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Seaside Weddings: Brides say 'I do' by the beach

Posted on Feb 12, 2021 in Weddings , Seaside, Florida Weddings

For 40 years, Seaside has served as the setting for weddings. Beginning with a beach wedding celebrating town founders Robert and Daryl Rose Davis, Seaside has been an ideal spot to tie the knot, with its sugar-white sands and emerald-green Gulf waters.

Guests who tire of swimming and sunning can wander through town, biking or walking along the pedestrian-friendly brick-paved streets while appreciating the award-winning architecture.

Below, couples who chose to exchange wedding vows in Seaside share how this town won their hearts.

Blair and Peter Butler

Since she was a child, Seaside has been special to Blair (Flowers) Butler. Growing up in nearby Dothan, Alabama, Blair spent summers visiting Seaside.

Peter and Blair attended Virginia boarding schools about 45 minutes away from each other and had crossed paths at sporting events, but hadn't connected.

When she told her boarding school friends that she was going to Southern Methodist University, they insisted she meet Peter Butler, a fellow student and family friend from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “Coincidently, we were at the same burger spot the first day of college, which in Dallas is kind of rare,” Blair remembers. “We spent the first semester as friends, and by our second semester we started dating and haven’t looked back since.” The pair have been together for 15 years and have a one-year-old daughter named Frances.

Married on February 23, 2013, Blair and Peter chose the Seaside Interfaith Chapel for the ceremony, with a tented reception on the Lyceum Lawn. “I knew Seaside would be the perfect spot for all our friends to fly into and experience my favorite beach spot from growing up,” Blair says. “Also, it was close enough that all our friends and family from home could drive down and even make it a day trip if they wanted.”

"I loved that once our friends came to town everyone would be able to walk around and bump into other wedding guests,” Blair says.

Though the weekend was stormy, the couple and their loved ones made the most of their time. “We spent a lot of time on Bud & Alley’s rooftop enjoying views of the water,” Blair says. “Also, Modica Market said we had record sales of to-go mimosas, which are my personal favorite.”

The celebration went into the wee hours as the crowd danced the night away. “We had an amazing band and it was a wonderful celebration with all our best friends,” she says. As their newlyweds bid farewell to their guests, they were sent off by their guests with glow sticks and gift bags of boiled peanuts (an Alabama favorite).

“To this day, everyone says this is the most fun wedding they’ve ever been to. For many of them it was the first time they had been to Seaside. We loved sharing our favorite place with everyone.”

An Instagram influencer, Blair runs The Perennial Style with her two younger sisters, Ellen and Janie). Peter works in commercial real estate.

Photos by Paul Johnson

Laura and Matthew Hoopes

Laura (Oubre) Hoopes’ fond memories of Seaside include her father driving through the town while vacationing in the Florida Panhandle. “Matt and I first visited Seaside together on a quiet weekend away and we fell in love with what we first experienced as a peaceful, sleepy little town,” she says. “After staying in Seaside a second time only two months later, we immediately knew where we wanted to get married when the time came.”

Laura, from New Iberia, Louisiana, and Matt, from Canton, Ohio, met in Nashville, Tennessee, after a mutual friend connected them when looking for someone to take care of his kids while he was on tour with his band, Relient K. They were wed May 9, 2017, and lived in Nashville until they moved to Seaside in February as full-time residents.

Laura and Matt celebrated their love with a “just us” elopement, booking a cottage through Homeowner’s Collection cottage rentals and purchasing Champagne from Modica Market. “Our photographer took pictures of us getting ready together in the cottage, walking the paths, and saying our intimate vows on the beach,” Laura recalls. “It was only us, our photographer, and Pastor Gary Wingo from the chapel. Afterward, we drank Champagne and ate cake that our parents had surprise delivered to our cottage.”

Laura and Matt own a guitar pedal business called 1981 Inventions. Matt is a musician and Laura is starting a family photography brand called City & Sea.

Photos by Kristin Sweeting

Carson and Taylor Kelley

Carson (Coffman) Kelley’s history with Seaside goes back to the town’s early years. “My parents began visiting the town back in the mid ’80s after it was featured in a Southern Living Magazine writeup,” she recalls. “My parents found out they were pregnant with me in 1992 while on a trip to Seaside. My mom shared the news with my dad while walking down Seaside Avenue after a quick trip to Modica Market.”

On one of her family’s many trips, Carson learned how to ride a bike, pedaling the day away in the town center. She spent sunny days rolling down the hill at the Seaside Amphitheater and building sandcastles on the beach. “My favorite thing to do was sit in Ruskin Park on Saturday evenings and watch the beautiful couples emerge from the chapel,” she adds. “Their happiness and excitement was contagious. I told my parents that I would get married in the chapel one day just like those brides. My dad shared that anecdote in his welcome toast at our reception.”

Carson quickly brought her then-boyfriend Taylor to stay for a long weekend at her family’s home in WaterColor. “I showed him all of our family traditions — dinner at Great Southern Cafe, sunset on the beach, and of course a bike ride past the chapel, He swears he wasn't scared off by that. Ha!” Carson adds. “We relaxed and soaked up all that my favorite place had to offer, and I think he was sold.”

