Fashioning The Perfect Emerald Coast Wedding

Fashioning The Perfect WeddingWe Unveil the Stories of Three Newlywed Couples on the Emerald CoastBy Wendy O. Dixon

The Emerald Coast has long been known as a beautiful place to exchange wedding vows. For brides who hail from our communities, as well as for those who travel here, there are countless amenities available to make the planning process enjoyable and memorable.

With three different themes, venues, budgets and sizes, these couples prove there is no shortage of choices in the area. We feature a fun cruise-ship wedding, a glamorous affair at a local resort and an intimate beach ceremony.

Join us in this special “Weddings” section for a peek into the beautiful celebrations of the happy couples who chose to have their special day surrounded by the beauty of the Emerald Coast

Ashlee & Paul

Ashlee Wellborn and Paul Scarpulla met while attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She was a theater major and he was studying accounting. During Ashlee’s graduation party, Paul proposed to her in front of her friends and family.

They were wed over the Labor Day weekend last September on the Grand Lawn at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and had a reception for 250 guests in the Magnolia Ballroom.

“I’m from Destin, so I wanted to get married at home,” Ashlee says. “We both have huge families, so Sandestin was the best place to accommodate all of us on one site. It was the perfect place.”

Ashlee’s grandfather, Abe Watson, a former Baptist preacher, co-officiated the ceremony with former Methodist pastor Gary Pierce Wright, who had married Watson and his wife, Linda.

The bride said “I do” in a strapless, sweetheart-cut white gown with gold beading from Simply Elegant in Fort Walton Beach.

“The perfect dress was right at home,” she says.

The two maids of honor and six bridesmaids each wore a gold lace dress with a mint-colored ribbon accent.

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort’s Magnolia Ballroom was awash with sheer white fabric draped elegantly from the ceiling. The décor was antique whimsical, with a color palate of gold, mint and champagne pink.

During the cocktail hour, Ashlee’s father’s specialty, Jim’s Rum Punch, was served. At the reception, the martini bar served signature drinks named after the family’s two teacup Yorkies — the Roccotini was a chocolate martini and the Nellietini was a pink martini.

In honor of his family heritage, Paul’s mother made Italian cookies, which were served with the cuisine prepared by the Sandestin staff.

After dancing all night with loved ones, the couple spent their honeymoon at Sandals Golf Resort and Spa in St. Lucia.

Bride’s Dress: Simply Elegant

Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Simply Elegant

Groom’s Tuxedo: Simply Elegant

Groomsmens’ Tuxedos: Simply Elegant

Wedding Coordinator: Kathy G. Mezrano

Officiators: Abe Watson, Gary Pierce Wright

Photography: JRD Photography

Videography: Stephanie Johnson

Ceremony: Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort Grand Lawn

Reception: Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort’s Magnolia Ballroom

Hair: Jennifer Shubert and Carmel Gray

Décor: Kathy G. & Company

Music: Showtime Events Quartet, U.S. Band

Flowers: Andy Hopper, Kathy G. Designs

Cakes: Sandestin pastry chef Yasha Becker


Keely & Eduardo

Keely O’Mara and Eduardo Gnewuch took advantage of the beautiful beaches of the Emerald Coast for their special day. The bride and groom celebrated with a fall beach wedding in Panama City Beach on Oct. 17, 2009.

The happy couple used some clever ideas to save money for their bridal party and themselves. The beach was the perfect location, and since it was free for public use, they were free to spend more of their budget on the menu. The flowers came from Winn-Dixie, the bridesmaids’ dresses were purchased from JCPenney, and the groom’s and groomsmen’s pants were from Old Navy.

“We were very budget-conscious,” Keely says. “But no one would have known because it was elegant and sentimental.”

The barefoot bride wore a strapless gown with pearl beading and a gardenia tucked in her relaxed chignon. The groom and his groomsmen sported white Irish linen guayabera wedding shirts and khaki pants.

Each bridesmaid donned a chocolate-brown dress and a pearl necklace, the latter a gift from Keely. The ladies carried bouquets of hydrangeas and symposium orchids with splashes of lavender.

