Wedding! Guantanamo, Cuba

The 3rd and final big event on our Cuba mission trip was a huge wedding/vow renewal with all 30 couples at one time!  They told us there aren't invitations for their weddings, literally the entire town is invited and I'm pretty sure they all came:-)  They don't really have access to order live flowers, but they make gorgeous arrangements out of silk florals.  We helped them blow up lots of balloons for the huge archway.  They don't pop them when it's over, they actually untie and re-use them as many times as they can!  Everyone worked so hard to get these 30 ladies bridal ready, with hair, makeup, jewelry and getting dressed.  As each couple was ready I took them out for their mini portrait session by the church, I posted favs the other day of that you can see those here. In 6 hours we had all 30 couples ready and photographed.  Their tradition to let the town know there is a wedding about to happen, is for the bride to be driven around town in a bicitaxi.  This was a whole night parade of 15 bicitaxis each with 2 brides in  them.  When they ended back up at the church the guys where there waiting to escort in their ladies.  The church was packed to the brim with guests and so exciting!  It started with a troupe of dancers who did a beautiful dance with glitter and fabric ending with the flower girl up in the air throwing glitter.  Each couple entered and did a little spin until all 30 couples were in the front facing the crowd.  There was a cute little girl from the neighborhood that had followed Zul and I around while I was doing the photos of each couple earlier in the day.  I noticed she was sitting right next to me while I was crouched in the front photographing the ceremony.  I smiled at her and she gave me this big grin with a few teeth missing.  Pastor Raidel had everyone face each other, say their vows and seal it with a kiss!  My favorite part of the day was seeing the joy and surprise on their faces when they saw the little framed print we had ready for them.  Then they surprised us!  Each couple had been paired with one of us and got us a special gift to remember our time in Cuba.  I will never the feeling of joy and happiness that we got to be a part of with them! 

Marriage Bootcamp Cuba Style

The 2nd part of our trip even more important than setting up the bridal boutique was teaching a workshop on marriage.  In Cuba, they don't have marriage conferences and endless amounts of books and online info available to them like we do here.  At Bay Hope we have a really awesome pre-marital mentoring program for engaged couples so our team pulled out the most important parts and taught 4 workshops that each of the 30 couples rotated through.  The topics were communication, spirituality, family history, and personality.  They rented out a little resort in Guantanamo that was about 20 minutes from town.  It was a beautiful setting and the weather was amazing.  I was just helping keep time and photographing everything so I got to see all the groups.  Our couples did an amazing job and were so excited to teach, and the couples were just soaking everything in they possibly could! That night was a feast with an entire pig that had been roasting all day and lots of games, it was SO much fun.  We need to do more of that!  They ended the evening with giving each couple a little cup of coffee and a piece of candy.  It was so remind everyone that there will be bitter times and sweet times in life but that it's all worth it.  Before we left the next morning, the couples wanted to us to hear their stories.  So, we all gathered in a big group and one by one the couples shared their struggles and the things that had overcome, it was truly amazing.  Pretty soon, they'll have their own mentoring program led by their couples!

Operation Bridal Boutique Guantanamo

The first day of our mission trip in Guantanamo, Cuba was setting up a bridal boutique full of gorgeous gowns.  We had 14 duffel bags vacuum packed with 86 gowns, veils, jewelry, and accessories that were generously donated by individuals and Tampa Bay wedding gown boutiques.  We had even more than we could bring so the rest of the gowns will be brought on future trips. The store owners and personal friends of mine and everyone I asked was so excited to be a part of this effort!  There was a team of 15 of us who actually went but there were so many others that were a part of making this happen.  The room you see below is in the pastor's house that is attached to the church, it was one of their kids bedrooms that was transformed into a bridal boutique.  The people in Guantanamo generally make between $12-20 per month, that is correct per month!  So, most people can't afford to have a wedding let alone a gorgeous gown.  The purpose of this boutique is so that the church has a micro business, where they can rent these dresses to the community for an amount they can afford.  The concept is just plain awesome.  After we had it setup, the ladies on our team helped each of the 30 brides find a dress, veil, and jewelry to wear for the big wedding celebration that would be happening on Wednesday. "Digo si al Traje" is Spanish for "I said yes to the dress!" so Zul wrote a little sign and I had some of them hold it just like we would here:-)  While we were doing that, the guys were hard at work painting, sanding, and repairing the outside of the house.  The very last photo is of our whole team in the room they had just finished so that we would all have a place to eat meals together.   THANK YOU to these boutiques Isabel O'NeilSomething Blue Bridal Boutique, The Perfect Dress, Olga's Bridal, Goodwill and everyone who played a part in, this it was truly amazing!  

