Photography by Jacqui Cole.
If you hadn’t had your morning coffee yet, don’t worry – the energy and happiness of Darby & Tommy is definitely infectious, and will get you through your day! Take 300 guests, a balmy fall Florida evening and long tables under the palm trees, then add in a bride and groom who told us “every cocktail is our signature cocktail” and you get one fantastic dance party! But for such a fun, modern couple, these two also peppered a lot of traditions throughout their day. Be sure to read on to to get inspired about incorporating traditions in a meaningful way into your own celebration!
Tell us about your flowers. My flowers included some special ones representing places that mean a lot to us – Tommy’s family’s place on Cape Cod, where hydrangeas bloom, and Queen Anne’s Lace for my family’s place in Canada, and eucalyptus, for Tommy’s study abroad adventure in Australia!
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Pick the things that mean the most to you to focus on, like I did with the flowers. You cannot control everything. Leave the rest to your vendors! They usually have such more expertise in the different details anyway.
Did you include any traditions in your wedding? Many traditions! I will start with what I wore…. Something old: I wore a gold cuff, which was my great-grandmother’s, who also happens to be my namesake. It was given to her by my great-grandfather for their 50th wedding anniversary. Engraved on it are dogwood flowers and their home, the Grove, in Tallahassee (which has been in our family for nine generations.) When she passed away, she left instructions for the cuff to be given to the brides in the family to wear for their wedding day. It is truly one-of-a-kind beautiful testament to my family history and the love they shared!
I also wore a necklace featuring the lavalier of our family pearls on a chain. The women of our family have worn these pearls on our wedding day since my great-great-great grandmother! My mom and my grandmother also had worn these on their wedding days. Because of how delicate this lavalier was, once dancing started, I changed into a necklace made from a pin of pearls and diamonds that my great-grandmother gave my grandmother on the day my mother was born.
Something new: My dress, and my veil // Something borrowed: My mom’s diamond earrings // Something blue: My garter // And of course, I glued a six-pence in my shoe!
Why did you choose this location for your ceremony? We chose to have our ceremony at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, in downtown Tampa. Generations of my family have been members there; both my grandparents and my parents got married there, and I was baptized and confirmed there. I grew up going to church there on Sundays, and was also involved in the youth group. It was such an important part of my life growing up, and I wanted to not only continue the family tradition, but get married in a place that already felt like home!
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? We said traditional vows and followed a traditional structure of the ceremony. One specific tradition we kept was not seeing each other before my walk down the aisle. Tommy felt very strongly that was a tradition that he wanted to honor, and it was so fun and wonderful to have the anticipation of seeing him all day, and to see him waiting there for me!
Who officiated your ceremony? How did you choose him/her? Father Reese, who as well as our officiant is also the church’s musical director. I have known him since he joined St. Andrew’s over 10 years ago. It was wonderful to go through pre-marital counseling and our ceremony with someone who has known my family and me for a long time!
How did you go about planning your ceremony? We started with a template from St. Andrew’s. It outlined the traditional service, as well as suggested readings and hymns. Tommy and I had a lot of fun exploring the different readings, with the new and exciting context of taking their lessons into our marriage. We picked our favorites of the readings and the music, and finalized them with the help of Father Reese.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? My favorite thing about our wedding ceremony, is how we started our marriage with a lot of laughter! It was an unintentionally humorous ceremony, which I just loved. Our officiant has a great sense of humor, and wove a lot of that into the sermon, and a couple ‘imperfections’ that were unplanned just made the ceremony that much more perfect.
A couple of examples: firstly, the officiant had told my brother in law, who was carrying the rings to make sure the rings were easily accessible so he wasn’t fumbling for them. Well, when it came time to hand them over, he pulled out a Ziploc bag. The sound of the Ziploc opening cracked me and Tommy up! It was hilarious. Also, I couldn’t get Tommy’s ring on! He has broken about every finger and it took me almost a full minute to push it on. I was so excited to get it on, I did a fist pump!