Pink lilies, white roses and greenery hugged the corners of a bamboo arbor canopy in memory of Eduardo’s late mother, Theresa Gnewuch. As a memento, each guest was given a small bottle filled with sand and a scroll with the names of the 50 attendees, as well as a note about the significance of the flowers.

As the ceremony came to a close, each guest was offered a shell from a pile that Keely’s mother, Sally O’Mara, had collected over the years. As Keely’s father, Michael O’Mara, gave an Irish blessing, the guests tossed the shells into the Gulf.

Samuel Blowes, associate pastor at Shoreline Church in Destin, officiated and also provided the evening’s entertainment during the reception.
“After the ceremony, he went right into DJ mode and played our favorite songs,” Keely says.

The wedding party dined on shrimp spring rolls, crab cakes and paper-wrapped grouper with a variety of dipping sauces. The main course was an entrée of beef tenderloin or chipotle chicken sandwiches, while the kids feasted on chicken strips and sliders. Champagne, wine and a keg of beer helped set the festive tone of the evening. The Neapolitan three-tiered cake was topped with hydrangeas.

The wedding party and guests danced well into the night under starry skies right on the beach.

Bride’s Dress: Augusta Jones Couture, Brandi’s Bridal Galleria Etc., New Glarus, Wis.

Bridesmaids’ Dresses: JCPenney

Groom’s and Groomsmens’ clothing: My Cuban Store, Old Navy

Wedding Coordinator: Janet Marie, Florida Dream Weddings

Officiator: Samuel Blowes, associate pastor at Shoreline Church

Ceremony Location: Panama City Beach

Flowers: Winn-Dixie

Canopy Tent: Premier Events

Catering: Heyward McKenzie, Culinary Catering

Music: Kyle LaMonica and Samuel Blowes

Photography: Heather Forrester, Fusion Photography

Cakes: Renee Schaarschmidt, Fatty Patty’s Cakes


Carla & Don

hen Don Hoffmann first laid eyes on Carla Griggs Tompkins, he thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. The real estate agent and developer for Windswept Estates told his friend, who was with him, “I’m going to marry that girl.” His friend was doubtful, joking that there was no way he could get a date with Carla.

“They even made a bet on it — $100,” Carla says.

After a five-year courtship, marry her he did. Carla and Don were wed in front of 120 guests at sunset on Nov. 8, 2008, aboard SunQuest Cruises’ dinner-dance yacht, Solaris.

During the reception, Don’s friend, who was also his best man, handed him a $100 bill to settle their wager.

The bride, assistant manager at BankTrust’s Freeport branch, says she and Don were the best of friends who fell in love over time.

“I always tell everyone, ‘God brought him here for me,’” she says.

On that breezy evening aboard the ship, the bride glowed in a strapless white silk gown with pearl beading and carried four long-stemmed calla lilies. Her two bridesmaids, Carla’s best friends, wore chocolate and coral dresses. The groom sported a coordinating coral tie with his tuxedo.

Solaris Capt. Steve Isaacs performed the ceremony. David and Gwen, the duo known as Harmony, set the celebration to music with a repertoire spanning a variety of musical genres and decades as guests dined on a meal of grouper and chicken. The wedding cake was adorned with white chocolates carved into the shapes of seashells.

“It was a fairytale wedding for me,” Carla says. “Everyone had such a wonderful time. My grandma, who is 88, even got up and danced, which I’d never seen before.”

Bride’s Dress: Simply Elegant

Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Simply Elegant

Groom’s and Groomsmens’ Tuxedos: Simply Elegant

Officiator: Capt. Steve Isaacs

Wedding Coordinator: Jessica Lusher

Photography: The Ard Gallery and Jenny Gomillion with Inspirations

Hair: The Hairplace, Freeport

Ceremony and Reception: SunQuest Cruises’ Solaris

Décor: Melissa Webster Decorations

Music: Harmony

Flowers: Emerald Coast Wine Cellars and Gift Baskets

Cake: Shelia’s Country Bakery