Cuba Wedding Mission

Last week I got to be a part of a mission team that traveled to the town of Guantanamo, Cuba! I have to say, it was one of the most interesting places I have ever been.  My church here in Tampa, Bay Hope Church, has a sister church there.  This mission trip was totally unique as it was geared around marriage and weddings, my favorite of course! We brought down over 80 wedding gowns, veils, jewelry, hair/makeup supplies donated by boutiques and individuals from Tampa Bay  to setup a boutique at the church there, taught a marriage workshop, and ended the trip with a huge wedding for 30 couples that I got to photograph! Every day this week I'm going to give you a peek into what we saw and did.  The photos I'm posting today were from my personal favorite part of the trip.
     The first 5 photos are what the neighborhood around the church in Guantanamo looks like.  The streets are loud with kids out playing, horse and carriages plodding by, and in the evening groups of me play dominoes on the street corners.  People there live in very small generally 1 or 2 room apartment like row houses.  I got to do a super mini session with each of the 30 couples the day of the wedding as they got ready.  All of these couples have already been married from anywhere between 9 months and one couple over 45 years.  Most of them never ever had a wedding ceremony, or gown, let alone photos to remember it by.  All the couples either attend the church or are missionaries that are sent out by the church.  The missionaries literally walk for miles a day into the mountains to do their mission work without knowing where they are going to sleep or what they might eat that day.  I wanted each couple to feel special and see how beautiful they looked. So, I used a different spot right there in the neighborhood that matched what they were wearing.  My Spanish isn't super stellar so I couldn't have done it without Zul, one of our team members who translated and was the most amazing photography assistant!  There's not really access to get prints made there very easily and so I brought my little 4x6 printers so we could surprise the couples with a framed photo as a wedding gift.  When their pastor saw the prints he told me something I will never forget.  He said that he's walked by those places countless times and didn't see them as beautiful, but seeing how they look in these photos gave him a new perspective on the beauty in his neighborhood.  There's so much more I could say about these couples but I'll let you see for yourselves.  

{Alexis & Jason @ Carrollwood Country Club}

There is so much we could say about Alexis and Jason’s wedding, it was so beautiful and full of sweet and emotional moments. Alexis wore a strapless, lace gown with a beaded crystal strap across the back.  She gave her dad, and step mom embroidered handkerchiefs with the sweetest letter to each of them.  The letters and gifts Alexis and Jason gave each other brought both of them to tears! Their first look was on the right in front of the big oak tree, these few minutes of love, tears, and joy are some of our favorites! It was that super super windy day so the ceremony was moved to being under the covered front terrace.  It gave Alexis this beautiful long aisle to walk down and meet Jason. The reception was in the grand ballroom, and was absolutely breathtaking! It was decorated in all white and silver and looked so incredibly classy.  Their first dance, the father daughter, and mother son dance left us all without a dry eye.  There was some serious salsa dancing, hip shaking, and even breakdancing going on. When Alexis tossed the bouquet, it ended up in on top of the draping not once, but twice which left everyone laughing hysterically.  We stole them away for some night time photos. With the rain that had come and gone, the asphalt had puddles of rain that were beautiful and reflective with the streetlight.  Congrats Alexis and Jason, thank you for having us capture it! xoxoxo
Venue | Carrollwood Country Club |  Florist | Arlene Floral Designer | Gown Boutique | White Magnolia | DJ | Breezin Entertainment | Videographer | Brandon Paul Photography | Cake | Publix | Tuxedos | Nikki's Glitz and Glam Boutique | Bridesmaids Gowns | Bella Bridesmaids

