Fun-Lovin? Love Stories

Fun-Lovin’ Love StoriesToday’s Weddings are Spirited, Spunky and SensationalBy Wendy O. Dixon

While some wedding traditions remain, today’s couples are celebrating their relationship by choosing weddings that are uniquely theirs. And, as it turns out, they want to have fun on their big day. Unconventional menu items — a macaroni or mashed potato bar, gumballs and candied apples — are the bride and groom’s way of saying, “to heck with tradition.” Adding unexpected personal touches is another hot trend. One Emerald Coast bride had the bright idea of incorporating a rainbow of colored sandals on the feet of her bridesmaids as a stark contrast to an otherwise black and white color palette. Another bride nursed beta fish for months to later use as centerpieces for her reception tables. Still another set up a photo booth for guests at their wedding reception, complete with whimsical props that included over-sized sunglasses, hats feather boas and inflatable musical instruments. Unconventional, you might say, but fun for sure.


Megan + NickMarch 20, 2010

Megan Ashe thought her boyfriend, Nick Engle, was joking when he proposed.

“Nick is a very spontaneous guy,” Megan says about her high school sweetheart, who popped the question in a taxi minivan in the company of his sister and friends. “Since he didn’t have a ring, I didn’t think he was serious.”

When Nick declared to an irritated Megan that he was entirely serious, she told him to ask the question again. Making it official, the couple chose a new setting for a diamond that had been in the family for years. “Family is really important to me,” Megan says.

Staying true to her Southern roots, Megan chose a plantation-style wedding at the Kelly Plantation Golf Club, which boasts a beautiful garden and pond in the back of the clubhouse. The couple’s signature drink  — Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka infused with lemonade — was served in mason jars.

Megan’s gown was a strapless satin-back taffeta dress adorned with Swarovski crystals on an empire waistline and lace detailing at the hemline. She tucked a white camellia in her chignon during the ceremony and replaced it with a vibrant purple flower and peacock feather for the reception. Bridesmaids wore eggplant satin dresses and carried bouquets of maidenhair fern, roses, ranunculus and sweet peas. The groom and groomsmen each wore a single-breasted suit with a purple paisley tie.

The wedding cake was a six-tiered masterpiece made of a different flavor for each layer and topped with miniature sugar roses surrounding a large sugar peony. “Rhonda’s (of Confections on the Coast) cakes are absolutely heavenly,” Megan says. “Every layer was simple and elegant.”

The groom’s cake, a surprise to Nick, was in the shape of a Nascar racecar. “Nick grew up racing go-karts and full-sized sprint cars — a hobby he shared with his dad — and something I knew I had to work into the wedding,” Megan says.

As guests departed the festivities, they were thanked with wedding favors of candied apples double dipped in caramel, then milk chocolate and drizzled in dark chocolate, all elegantly wrapped in ribbon and adorned with a personalized logo. The fun favors were a huge hit with the crowd. “There were none left,” Megan recalls with a laugh.


Wedding Party Attire Simply Elegant
Ceremony/Reception Venue Kelly Plantation Golf Club
Photography Dede Edwards Photography
Hair LaDonna’s Redken Salon
Makeup Britney O. Llantin, Mary Kay Cosmetics
Catering Kelly Plantation Golf Club
Décor Celestine’s Special Occasions and Shelby Peadon
Flowers Celestine’s Special Occasions
Cake Confections on the Coast
Officiant Pastor David Malheiro, Grace Tabernacle Church
Entertainment Penny Schenkel, Shawn (A DJ Connection)

Traci + Matthew September 18, 2010

As an unexpected (and at first, unwanted) birthday gift, Traci Stokes and Dr. Matthew Markel’s friends tricked them into meeting, assured that the reluctant couple would hit it off. It worked. The pair ended up talking late into the night and fell in love over the next several months.

Matt chose to propose at their special place — Harry T’s restaurant, where they enjoy many Sunday afternoons following church. He gave Traci a framed poem he had written, then showed her the ring, which he had been holding behind the frame.

“I was overcome with emotion because I didn’t expect it,” she says. “The whole restaurant erupted in applause.”

And as most modern brides do these days, Traci immediately updated her Facebook status.

Traci’s dress was a soft white gown with beaded straps, a ruched bodice and elegant A-line silhouette. She carried dark red roses while her bridesmaids, all sisters, wore dresses in varying styles and shades of red.

The flower bouquets, inspired by the Gulf Coast sunsets, were made with hues of warm reds, oranges, yellows and ivories. The groom and groomsmen wore black tuxedos.

Incorporating beach elements into the wedding, the couple opted for a sand ceremony, mixing three colors of sand — red from bride’s family, gold from groom’s family and white to represent God in their marriage.

While on the limo ride from Niceville United Methodist Church to the reception at Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, the newlyweds updated their Facebook profiles to read, “married.”

Traci and Matt also wanted to incorporate the beach into the reception. The centerpieces, fish bowls each housing a dark red beta fish they had been nurturing since March, were later given to some guests. Matt, a trumpet player, played “My Funny Valentine” for the father-daughter dance.

