Destination Weddings/Modern Weddings

How To Give Your Industrial Wedding Venue A Tropical Vibe

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Are “Tropical and Modern” your wedding keywords? Well, here’s a real wedding from Florida that merges the two in a vibrant & popping way.

After moving to Florida, Brian & Jonathan knew they wanted a destination wedding. And, while Covid had other plans for the timeline of such, the two found wedding venue harmony in the modern, industrial, beachside The West Events in Madeira Beach, Florida.

While tropical decor seems natural for a Florida destination wedding, the contemporary, industrial bones of their venue gave room for a funkier, bolder feel. Employing wedding florist LemonDrops (who Brian & Jonathan couldn’t speak more highly of), the couple sprung for more striking florals like Palms, Monstera, Birds of Paradise and bright pops of yellow from Billy Buttons.

In a wedding world that is generally dominated by more neutral & romantic florals, this modern Floridian wedding provides excellent inspiration for any couple looking for a vibrant & eye-catching tropical design.

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Our Love Story

We always joke that we met online before online dating existed – this was back in November of 2011!

One of us, Brian, was living in Chicago and Jonathan was living in Pittsburgh. After connecting in November of 2011, we decided after many visits back and forth and expired data usages, we wanted to make this a more permanent and closer-in-distance thing. In May of 2012, Jonathan packed his entire life in a U-Haul and moved it to Chicago.

Of course, I heckled him about proposing much sooner than it actually happened, but it could not have come at a better time. We got our first puppy in November of 2015 and a month later, during the holiday season, Ellie walked into the living room behind Jonathan, sat beside him as he knelt on the ground, and greeted me with an engagement ring that was attached to her collar. He asked the question and after years of planning, a move to Orlando, FL and a postponed Save the Date (‘cause COVID), we married on March 12, 2021.

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The Destination

Once we moved to Florida, we knew we had to make it a destination wedding for everybody to enjoy. Sadly, COVID altered many of our guests’ plans to make the trip down. Before we knew what we would be dealing with (COVID), we searched all over Florida for the perfect spot. We needed it to be outdoor or dog friendly. And after being in Florida for a year or so, we also needed A/C. We visited the Atlantic side. We toured Orlando which is where we live. And, we even visited the panhandle.

Ultimately, we settled on the Gulf Coast and chose The West Events in Madeira Beach. It fit both of our personalities: it was modern and offered indoor and outdoor use. Not only was it versatile for our needs and vision, but the bar was also amazing and opened up to the outdoors as well! I highly recommend touring The West Events if you are local to Florida or looking for a destination wedding near the beach (right across the street). The couple also owns a few lodging options in the area. We chose to stay at Sunset Inn and Cottages in Treasure Island with our wedding party.

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The Fashion

The girls were dressed in gold and the men were dressed in navy, with the exception of the two of us. We wore light gray and kept with the theme by adorning ourselves with gold suspenders, a gold tie bar and a beautiful white tie that included a flower with teal and blue coloring. Jonathan wore a navy tie. The groomsmen also wore the gold accents and floral ties along with a boutonniere that featured yellow Billy Balls to tie into the theme surrounded by a teal fern.

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The Florals & Decor

After five years of engagement – yes, five – we finally tied the knot on March 12, 2021. I think the first choice we settled on was wedding colors back when Jonathan proposed. At the time we were living in Illinois and it was Brian’s dream to have a winter wedding. Being that Jonathan is from West Virginia and is a diehard Mountaineer fan, navy and gold was an easy selection. When we moved to Florida, Brian decided to add teal (one of those decisions I left Jonathan out on) to make it more tropical and it could not have tied in more perfectly.

Now, since we were getting married in Florida, we also wanted a tropical vibe, but we wanted to keep it simple. Not only did we find the perfect modern space, but we also landed the best florist in the area that entirely captured our vision, LemonDrops. It wasn’t until the very last session that we decided to throw in Birds of Paradise. Brian wanted to surprise Jonathan with his favorite flower as a boutonniere, a Bird of Paradise. That surprise also made it to the tables and the backdrop and the suggestion was perfection.

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The Ceremony

We wanted nothing to do with a ceremony, but it totally happened. Lol. It was a record 4:34 from the time Brian’s sister addressed the guests to the first kiss as husband and husband. Hey, that meant guests got to head to the bar much faster.