{Jessica & Adam @ UCPGB LincPoint, Birmingham Alabama}

Our very first wedding of 2017 was in Birmingham, Alabama, on the beautiful campus of Samford University. Jessica went to college there and told me she never thought she would get married there but it was literally the perfect location with the white wood interior and stained glass.  The girls in plum and guys in dark gray and plum ties looked so pretty with the brick archways and stained glass.  Just before Jessica and Adam did their first look, the guys gathered around Adam and prayed for he and Jessica as they begin their marriage together. Jessica's gown had this stunning double key hole back with beaded crystal, when Adam saw her he literally said "WOW" and had the sweetest reaction. They read cards they had written to each other and then we used the brick archways and of course Mr. Beeson for photos.  After all the bridal party and family photos were done as guests were arriving, their families had Communion together led by Jessica's dad.  I honestly can't describe to you how much I enjoy photographing, and soaking in each of these special moments.  They had a cross on the altar with 3 ropes on it and to show their unity braided together the 3 strands as Jessica's sister and brother in law sang Come Thou Fount.  After their kiss, their pastor, (who is the one in the selfie before the cermeony:-) introduced them for the the first time as Mr. & Mrs. Strickland.  Their littlest ring bearer, Grant, was spent! He napped his way down the aisle on his grandma's shoulder.  All of their signs and reception center pieces were hand made with their favorite Bible verses.  Jessica's Aunt owns a bakery and made the most amazing 5 tiered wedding cake as well as the finishing touch to their sweets table which was pound cake for Adam.  Before we knew it, it was time for their sparkler exit!  Congrats Jessica and Adam!!!! xoxoxo
Ceremony | Reid Chapel, Samford University | Venue | UCPGB LincPoint | DJ | Live Productions | Hair |  Studio 21 | Gown Boutique | Diane's Formal Attire | Caterer | Taziki's | Cake | Liger's Bakery & Deli

{Lu & Alex @ Cross Creek Ranch}

Lu wore 3 gorgeous gowns on her wedding day. For the ceremony, she wore a lace sleeved gown with a long train and chapel length veil, with red platform sneakers underneath!  Alex was in a black tux with a white jacket and bowtie, so handsome! He had pure joy on his face as he saw Lu being escorted down the aisle by her brother.  They had the perfect December day for their outdoor ceremony and reception at Cross Creek Ranch.  The patio was draped in lights with gold, pink, and wine accents.  They included subtle hints of 2 of their favorite things, a little spider man was peeking out from under the cake and their M&M had their photos as kids and a Darth Vader!  Lu changed into a lace party dress for the reception that was totally for dancing.  Later in the evening they snuck out and Lu changed into her 3rd outfit for a fabulous surprise Tango!  So many amazing moments, thank you Lu and Alex for having us be a part of it!! 
Venue | Cross Creek Ranch | Hair and Makeup | Style Hair and Makeup | Catering | Cater by Vesh | Videographer | Lucky Lemon Films | Officiant | Sensational Ceremonies | Florist | Alta Fleur | Cake | Alessi Bakery | Musician | Rick Mellum

{Aimy & Rankhses @ Highland Manor}

Aimy & Rankhses chose this fabulous, historic manor that was built in the very early 1900's for their evening wedding.  The entire house was actually moved from it's original location to the property it is on now.  The girls had the entire 2nd floor to get ready in with vintage furniture and huge windows.  Their wedding style was dark purple and mint with succulents, and lots of paper cranes handmade by Aimy and her friends.  She even had one of the back of her necklace.  Her dad delivered her gift to Rankhses which was an engraved tie clip and watch that said "love you till the end of time..see you at the altar at 6:00pm 12.17.16".  Rahkhses mom gave him his grandfather's gold cufflinks to wear.  He and his 2 brothers (who were 2 of his groomsmen) are very close and super fun as you can see:-) Their ceremony was in the enchanted forest at night.  The trees were wrapped with lights and the aisle lined with birdcages ending in a draped backdrop with gorgeous florals and paper cranes.  After the ceremony their entire family and bridal party toasted the brand new Mr. & Mrs.  The night scene was so pretty!  Their reception was also decorated in gold, purple, and mint with lots more paper cranes with a tiny ceramic one with their names written in gold at each place setting.  Aimy surprised everyone by singing Ave Maria, as it is a tradition in her family to honor and remember their family members who weren't able to be there.  So many gorgeous and fun moments were had by all!  Sweets station, photo booth, fun, s'mores station, and little succulent favors for their guests to take before they lined up for the exit.  Aimy and Rankhses exited to their antique ride through silver garland poppers!  Congrats Aimy and Rankhses!!! xoxox
Venue | Highland Manor | Catering | Dubsdread Catering | Florist | Lee Forrest Design |  DJ | Epic Events | Officiant | Sensational Ceremonies | Cake | It's Tasty Too 

Tampa Bay Weddings Feature!

