How did you two meet? We met at the Naples Zoo in 2008. Janel had been working there about a year as a mammal “park” keeper and Corey got hired in the “show” department that was in charge of all the mammals, reptiles, and birds that were used for educational demonstrations.
How did he propose? We often work long tiring days in our career. We had talked about going to the beach after work one night. Janel got off work late as usual and by the time she got home it was already dark. They went to the beach anyways and sat talking for some time. When they were about to get up to leave Corey got down on one knee and popped the question. Janel was so surprised she almost dropped the ring in the sand!
“One day nearly 10 years ago Janel was working at the Naples Zoo. While cleaning the primate islands with fellow keepers the news was that a new male zookeeper had been hired. The staff at that time was just a few people so word traveled fast. A little bit later while walking across the zoo someone mentioned “there’s the new guy.” That’s when Janel spotted this skinny brown haired young lad cleaning reptile tanks outside the herpetology house. She remembers thinking to herself “ooo he’s cute” as her coworkers thought differently lol.
Weeks and months went by with the occasional friendly group gatherings and things seemed to fall in place. Casual hangouts eventually leg to their first date on St. Patrick’s day 2008. This was the beginning of something very special.
After dating for about 6 months Corey was on to bigger and better things and accepted a position as elephant and giraffe keeper at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Janel was so swept off her feet with Corey that she was fortunate enough 3 months later to also get her dream job at the zoo in Jacksonville working with hoof stock and carnivores.
One day in 2009 Corey mentioned the idea of going to “look” at the shelter. This is when they learned they are not good at “looking” or “fostering.” This was when they adopted their first child – Shelly (aka the sweetest dog EVER)! Shelly was a challenge at first but a worthwhile challenge. This lead to the adoption gates being opened at their house including Bella (aka Shelly’s best bud), cats Izzy and Mr. Grey, red foot tortoises, a plethora of seahorses, and the world oldest hermit crab.
Corey and Janel work long hours at the zoo and Janel had the idea to go walk on the beach on a Saturday night in February 2018. As always, Janel was running late from work and it was dark by the time she got home. They went and sat on the beach anyways. There was perfect weather and good discussions about things like their day and hypothetical wedding questions Janel would occasionally ask Corey. When they were getting up to leave out of the blue Corey got down on one knee and proposed! Janel was so shocked that she nearly dropped the ring. Corey had been planning this for some time and had a custom wooden ring made by a couple in the woods of Canada. This ring in no way negatively impacts the earth as typical rings do. It is made with grey maple wood with an inlay of sand collected from the beach that we went on our first date!”
How did you decide on your color scheme, flowers, and cake? After lots of venue visits we decided on our ceremony and reception location. We are both very much into nature and wanted a very natural, simple but whimsical theme. Janel’s favorite color is purple so we picked the bridesmaids dresses (Lilac) then went from there. Corey’s favorite color is blue and we chose a shade of blue that complimented the lilac. These colors also complemented the color of our favorite animals (rhino and elephant grey).
How did you decide on your invitations, and who did you use? Along with the natural theme of the wedding we chose wedding invitations that exemplified the feeling of the Florida lifestyle with palm trees. There were many out of state guests too so the palms were inviting to them. Corey and I are really passionate about being as eco-friendly as we can so I went with a company that mostly prints cards on recycled and plantable paper – Forever Fiances.
What was the most fun part of wedding planning? Wedding planning is supposed to be fun? Just kidding. We really enjoyed adding little elements that resembled our personalities and what is important to us. This included our favorite music, custom animal cake topper, conservation donation instead of wedding favors, and inviting all our closest family and friends to spend time with us.
Which part did you not like as much? I’m really great at making decisions. And I’m sure some people love it but I am not great at keeping in contact with people – and lots of people at the same time! Along with all sorts of projects at work it’s a lot going on at the same time. And the money!?! Why does everything cost so much!
What are the biggest pieces of advice you wish you would have known before the wedding day. Start planning early. Some of the check lists you see online are a little obsurd but make sure to get the essentials squared away early on. This way you will be able to have enough time before the wedding to enjoy the experience and the people around you.
Wedding Weekend Info:
Hotel accommodations for guests: Casa Marina Hotel, Fairfield Inn by Marriott
Rehearsal Dinner Location: BJ’s restaurant & brewhouse https://www.bjsrestaurants.com
Ceremony Location: Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park http://www.coj.net/departments/parks-and-recreation/recreation-and-community-programming/kathryn-abbey-hanna-park.aspx
Reception Location: Casa Marina Hotel https://casamarinahotel.com
Caterer: Casa Marina Hotel
Wedding Coordinator: Kiera Denny @ Coastal Coordinating http://coastalcoordinating.com/#!contact/c24vq
Photographer: Tonya Beaver Photography
Cake: Sweet by Holly
Florist: Bouquets – My Dinosaur Dreams wooden flowershttps://mydinosaurdreams.com; decorations – Michael’s
Officiate: Reverend Deborah Montana (Goddess Wedding Ceremonies) https://www.goddessweddingceremonies.com
Transportation: Limo and shuttle with Jax Party Bus http://www.jaxpartybus.com
Wedding Dress: White Magnolia Bridal Jacksonville https://www.whitemagnoliabridal.com
Wedding Shoes: Dillard’s https://www.dillards.com
Bridesmaids Dresses: Bella Bridesmaids Orlando https://bellabridesmaids.com
Groom and Groomsmen Wear: Men’s Wearhouse
Custom animal cake topper: Heartmade Cottage on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/shop/HeartmadeCottage
Custom stainless steel wedding rings: RiverdaleIronWorks https://www.etsy.com/shop/RiverdaleIronworks#about
In your words, can you give a storyline of your wedding day?
Perfect. The bride and
bridesmaids rented an ocean front Airbnb which lead to an early morning of crisp
cool Jacksonville weather. In the morning the weather called for an 80% chance
of rain. As the day went on nothing but sun and clouds that were well executed.
Our wedding day didn’t happen perfectly but everyone around us was able to help
in any way we needed and smooth over the wrinkles. We were able to focus on the
big picture and what was most important about that day. Our crazy
unconventional vision in our mind was able to be executed in real life. Weather
at the park was pristine and the clouds led to a perfect brightness that didn’t
lead to too many eye squints. The ceremony was our own and our personalized
vows came straight from our hearts. Our loving friends Kaite and Chris were
able to wrangle our dogs and bring them to the park for pictures which meant
the world to me. On many occasions Corey has said I love the dogs more than him
so everyone can imagine how special it was that they were able to be a part of
our special day as well. The reception continued in a similar trend with each
element seemingly falling into place. All the planned personal touches led to
each guest and wedding party member enjoying their food, cake, photobooth
photos, and dancing the night away. Our wedding day embodied the journey that
we have been over the past 11 years and how special it is that we found each
other and have chosen to spend the rest of our lives with each other.
What was the high point of your wedding day that you hope to remember forever?
I hope to remember forever how special our
wedding day was. As multiple people advised me it is over in a flash and you
have to remember to enjoy every minute. I kept reminding myself to just breath
and take in all the moments throughout the day as they happened. And to enjoy
it! The rest of the troubles and cares in our lives or in the world could be put
on pause for a couple hours. As with many people I often forget to focus on myself
in the midst of all the other chaos of life. Our wedding day was a time to focus
on Corey and myself and how much we enjoy traveling through life together –
including a fancy wedding day with a kick-ass party.