Our favorite detail was including Ellie in the wedding. It was so fun to hear the guests’ reactions before Brian turned the corner and walked down the aisle with his mom. She even stole the show during her introduction into the reception and again during our first dance…we invited her to dance with us. Brian’s younger sister was asked to marry us and as Joey did in F.R.I.E.N.D.S., she jumped online to become an ordained minister for the occasion; we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

We chose to have the wedding on a Friday so our guests could make their own vacation out of it. The whole entire night was six hours, though it felt like twenty minutes.

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The Planning

Did we mention that 99% of this wedding was planned remotely? Not only did COVID not allow us to meet some of our vendors beforehand, living two and a half hours away also did not allow for weekly meetings that fit everybody’s schedule. We had our tasting in March of 2020, about a month and a half prior to our original date. It was an entire year later that we got to taste the deliciousness again. We were unable to sample any dessert options our vendor had and we did not see anything really come together until the day of. Although parts of the process were stressful, there was something magical about seeing everything the day-of come together just the way you had envisioned it. The vision boards that were created (AKA Powerpoints) did not do it justice.

Most of our vendors were part of the LGBTQ community or allies of the community. We did this on purpose. We wanted the whole night to feel special for everybody included – guests and vendors, not just us – and the vibe felt incredibly inclusive and pure. We would relive this night one thousand times over, as long as we didn’t have to pay that many times.

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The Photography

Besides an impressive gallery, we felt a special vibe with Jess. We worked with her remotely during the entire process. Her assistant, Ashley, was equally as amazing and captured what we thought our wedding should look like. The process was smooth and the creativity day of was beyond what we could have even envisioned.

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The Party

The DJ kept guests on the dance floor the entire night and featured songs we both loved. When the night came to an end, sigh, we were greeted by our guests who lined up outside by our trolley with sparklers in hand. It was incredible.

And, although we wanted this to be a vacation of some sorts for everybody after the wedding, we did steal them for a bit on Saturday (it was completely optional) and catered food and drinks at St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club in downtown St. Petersburg for two hours of shuffleboard to play off of the Florida fun.

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The Dinner & Desserts

Rather than featuring a drink as couples tend to do, we created a Boozie Pop with the flavors of our favorite drink, an old-fashioned. We included a 6-foot charcuterie board (because Brian is obsessed with charcuterie) as our appetizer. We wanted a southern fare for dinner, so our guests enjoyed brisket and chicken, with yummy shipped cauliflower mashed potatoes and haricots.

For dessert, we had several options available on a dessert table. Rather than featuring a wedding cake, we paid homage to our favorite, nostalgic Little Debbie snacks: homemade oatmeal crème pies and cosmic brownies. We also had mini cupcakes, macaroons and coffee to keep our guests dancing.

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Unique Details

We had so many unique details to us that we knew our family and friends would love. One of the most unique was our table signage. Rather than doing numbers, we decided we wanted places that meant something to us. Under each city, we included why it was meaningful in a very F.R.I.E.N.D.S. show description way. For instance, ‘Madeira Beach…The One With the Wedding’.

In front of each frame that represented table seating, we decided to hire a vendor to carve out names in wood as a nice memento for the guests, and a modern look for the table. We also include a small monstera leaf on top of each gold charger as a backdrop to place the names on.

Oh, and we cannot forget the VW Photo Bus. Ultimately, we postponed due to COVID and once we got the green light we knew we just wanted a party for everybody.

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Advice to Other Couples

Don’t stress the details! Unless you have or plan to tell everybody in attendance the specifics of everything, they will not notice if something is out of place or missing.

Compromise. I never knew how Type A I was before I began planning this wedding. I tried to let Jonathan in on certain details, especially the bigger ones, and after going back and forth so many times and then ultimately figuring it out together, it allowed for a positive planning experience with slight stress and significant amounts of adult beverages.

Ask questions. This could go hand in hand with budgeting or it can mean seeking solutions with your vendors that you never knew existed to either save money or strategize together.

Ask for help. I avoided this for so long during the process and when so many people began to offer help I FINALLY accepted it. And remain open-minded. In the end, it will all work out and it will be the best twenty minutes (it felt like twenty minutes to me even though it was an ENTIRE DAY) of your life.

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