Joel and I just recently celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary. While I never really thought (or cared) about what I wanted from a wedding until Joel and I started talking seriously about getting hitched, our wedding ended up being probably my favorite day ever — it was simple, it was “us” and we had a blast celebrating with our family and friends.
We chose to get married in St. Augustine for two main reasons:
- The historic district is absolutely gorgeous and had the perfect old Florida feel we wanted. The old buildings, the oaks and Spanish moss, the colors of the city — it’s a backdrop that needs no effort.
- It was close to Jacksonville but a better location for all the out-of-town visitors. None of my family members or old friends live anywhere remotely close to Florida, so for those flying in, they had plenty of opportunities for food, entertainment and fun within walking distance.
We were engaged for a year and a half, which gave us plenty of time to plan. This was good, because I had a very specific idea of what I wanted and was able to easily execute my vision without stressing out much.
I knew from the moment we got engaged where I wanted to get married: one of the St. Augustine Historical Society (SAHS) properties in the downtown historic district. Several years back, I saw photos from a wedding at the Oldest House and was smitten with the location. We visited in 2011 and it was lovely. The garden is an open area surrounded by the Oldest House, the museum and high walls. A huge oak sits in the middle and is a perfect spot for a ceremony. The whole complex is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of main pedestrian and vehicular thoroughfares like San Marco Ave., King St. and St. George St.
Spoiler alert: we didn’t get married at the Oldest House. Only ceremonies are held there, and I wanted to have the ceremony and reception in one spot to keep things easy. It is possible to have the ceremony at the Oldest House, and the reception across the street at another SAHS property, the Llambias House, but I wasn’t sold on the extra cost associated with that set-up.
So we decided to have the whole thing at the Llambias House. We went to view it about 15 months in advance of the wedding and had our pick of dates. I wanted a Fall 2013 wedding, ideally when the weather was a bit cooler, so we chose the second weekend in November.
I think the Llambias House Garden is even more beautiful than the Oldest House Garden. It has a quaint, old world European feel to it. There is maximum of 100 people, but that wasn’t a problem for us since we wanted a smaller wedding. We ended up with about 55 people, so it didn’t feel crowded at all. There are some restrictions, since it is a historic house and property, but that wasn’t an issue for us.
We had it set up so that the wedding party entered from the next-door St. Francis Park, while the ceremony itself took place under a jasmine-covered arbor with twinkling lights. The only decorations were lights strung across the property. It was beautiful though, almost surreal that we were getting married in someplace so lovely.
We took a trolley ride in between the ceremony and reception to allow time for set-up of the tables, bar and food.
All the gorgeous photos in this post are the work of Celia G. Photographie. We are lucky to have some incredibly talented friends. I served in AmeriCorps briefly (our terms slightly overlapped) with Celia back in 2008 and even though she moved back to South Carolina afterwards, we always kept in touch with her and her husband John and got together for plenty of food and drinks at least a few times a year. I was thrilled when they agreed to do our engagement and wedding photos! They completely blew us out of the water with the final product. I tear up every time I see how amazing their photos are.
Back when we first visited the Oldest House in 2011, we had dinner that night at the Tasting Room (now called Michael’s Tasting Room). SO DELICIOUS. Luckily they were on the approved caterers list for the SAHS and we were able to book them. We had them handle all the food (including dessert) and alcohol. Stephanie, the event planner, was incredibly easy to work with and always checked in with me to make sure things were in order. Chef Michael Lugo has a fresh, seasonal and varied menu that fit all of our needs — we had several meat dishes, but also plenty of food that vegetarians and those with food allergies could enjoy. To keep cost down and keep things simple and easy, we decided to just have wine and beer. The Tasting Room has a huge list to choose from, and they also make amazing sangria, so we had both the white and red as a drink option too. I don’t really like cake, so we decided to skip the traditional wedding cake and had mini desserts instead. The sea salt brownies and guava and cream cheese turnovers were delicious. Joel and I shared full-size versions and I actually hurt my jaw shoving the entire turnover in my mouth because it was so good. Beyond the food and drinks, the service at the reception was top notch too. It was a pleasure to work with the whole Tasting Room team and we still enjoy going out to eat there whenever we’re in town.
Jim from St. Johns Illuminations provided string lights for the wedding. They were simple but added a really nice touch. I love how awesome they look in all of the pictures, especially as the sun was starting to set. And of course they provided nice light once it got dark out. Jim did a great job!
