Let me start out by saying that Melissa has to be one of my favorite brides. From the very start of our correspondence… She contacted me via email and we both fell in love with each other and shared an immediate connection. We both feel like things in life happen for a reason…and it’s all about timing. Getting to know them, their love story, their FAMILIES, and their friends – this honestly was one of the best weddings I’ve ever EVER been a part of. Not just because of the love from a newlywed couple, but both of their families radiated love. I’m truly so honored to have been a part of such a beautiful day with so many amazing souls. HONORED.
I typically write a blog post about my view of the wedding day. I’m going to bypass it this time only because Melissa and Tommy’s love story and proposal tops anything I could write. So for now, Melissa and Tommy, THANK YOU. Thank you for letting me be a part of your story somehow. I’ve looked back on your day, on your photos, and it makes me smile. I’ll be smiling – remembering you guys for a very long time. “Faith in Humanity…RESTORED!” 😉
How did you two meet?
Tommy and I lived in the same dorm freshman year of college at the University of Florida. I knew some guys from high school who lived on the same hall as Tommy. We became mutual friends after just a few days in Gainesville, and began hanging out in the same circle on a regular basis. At the time, I was dating someone else, so I didn’t think much about impressing Tommy.
We quickly became friends after some shared jokes and drinks together at a house party (sorry mom and dad). We would go to dinner, watch movies in the dorm, cook, and go out for drinks. He was kinda like my “go-to” guy because we got along so well. When I wanted to go get tacos, or penny wine, or even if I needed some company after oh-so-many break-ups, Tommy was always there.
After I graduated, Tommy and I lost touch. I moved to St. Louis to pursue my Master’s degree and he joined the Navy. I got busy with grad school and my first “real job” but still had time to date some genuine losers. No one even came close to being the right guy. Then out of the blue, Labor Day weekend 2015, I got a SnapChat from Tommy saying it had “been a while”. We spent some time chatting and catching up, and things seemed different this time. We started talking more and more, and I looked forward to hearing from him every day. After a month or so, we knew it was serious, so we started making plans for me to fly to Norfolk for Thanksgiving. We’d only been talking for a couple months, but we both wanted to see what might be…
I vividly remember the pep talk I gave myself in the airport bathroom (talking out loud, mind you) when I landed in Norfolk for what could be the best or most awkward four days. There was a first kiss and some sweaty palms, but then everything just felt RIGHT. I didn’t want to leave at the end of the weekend, and that’s when I knew I had fallen hard.
We spent two years long-distance, finding every weekend possible for me to visit him in Virginia. And then we realized it made sense for us to move in together. There were two years in different cities and seven months separated by deployment, but being apart made us stronger in the end.
Looking back, I realize that I was oblivious to most of Tommy’s flirting in college. To this day, there are times we will talk about our days at UF saying, “remember when,” and Tommy will point out that he was trying to win me over…or worse, I’ll realize it on my own as I’m saying it. No matter what, I know things happened the way they did for a reason. He says he knew he was going to marry me the day he met me. I’m just glad he finally convinced me…
How did he propose?
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it brings families together and symbolizes being thankful in a world where there’s so much chaos every day. When I visited Tommy that first Thanksgiving weekend, it solidified my love for the holiday. Each year since then, we have hosted Thanksgiving together, inviting anyone from his ship who doesn’t have a place to go that day. It has been so fun meeting his friends and cooking with his parents; really becoming a bigger family each year. Two years ago, my parents and sister came up for the first time and got to experience the big Thanksgiving I’d been part of, and meet Tommy for the first time. They had so much fun and promised they’d all be back the next year.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving of 2017…Tommy and I have been dating for two years, we’ve survived a seven month deployment, and everyone is asking when we’re going to get married. We both said we weren’t in any rush, and that it was inevitable, but not on our to-do list just yet. We spent the Saturday after Thanksgiving at a local riverside collection of bars and restaurants, watching football and drinking beer. My parents and sister, his parents and brother, and two of our best friends. It was such a fun day, but my sentimental self had to bring it up: engagement. As we walked from one bar to another, I pulled Tommy aside and reminded him that even though everyone kept asking, I wasn’t going to be one of “those girls” who begged for an engagement or pressured him into proposing before he was ready. He chuckled and squeezed my hand and said he knew. Little did I know, plans were already in place.
As we arrived at the next place, we got a long table and I squeezed into a booth next to my sister. I am not a good day drinker, and we’d been at it all day, so I put my head on her shoulder and told her that I might not last much longer. Tommy saw this and quickly said, “Let’s go take pictures in the photo booth before you get too sleepy.” I told him we could do it later, but he insisted. So we squished into the photo booth as we had done a couple times before (we liked this restaurant), and I chose for us to take color photos. We took one smiling picture first, then as the timer counted down for the next picture, he got up and backed out of the photo booth. I tried to ask him where he was going, but before the words came out of my mouth, he was down on one knee. The second flash went off, and he had the ring box open about as wide as my mouth. All I could do was stare at him and cry. I don’t remember the third flash, but I do know there is a third picture of us almost kissing as I agree to spend the rest of my life with him.
When we came out of the photo booth, our family and friends were all standing just outside waiting to see what I had said. My sister had even FaceTimed my best friend who couldn’t be in town. It was the most perfectly planned (and timed) proposal I could have ever hoped for…and he did it on Thanksgiving weekend so everyone would be there but I wouldn’t suspect it. For a guy who claims to be “not into feels” he can be pretty dang sentimental.
