother’s Day, one of the restaurant’s busiest times of the year. Angie and the staff were also very accommodating when we had to make some unforeseen, last-minute changes. Our guests enjoyed the intimate banquet area and were treated to his or her choice of roasted sirloin, bronzed mahi, or North Beach chicken. Our favorite part of the meal was their delectable Key lime pie! (904) 824-8008 • TheReefStAugustine.com
Marsh Creek Country Club • Groomsmen Golf Outing
Crystal Hill coordinated a lunch and golf outing for Gil and seven of his close friends and family. They were greeted by a friendly and attentive staff, and the St. Augustine course was well-maintained and challenging. Although not everyone in the group was proud of his score, every one of them enjoyed this day of camaraderie before the wedding. I was also happy that Gil had this opportunity to bond with my brother and father, who is an avid golfer. (904) 461-1101 • MarshCreek.com
Sawgrass Country Club Beach Club • Bridesmaid Luncheon
Michelle Fronek planned a wonderful bridesmaid luncheon for 20 of my guests at the Sawgrass Beach Club. Guests chose between mahi mahi and London broil, and everyone raved about the food. Their dining area offers an impressive panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean, and the staff treated us like royalty. It was a wonderful afternoon with my closest girlfriends and family. (904) 273-3700 • SawgrasssCountryClub.com
Ponte Vedra Plastic Surgery • Gift Basket
PVPS has multiple offices conveniently located all around Northeast Florida. I met with Claudette Walker, a nurse practitioner, who was very knowledgeable about the many services and techniques used to help revitalize one’s appearance. They provided me with an amazing gift package that included products and services like Latisse (a prescription lash enhancer), a facial, and microdermabrasion treatment. Unfortunately, I contacted them too late in the planning process and was unable to get started before the wedding, but I look forward to scheduling my first day of pampering! (904) 273-6200 • PVPS.com
Jacksonville Magazine extends a very special “thanks” to all the Great Wedding Giveaway sponsors. Because of you, Sherry and Gil are no doubt the luckiest and happiest couple in Northeast Florida.