We are so honored and proud to be featured in the brand edition of Tampa Bay Weddings magazine!  There are 16 pages of details from this styled shoot the team of amazing friendors worked so hard to create.  You can flip through the entire publication HERE
Concept & Event Design | 
Jennifer Sanschagrin & Liz Kamali Camacho | Venue | Ivy Astoria | Coordination | Liz Kamali Events | Floral/Acrylic Mandap | Royal Event Services | Pipe/Drape/Lighting | Music on the Move | Lounge Furniture | FH Weddings | Chairs/Tables/Flatware/Chargers/China | A Chair Affair | Cake | The Cake Zone | Hair & Makeup | Eyes on You | Gown | The Bride | Videographer | Ashley Canay | Foliage | A1 Foliage | Linens | Kate Ryan Linens

Happy 2017 Begins with Gina & Jonathan

Happy 2017!!! I can't believe it's here already! This is our very first blog posting of the year.  I loved this session we did Gina & Jonathan to announce their new baby on the way.  The toast was with sparkling grape juice:-)  I love working with couples who going to be new parents.  I can always feel all the emotions they are experiencing.  Joy, excitement, mixed with a little bit of fear of stepping into the unknown.   This is how I like to approach each new year.  "Expecting" great, and exciting things to happen with the goals and things I've put out to the universe. 2017 is going to be an amazing year, I can feel it!  We look forward to working with all our new couples as well as the familiar faces we know and love.  Blessings and joy to you all as we start this new year! xoxox

Jennifer & Bo

Jen and Bo have been inseparable from the minute they met!  They were out on their boat with Jen's family this past 4th of July and Bo surprised her by getting down on one knee with ring at sunset!  Quite frankly, they are just plain fun to be around and it's pretty clear they are meant for each other.  We are so excited for their wedding the Tampa Club 6.3.17!! 
Hair and Makeup | Collective Creations

{Kim & Matt @ The Regent}

Kim & Matt’s crimson and ivory elegant wedding style was gorgeous! Kim wore the most fabulous custom made sparkly Converse sneakers bedazzled with their wedding date and a little bride charm.  In her layered pearl necklace was a single strand of her grandmother’s pearls.  Her flower girls loved twirling and looking at how beautiful Aunt Kim looked.  Their ceremony was at the bottom of the grand staircase behind the Regent.  Matt's nephew, Silas, was their ring bearer and so excited to be in the wedding.  Just before he turned the corner to walk down the aisle, he coyly looked at the crowd and played with his boutonniere, I think he knew he was stealing the show!  Kim looked stunning as she was escorted by her dad, down the staircase to meet Matt at the end of the aisle.  After their vows, they sealed it with a sweet kiss, which Matt jokingly wiped off and Kim proceeded to use her tissue to wipe the red lipstick off his face. Matt loves popcorn (you might remember that from their engagement session) so they of course had a popcorn bar during the cocktail hour.  The reception was draped in white with crimson accents and twinkle lights.  They had mini BBQ sauces at each place setting that said “Love is Spicy” and “Love is Sweet” to go with dinner from their favorite BBQ place, Hungry Harry’s.  Their cake had a sparkly topper surrounded by all different flavors of mini donuts.  The reception was so much fun and before we knew it, it was time for their grand exit!  Congrats Matt & Kim!! xoxoxo 
Venue | The Regent | Event Coordinator |  Days Remembered by ND | Catering | Hungry Harry's BBQ | Florist | Alle Florist | Hair and Makeup | Darren Pena | DJ | Music on The Move DJ | Doughnuts | Mini Doughnut Factory | Videography | Hatfield Productions | Linens | Fancy That Linens

Angell & Jared Maternity

Angell and Jared are going to be a party of 3 very soon!  Angell's due date is actually 1.1.17!!  We were so happy to get to photograph this next life event for them.  They are having a girl and Angell's pink flowy dress and matching nail polish looked so pretty!  The sunset was even pink that night!  They told me when they first started dating, they had tried to see a few sunsets on the beach and it was always cloudy so I think this one made up for it! Congrats you guys, can't wait to meet your little bundle!! 

Ashley & Wayne

Ashley and Wayne are know for throwing fabulous parties and tailgates so they incorporated some of their favorite things into their engagement session!  They even had a 30 team corn hole tournament themed around their favorite college football teams for their engagement party (Alabama for Ashley and FSU for Wayne:-)  So, we played a little corn hole and had so much fun with them at Phillipe Park.  We can't wait until 6.10.17 when they officially tie the knot!!