“We had a lot of musicians in the audience,” Traci says. “It was fun to see two of our groomsmen, as well as other friends and family, perform.”

In addition to the decadent roast, chicken and seafood catered by the Hilton Sandestin Beach staff, the couple chose a mashed potato bar for guests to fill martini glasses with potatoes, bacon bits and other toppings. “Everyone loved it,” Traci says. “It’s something we thought would be fun and good for kids and adults.”

The groom’s cake, celebrating Matt’s musicality, was shaped like a trumpet while the bride’s cake was a three-tiered masterpiece topped with a monogrammed “M” and fresh roses. In addition, San Gelato Café served four different flavors of gelato for dessert.


Wedding Party Attire Annas Bridal and Formal
Ceremony/Reception Venue Niceville United Methodist Church, Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
Photography Erin Hansen, Caroline Brady and Kay Phelan
Invitations Kate Kelley, Mine 2 Design
Hair Joseph Rogers at Avantgarde Salon
Makeup Donya Iverson at Avantgarde Salon
Catering  Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
Décor Ashley Watkins with Panache Event Services, Tuscany Events
Flowers Flowers by Vivian
Cake Say Cake Bakery & Cafe
Officiants Rev. Rob Bohnsack and Rev. Dan Newell
Entertainment Swingin’ Dick Tracys



Jami + HunterJuly 24, 2010

Reconnecting years after they first met, Jami Anderson and Hunter Ray met for a drink at Bud and Alley’s Restaurant in Seaside and ended up talking about the meaning of life. “Before we knew it, the whole night had gone by,” Jami remembers.

They were engaged six months later, also at Bud and Alley’s. “He grabbed my hand, it was such a blur,” Jami says. “Next thing I knew he was on one knee asking me to marry him.”

Hunter, knowing his lady likes things that are a little out of the ordinary, knew exactly what Jami wanted. He found a vintage ring nearly 100 years old in Kent Ltd. in Grayton Beach. “It already had an inscription that read, ‘love’ and it fit perfectly,” Jami says.

The bride wore a bright white taffeta dress adorned with a vintage black brooch and black sandals. The bridesmaids wore elegant black cotton sateen dresses and a rainbow-spectrum of flirty shoes — cheerful hues of bright yellow, cobalt blue, lime green, hot pink and amethyst purple — while carrying folding fans in the same color. “They loved it, I tried to pick their favorite colors,” Jami says of her bridesmaids’ sandals. The groom and groomsmen wore black suits, and the groom sported a bright turquoise tie while his men donned black and white stripped ties. The flowers were white hydrangeas tied with a black ribbon and pinned with a vintage brooch.

The décor at Christ the King Episcopal Church was traditional, while the reception at Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club embraced the drama of black and white, with erupting candy colors throughout. Gumball machines and bright candy added some fun to the event. While guests enjoyed the heavy hors d’oeuvres before a full buffet complete with a carving station and salad bar, the star of the feast was the macaroni and cheese bar.

“It was delicious,” Jami says. “It makes me hungry just thinking about it.”

Guests danced the night away to the tunes of the Beach Mice, a band specializing in ’80s, ’90s and contemporary music. The couple exited with hands joined in the air as their guests wished them farewell by waving lit sparklers at the newlyweds.


Wedding Gown Simply Elegant
Bridesmaids’ Dresses Dessy Bridesmaids
Groom’s and Groomsmen’s Outfits Simply Elegant
Ceremony/Reception Venue Christ the King Episcopal Church, Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club
Photography Amanda Suanne Photography
Invitations designed by the bride
Hair Anna Marie, the Change Salon
Makeup by the bride, Pretty Sweet Makeup
Catering Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club
Décor bride’s own
Flowers Emerald Coast Flowers
Cake Cakes by Sheila
Officiant Rev. Frank Cooper
Entertainment Beach Mice


Another hot trend in romance is finding love through online dating services. Looking for ways to take your search for love online? Here are a few tips for perfecting a profile for some of today’s best dating sites:

Go Low-Tech. For your initial draft, get out your good, old-fashioned pen and paper. Most of us write slower by hand, which means we write more carefully and have time to think before we blurt.

It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect Right Now. Don’t be put off by that big blank spot. Just jot down the things you would like someone to know about you, and worry about the grammar and spelling later. Stick to the facts.

Tell It Like It Is. Linda Mastaglio, a communications consultant who helps business pros write prose more effectively, says, “Honesty will help you attract the kind of person you really want.”

Keep It Simple, Sweetheart. As you turn your draft into English, think about what it is within you that you want to share with someone else — and know that it does not necessarily have to be a deep bonding of souls.

Keep It Clean. Conform to the posting guidelines, and polish up your writing. It doesn’t have to gleam; it just has to not have any glaring errors that would make you feel embarrassed if you spotted them later.

Let It Be. After you write your profile, wait a day or two before posting it. Give it some more tweaks or a complete overhaul, then bring in a friend for a second opinion.

— Excerpt from “Get Off on the Write Foot,” by Mark Amundsen, featured in “happen,”’s online magazine