When we got married back in November 2013, we were provided with an approved vendors list that we could select our vendors from. Since the SAHS only provides the venue, we had to rent tables, chairs, dinnerware, etc. and only had one vendor to select from: St. Augustine Rentals. There was a little bit of confusion on the day of but everything worked out in the end. One thing to note is that, since I have never held a wedding before, it was hard to remember everything that we actually needed. But, somehow, it all comes together! Just ensure open communication and ask lots of questions.
Trolleys — Entertainment & Transportation
We were staying across the street from the venue so we didn’t want or need a limo or any other sort of transportation. Most of our guests parked at the St. Augustine Visitors Center though, so we contracted with Old Town Trolley Tours to bring people back and forth before and after the wedding. We also wanted to do something fun in between the ceremony and reception — mainly to allow time for the vendors to set up the reception tables and food — so we decided to do a trolley tour for all the guests. It was definitely the right move — it was an enjoyable tour that gave the guests some background on the city, it was a nice time to just sit and relax after the ceremony and it gave the vendors about an hour to handle what they needed to handle. It was kind of cool when people on the street realized we were part of a wedding. And it was time to sit with my new husband and soak in the fact that WE JUST GOT MARRIED! I think some of our guests had done the tour before, but I think it’s different when you’re with a big, fun group. Old Town Trolleys was convenient, reasonably priced and the drivers/tour guides we had were great!
I contacted a few DJs that were not available on our wedding date (despite it being a whole year out) but it must have been for a reason, because I finally found Skybex Entertainment and I was sooo pleased. I don’t think he does weddings at the Llambias House anymore, but if you are in the St. Augustine area and need a DJ, give Nate a call!! His prices were incredibly reasonable, especially for the quality of his work. He was very helpful during the planning process and always easy to reach. He had us fill out a form that helped us really narrow down what we wanted played at our wedding. He was also really helpful with picking out the processional music. I was going with the traditional bridal march, but I guess I never even thought that there were different options! I went with a nice violin version that really complemented the outdoor setting. Nate was great the day of — played our requested songs and clearly got a good feel for our taste and what our guests wanted. We heard from numerous guests that they loved the music and thought Nate was great.
The Llambias House is basically right across the street from a beautiful, historic inn, the St. Francis Inn, so we stayed there, along with my family, our officiant and her family and my matron of honor and her husband. This place is amazing. It’s old and quaint, with beautiful furniture and some awesome perks. Like an AMAZING brunch. And sherry in every room! They also have an evening wine social hour and nightly dessert. The location made it so easy to transport to and from the venue (like flowers, people, etc.).
I have curly hair that has a mind of its own. I am the victim of hairdressers who hear “just an inch or two” and cut off five inches, forgetting that curly hair cut when wet will actually be like 10 inches shorter. I am the victim of hairdressers STRAIGHTENING my hair, only to then curl it with an iron for events. So I am very picky when it comes to who touches my hair. When it came to my wedding hairdo, despite my DIY tendencies, I knew it wasn’t going to work to DIY my own hair. Thankfully my hair savior, Scott Tatum from Hair Peace in Riverside, Jacksonville, was able to come down and make something amazing out of my finicky locks. He’s my regular hairdresser and totally got my vision for my hair … which I basically explained as a loose updo but came out like a dream I didn’t know I had. He also did my mom’s hair and my matron of honor, Jess’ hair. If you are in the Jacksonville area and have curly hair, definitely check out Scott. I wouldn’t let anyone else touch my hair!
^The back of my updo. The silk flower in my hair is from Anna Delphia Bridal on Etsy.
One area I felt comfortable going for a DIY is flowers. There are probably tons of amazing florists in the St. Augustine and Jacksonville areas, but I didn’t want to spend a ton of money and, like the rest of the wedding, wanted to keep it simple, so I ordered my flowers from Fifty Flowers. Now, if you are considering doing your own flowers, and you have a VERY SPECIFIC idea and color in mind for your flowers, this might not be a good idea for you. I knew I wanted snapdragons but didn’t really care about the color. I ideally wanted at least a few purple stems, since purple was my main wedding color, but if I didn’t get any purple, or in the exact shade I wanted, I would be absolutely fine. I ended up buying the farm mix — a variety of colors that are selected by the farm right before shipping. In other words, colors I had no control over.