How did you decide on your color scheme, flowers, and cake? Being UF alum and huge Gator fans, we wanted an orange and blue wedding, but the thought of that color scheme seemed obnoxious. Tommy likes to dress “subtle Gator” when we go watch football, but don’t necessarily want to be loud and over the top fans. So we thought “subtle Gator: would be perfect for our wedding, too! Navy blue and burnt orange…which ended up being perfect for an almost-fall wedding as well. I have always loved succulents, and someone recommended them as a wedding flower because they don’t wilt in the heat and humidity (hello, Florida) like other flowers. As for the cake, Tommy doesn’t like sweets.We knew we wanted a dessert bar (cake pops, cupcakes, etc.) for our guests, so we only needed a small cake for us to cut anyway. We used AlleyCakes for our desserts, and they made us a small booze-flavored cake, because that was the only way Tommy would eat it. It was delicious!
How did you decide on your invitations, and who did you use? I’m a Shutterfly junkie. I love making people calendars and magnets and ornaments and photo books…the list goes on. It was a no-brainer to use them for our save the dates and invitations. They had tons of options, and we played around with quite a few layouts, but ultimately we chose something simple and elegant.
What was the most fun part of wedding planning? I loved making out decor/signs! We had lots of chalkboard signs and rustic looking things. I’m pretty crafty, and I do hand-lettering for other people, so it was fun to do a project for myself for once.
Which part did you not like as much? I could have done without the seating chart. It was like someone took away the picture of the finished puzzle and just left me with all the pieces.
What are the biggest pieces of advice you wish you would have known before the wedding day. People offered all kinds of advice about enjoying the moments and making sure to take it all in, and I already had accepted that things would go wrong, but no one warned me about how tired my cheeks would get from smiling so much. Also, that having a head table means asking people to watch you eat and then come interrupt you when you take bites of food like the worst waiters know to mankind. Seriously, every bite.
Wedding Weekend Info:
Hotel accommodations for guests: various hotels and Airbnbs at the beach
Rehearsal Dinner Location: Marker 32
Ceremony Location: Casa Marina (courtyard)
Reception Location: Casa Marina (dining room)
Caterer: Casa Marina
Wedding Coordinator: I tried to do it all myself, but Casey at Casa Marina helped me a ton!
Photographer: Tonya Beaver
Cake: AlleyCakes Bakery
Florist: I bought the flowers at Michael’s and arranged them myself, as well as the centerpieces. Tommy and his friend went to the gun range to get the shotgun shells we needed for the boutonnieres.
Officiate: Robert McCrary from Community Presbyterian Church (my youth pastor growing up)
Hair: Sara Wellborn
Make-up: Jackee Alvarez
Entertainment: D’Land Entertainment
Wedding Dress: Silk Bridal Studio
Wedding Shoes: I bought the flats on Amazon and made my glitter tennis shoes from a cheap pair of “Keds” I got at WalMart!
Bridesmaids Dresses: David’s Bridal
Groom and Groomsmen Wear: GenTux
Any other vendors who contributed that we need to mention? My friend from high school made our incredible cookies! She has a business she runs out of her house called Katie’s Cookie Creations. She personalized them and they looks amazing! Thanks, Katie!
In your words, can you give a storyline of your wedding day?
The morning of our wedding, I expected to feel anxious about everything, but I felt surprisingly calm. I had planned for this day and looked forward to it for almost a year. Everything in me felt at peace about marrying Tommy. My bridesmaids and I spent the day in the bridal suite getting ready with my mom and mother-in-law. We drank mimosas and listened to music while we took turns getting our hair and makeup done. The guys slept in and went to brunch before coming back to the hotel to get ready in my brother-in-law’s room. Everyone kept asking me how I felt, and my answer remained the same: ready. I couldn’t wait to see everything come together for our big day, and I couldn’t wait to marry Tommy.
Most of the day was planned in chunks of time. Get ready, done. Take pictures, done. Read letters we wrote to each other, done. Once the ceremony started, it was like a freaking romantic movie. You always hear people say things like, “Everything around me fell away and all I could see was him.” Y’ALL. IT REALLY HAPPENED. Most of the ceremony I remember in pieces, and the reception is just a crazy fun blur. Overall, the day went perfectly…even the parts that went wrong. I got to marry Tommy and that was my only goal for the day.
What was the high point of your wedding day that you hope to remember forever?
My favorite moment at weddings is seeing the groom’s face as the bride walks down the aisle. Tommy did not disappoint. For someone who is averse to most emotion, there were a couple glistening tears. His smile made me feel like everything was happening at once. It was like our first kiss plus the first time he told me he loved me plus our first anniversary plus the moment we got engaged all at once. Like all the butterflies in my stomach and they were throwing the most beautiful rave. I couldn’t stop looking at him and crying. I don’t think I’ve ever used the work “bask” but I totally basked in the glow of that moment…and I will never forget it. Then my fake eyelash got caught on my veil and started fluttering in the wind so we both started laughing. It was a very “us” moment, which made it that much better.
Jacksonville Wedding Photography
Casa Marina Wedding
Tonya Beaver Photography is a photo studio located in Jacksonville Beach, Florida providing: newborn, children, family, engagement, and wedding photography.