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your wedding ceremony? Planning our ceremony was our favorite part of the planning process, and it ended up being our favorite part of a magical day!
Your ceremony in three words. From the groom: The. Best. Ever.
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? Our love of the outdoors, the early spring season, the desire to spend the most time possible with our friends and family, and keeping things simple!
Tell us about the burying the bourbon tradition you incorporated into your day. My mother had buried bourbon at the reception site a month before for good weather – and the weather was spectacular! We never found the bourbon when bridal party members looked for it later in the evening… but it worked!
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? Rank the most important things to you that you have to spend money on, and prioritize accordingly! A couple of specific tips I have: make sure they size your dress correctly so that you don’t have to spend a lot on alterations // If you want flowers on the aisle of the church, just put a few towards the front- it still has a wonderful effect, less expense, and in pictures you cannot tell the difference! You may also be able to move flowers from the church to the reception space // Instead of big reception centerpieces, we did smaller clusters of flowers with candles and lanterns – it was beautiful! // Work with your vendors! If they know your budget, they can often help you make choices accordingly. // We rented the bridesmaid dresses, and they were great!
Why did you choose this location for your reception? Palma Ceia Golf & Country Club is a beautiful space, that was only a block or so from the house I grew up in. I loved being that close to ‘home’. Tommy and I stayed in the garage apartment after our wedding, and it was fun to walk home from the reception! A simple, fun way to end the night!
What was your wedding menu? We decided to serve a Cocktail Buffet. For us, this was a matter of ‘know your crowd’. We knew most of our friends and family would enjoy the bar more than the food, so we prioritized having a full open bar, and picked less expensive food options. We did have a late night snack of burgers and fries which was a hit! We also knew many would not sit, and instead be on the dance floor. We didn’t do a sit down dinner, which meant we didn’t have to have seats for everyone, which saved on furniture rentals!
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? Traditional buttercream – it was delicious! We cannot wait to dig into the top layer for our one year anniversary.
And tell us about those mint julep cups! We used mint julep cups to toast after our cake cutting, and for the rest of the evening for our drinks. They are a wonderful keepsake, and they are something my family has used to commemorate major celebrations for a long time!
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? First, there are many details that members of your family or loved ones may find more meaningful than you do. It’s a celebration for your family and friends too, so if some of these come up, let them steer the ship! For example, I was not picky about how our invitations looked, but my mom really cared about that detail. While she asked for my opinions on the different options, she mostly picked that particular detail out, and they ended up absolutely beautiful! // Second, keep it simple and true to yourselves. It should be a reflection of your personalities and relationship! // Third, make sure you try to stay together for most of the night. // Lastly, enjoy every second! While we believe there are even better days to come, it was definitely in one of the most magical days of our lives, and one we will treasure forever.
What was your first dance song? Best of My Love by The Emotions.
Overall, how would you describe your reception? The most beautiful dance party, with all of our favorite people in one place.
Is there anything else that helps tell the story of your wedding? Tommy and I are just so, so, grateful for everyone that came together to help kick off our marriage. Words cannot even describe it. Not only did we have wonderful vendors who helped put the event together, but also we are so thankful for those who traveled in for it. We had folks who flew in from Australia, Canada, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, and even some ‘wedding crashers’ who took a Greyhound bus down from Atlanta! Each of our loved ones means the world to us, and we were so thankful that we have such supportive family and friends, and a good Father above who somehow got all of our paths to cross.
Finally, tell us about the Come Back Bells! When the wedding reception ended, bells were handed out to the guests to ring as we left. The ringing of the “Come Back Bells” is a tradition in my family. It wishes everyone a safe journey and return. After Tommy and I left the wedding – and yes, we waited until the very end – it was really lovely slowly walking home, listening to the Come Back Bell’s ringing, and the party slowly fading, reminiscing on the evening with my new husband!