Now, I don’t exactly have a green thumb, but caring for the flowers wasn’t too hard. The hardest part was probably transporting them from Jacksonville to St. Augustine, but they all managed to survive despite my stress. I ordered 200 stems and had way more than I needed for two bouquets, a couple of boutonnieres and about 10 table centerpieces. The night before the wedding, I put together the centerpieces (all different vases I picked up from Goodwill and other thrift shops) with some help from the ladies that were also staying at the St. Francis Inn. The day of the wedding, after we had our hair done and were just hanging out, me, my mother and my matron of honor Jess put together two bouquets, the flower girls basket, boutonnieres and a few stems for the moms to carry.
We did end up with some purplish stems, so I was able to have my purple bouquet. There was also plenty of white, yellow, orange and pink stems, so there was nice variety in the centerpieces. The moms carried yellow stems and the men all got white boutonnieres. The whole process was easy, reasonable and I think it came out pretty good — it wasn’t the fanciest of flower jobs but I personally loved the results!
Clothes & Accessories
Bride: I had one requirement for my wedding dress: it had to be short. Not mini-dress short, but like knee-length short. After googling a lot of wedding dresses, I decided to make an appointment at the Wedding Suite at the Nordstrom in the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, NJ when I went home for Christmas. I went in open-minded and tried on several of the shorter dresses they had. A few dresses in, I found the most fabulous dress — a knee-length Sue Wong gown with gorgeous intricate detailing all over. It was my required length but dressy enough for a wedding. It was absolutely perfect! I rounded out my outfit with a pearl bracelet and pretty purple and white pearl earrings from Etsy (Sabtis Designs, which doesn’t seem to exist anymore?) and a pair of Badgley Mischka heels. I also picked up a purple pashmina from SWAK Couture on Etsy in case I got cold and a pair of Steve Madden purple flats for the reception.
I also got the most amazing bridal clutch. It was a bit of a splurge but it was totally worth it. I got it from a shop on Etsy (can you tell I spent a lot of time and money on Etsy?), Angee W. The cool part? You can order it with a picture inside. So one of our engagement photos is on the inside of the pretty clutch in the photo below:
Groom: We got Joel’s suit from Jos. A. Bank. We went with a nice navy blue. It seemed less formal than black and it went well with my slightly ivory/off-white dress. They had a sale going on (like I think they always do) so we got a second suit at the same time for a really great deal. We weren’t looking for anything super high quality or fancy, since Joel doesn’t wear suits a ton (he’s a journalist, not a banker. Sometimes he goes to work in shorts, a polo and sneakers. When he’s super dressy for work, he wears pants). He looked damn good in his suit though! I got him a purple bow tie and pocket square from Cristian Ratiu Bows on Etsy (yes, more Etsy) and an ivory vest and light purple shirt from Nordstrom.
I had a few DIY projects for the wedding. First, I did my own makeup. I’m not a huge fan of having my makeup done professionally, especially since I don’t wear a ton of makeup on a regular basis. I liked that I still looked like me in all my photos.
I made my seating chart from a chalkboard. I bought the frame at Marshall’s. It had cork board in the middle, but I put a layer of cardboard over it and painted it with chalkboard paint, then wrote on the seating chart. Though to be honest, if I had to do my wedding over again, I wouldn’t have a seating chart. Our wedding was small enough that it wasn’t worth it.
Our favors were a piece of saltwater taffy from Shriver’s, a place down the shore in New Jersey, tied together with two pieces of Lindt Lindor truffles. Both are items we love, and I even included a cutesy tag with each favor that said “These are a few of our favor(ite) things!” It was brought to my attention, however, at the wedding that the two balls of chocolate combined with one long piece of taffy in the middle led to a very phallic interpretation. Oops.
I bought two boxes of invitations at Michael’s (you can see the paper in the photo above with the favors) and printed my own on my home printer. They weren’t super elaborate, but they got the point across and not for a lot of money. I was able to use the leftover invitation paper for the favors too, which worked out well.
Phew. If you made it to this point, I’m impressed. You’re like 3000 words into my wedding love fest. If you have questions about any of the vendors or having a St. Augustine wedding, feel free to comment below and I’ll get back to you!
*All photos (except the first one) by the amazing Celia G. Photographie. I HIGHLY recommend them!