Rachel and Ryan’s Love Story:
In the summer of 2011, Ryan and I met while we were both visiting Charleston, South Carolina. I was having a girls weekend with my best friend, and he was there because his boat for the United States Coast Guard was in port for supplies.
We first met when he crossed the street to talk to me while I was taking a picture of my friend. It was love at first sight. From that day forward, our love for each other grew.
We dated long distance for about a year. I lived in St. Petersburg, Fl, and he lived in Virginia. Ryan was then stationed in downtown St. Petersburg in June 2012. We were finally able to live in the same town!
We bought a house together, and on December 18th, 2012, Ryan proposed to me at our favorite beach access during a beautiful sunset. I was more than surprised and excited to start this new adventure with the love of my life.
Coral Pink and Navy Blue Nautical Chic Florida Aquarium Wedding
There was only one place that stood out in Rachel and Ryan’s minds when it came to choosing a Tampa wedding venue.
“Ryan and I both love sea life. I grew up near the beach and have a love for the water and surfing. Ryan loves the water, being in the Coast Guard, and he also has an amazing saltwater aquarium at our house,” the bride shared. “Having our wedding at the Florida Aquarium in front of the big tank was the only place we felt at home for our special day,” the bride explained.
The Gulfport couple focused their wedding planning on creating unique experiences for the guests of their nautical chic wedding
“We had the stingray tank open for our guests to be able to touch them while they enjoyed cocktail hour,” Rachel shared. “We wanted our wedding to be beautiful and memorable to all of our guests.”
The bride and groom honored their loved ones in very special ways on their big day.
“For many of the small details throughout the wedding, we incorporated our family members who had passed away, but were there in spirit. We used my grandfather’s navy sword to cut the cake, Ryan wore his grandfather’s wedding ring for the ceremony and I wore my grandfather’s firefighting badge on my bouquet,” Rachel said. “We felt it was very important to remember them and all they have done for us by including them in small ways.”
Looking back, Rachel said one of her most memorable moments came during the wedding ceremony.
“I watched Ryan’s face light up as I walked down the aisle to the man of my dreams. That memory will never leave my mind,” the bride reminisced.
“As we had our first kiss as a married couple, one of the sharks in the tank swam toward us making so many of the photos very unique.” – The Bride
“Looking through Carrie Wildes Photography portfolios, the photographers on her team met all of the requirements we were looking for. They could also capture great quality photos in a low light area without difficulty.” – The Bride
“The Florida Aquarium blended our passion with our wedding day. It has one of the most beautiful backdrops. We enjoyed that the wedding was inside, but still had the exotic feel to it, so we did not have to worry about the unpredictable Florida weather.” – The Bride
“The Florida Aquarium was by far the most amazing vendor. The organization of the wedding planning team (led by Ashley Valentine), as well as the catering, exceeded all of our expectations by working above and beyond what was needed, making our day stress-free, beautiful and fun.” – The Bride
What advice would you give to other Tampa Bay Brides?
Relax and have fun!
Tampa Wedding Venue: Florida Aquarium
Tampa Wedding Photographer: Carrie Wildes Photography
Tampa Wedding Florist: Apple Blossoms Floral Design
Tampa Wedding Caterer: Florida Aquarium
Tampa Wedding Cake: A Better Cheesecake
Tampa Wedding DJ: Music on the Move
Tampa Wedding Officiant: Dr. Julie White
Tampa Wedding Invitations: Inspirations by Amie Lee
Tampa Wedding Transportation: TECO Streetcar
Tampa Wedding Dress: David’s Bridal
Tampa Wedding Hair & Makeup: Collective Creations - Marissa
Anna Coats is a wedding blogger from Marry Me Tampa Bay which showcases local weddings in the Tampa Bay area. Her 11-11-11 St. Petersburg, FL wedding was featured on USA Today.