A Serene Ceremony

A Wedding Match Made in Miramar


October 7, 2016
Words by Candice Maniga
Photos courtesy of Amanda Donaho Photography

When Dustin and Chelsie got engaged, they realized tradition wasn’t a priority. Venturing to Miramar Beach, Florida for their wedding meant enjoying the company of each other, family and friends and spending money on what they valued most. The Florida Keys was the first choice for their destination wedding, but the logistics (cost, distance, transportation requirements) ruled it out. Continuing to scout for locations along the Florida Gulf, they realized Miramar Beach was just as beautiful while being closer and cheaper, with less tourists.

With a support system behind them, and a guest list limited to family and close friends, Dustin and Chelsie chose to rent two houses from Avalon Beach Estates. They ran into issues with lodging because different management companies owned several of the homes they looked at, making it difficult to get two to agree on the same deal.

Even after the plans were made, their rented homes underwent a change in management before the wedding. “Luckily, the new management company was very understanding and let us keep everything the same,” explained the bride.

The houses differed in size so the larger home could be used to house most of the guests and the reception, while the smaller home was rented to protect the couple’s grandparents from the noise. “The biggest issue I had was coordinating rooms,” Chelsie said. The beds in each room varied, so they wrote down names on a blueprint of the larger house. “This was actually the most stressful part because my mind just does not work that way. Thank goodness my husband’s does!”

The couple was able to spend more on certain aspects of the wedding – like renting homes instead of guests reserving hotel rooms – by sidestepping a few typical wedding expenses like hiring a florist or planner and having a wedding party.

Chelsie had fun planning her wedding, noting there wasn’t as much stress because the size and non-traditional route. She used Wedding Wire as her go-to tool on everything from the location down to the vendors. The site was especially helpful because she was able to read reviews from other brides on various services.

The caterer and photographer were also extremely helpful, helping the bride figure out the time of her wedding day’s various activities (i.e. pictures, the ceremony, the first dance, etc.).  “All the times can become overwhelming, especially if you have never planned a big event before,” she said. The bride trusted getting advice and referrals from vendors because “this was not their first rodeo.”

Chelsie was also able to cover decorating and music without professional help by scouring T.J. Maxx and HomeGoods on a regular basis, popping into thrift stores occasionally and investing in her own speakers and microphone equipment. By shopping for details herself, the bride created the vibe she envisioned. Investing in sound equipment saved them “a lot of money and space,” ensured their favorite music would be played and provided entertainment for the entire weekend.

Several friends and family members also stepped up to help Chelsie plan the wedding, including her grandmother who took on the task of the florist: “My nannie is very crafty and can put together wreaths and flower arrangements like nobody’s business!” 

While not hiring a professional florist was one way for Dustin and Chelsie to save money, a constant theme of the weekend was investing in what truly mattered. “[Florists] do amazing work, but the flower arrangement, my bouquet, my floral headpiece and anklet will always have a very special meaning to me because my nannie made them,” Chelsie explained.

Compared to a traditional wedding, Dustin and Chelsie didn’t save by a drastic amount, but they saw big benefits in going against the norm. “We were able to spend a similar amount of money on our wedding, and a four-night, five-day stay in two beautiful homes [within walking distance of] the beach.” 

Although a traditional wedding wasn’t the answer for them, the newlyweds aren’t against the idea. “Big weddings are beautiful and lots of fun,” Chelsie said, “but extravagant is just not our style. We were glad to spend some extra time with the people who are important to us.”

After planning her own destination wedding, Chelsie had a few words of advice for future brides taking on the same task: “Decide what is most important to you and what is [worth] spending money on. Don’t be afraid to [contact] several vendors and ask for recommendations. If at any point during your wedding planning something is causing you more stress than needed, ditch it! You won’t regret it.”

Vendors: Photographer: Amanda Donaho Photography, Ceremony/Reception Site: Avalon Beach Estates (rented through 360 Blue Properties), Stationery: Minted.com, Cake: Oh Snap! Cupcakes – Pensacola, Florida, Hair & Makeup: Hair by Jackie Maglio & Makeup by Stacy Alderson, Gown Designer: Free People, Groom’s Clothing Designer: Polo Ralph Lauren, Décor Rentals: Hemstitch Vintage Rentals, Catering: Culinary Productions

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