About a year later, Carson and Taylor were on their annual October beach getaway when Taylor and Carson’s dad played a fateful round of golf at Origins Golf Club. “It was there, on the third hole, that Taylor asked for my dad's permission to propose,” Carson says. “It was also there, almost a year later to the day, that we had our wedding reception under the stars on the lawn.”

Carson and Taylor were married in the Seaside Interfaith Chapel Oct. 17, 2020. “Due to COVID, the weekend looked a bit differently than we had planned, but the weekend was perfect in every way,” she says. “The weather was stunning. The venue was beautiful. And we got the most perfect sunset photos on the beach after the ceremony.”

The newlyweds plan to return to Seaside often. “I cannot express enough how much this town means to me and my family,” Carson says. “I look forward to bringing our future children time and time again.”

Carson is a renewables business consultant for Chevron and Taylor is an energy advisor for Tradition Energy.

Photos by Aislinn Kate Photography

Ashley and Sean Knollenberg

Ashley (Jordan) and Sean Knollenberg met in 2002 while they were both working at Mickey Finn’s Brewery in Libertyville, Illinois, and were friends for many years before they started dating in 2012.

While on a trip to Panama City Beach with Sean’s brother and wife in October 2013, the double couple came to Seaside for an afternoon. “I had never even heard of the 30A area and instantly fell in love with everything about it,” Ashley says. “We have been so lucky to return to Seaside every fall since then and now our 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son love it just as much as we do.”

When considering wedding locales, Seaside immediately topped the list. “We just knew right away the first time we visited that it was the perfect place for us to get married. The idea of getting to share this beautiful place with our family and closest friends made us so happy,” she adds. “We started planning our wedding and secured a date at Bud & Alley’s before we were even engaged.”

Ashley and Sean were married on October 12, 2014, with a rehearsal dinner the previous night at Pizza Bar, a ceremony on the beach and a reception at Bud & Alley’s. For dinner, guests dined on crab cakes, grouper, shrimp and filet, with cupcakes for dessert. “Our favorite picture is in front of the E. Ruskin pavilion. We have taken a picture there every year since our wedding,” Ashley says.

Sean is a restaurant manager and Ashley is a real estate agent.

Photos by Sarah and Paul Photography

Nick and Lisa Pestello

Lisa (Riley) and Nick Pestello’s Seaside love story began on New Year’s Eve in 2010. “We booked a one-night stay at the Very Bradley Inn by the Sea,” Nick recalls. “We had just heard about Seaside and were excited to see it for ourselves.”

Nick and Lisa explored Seaside, including dinner at Great Southern Café, and then watched the fireworks from Bud & Alley’s rooftop bar to ring in the new year. “From that point on we were in love with Seaside,” Nick adds. “A few months later we were engaged and immediately started planning our wedding. It wasn’t long before the idea of having it at Seaside came up. Seaside would be a great central meeting point for our family and friends and allow us to share our new favorite spot with them.”

The couple’s November 12, 2011 wedding was a little colder than expected. “But that didn’t slow down the fun and excitement,” Nick says. “My Louisiana family hosted a rehearsal dinner with great gumbo and other Cajun specialties at Changes in Attitude. The wedding ceremony and reception returned back to where it all started on our first trip to Inn by the Sea and Bud & Alleys.”

Friends and family booked all the rooms at the inn, where the ceremony was held. “The reception at Bud & Alleys proved to be the ideal location,” Nick says. Originally it was going to be all indoors but management gave us some special wedding day magic and expanded our celebration area to outside with a dance floor under the lights and heaters on the back deck.”

Since their wedding, Nick and Lisa have returned every year for different holidays. “In 2014, our son made his first trip to Seaside,” says Nick. “In 2017, we made our first trip over Easter with our new baby girl and discovered our new favorite time to visit. Attending church at the Seaside Chapel, followed by breakfast at Great Southern Café, and the gigantic Easter egg hunt have set the gold standard for celebrations.”

Their kids, William, age 7 and Betsy Grace, age 4, are growing up frequenting Seaside now. “They tell stories to their friends about ‘their’ beach town with the big green area where they can play, watch movies, and see live music, the town that has sandy streets where you bike everywhere. And it’s perfectly acceptable to eat a slice of Modica Market cake for breakfast,” Nick explains. “Seaside is truly our happy place that we will continue to visit forever. We’re counting down the days until we are back there again.”

Nick is a civil engineer, currently the director of engineering, maintenance, and development at the Port of Lake Charles.  Lisa is a special education teacher at Nelson Elementary in Lake Charles, La.

Photos by Amanda Suanne

Julie and Eric Nelson

Julie (Jawor) and Eric Nelson met at a sports bar in Old Town Chicago watching a Bears game. They dated, married and lived in Chicago for 15 years, until recently, when they moved to Ponte Vedra Fla., where Julie is from.

Romance is contagious in Seaside, as Eric was inspired while he and Julie attended a friend's wedding in the town. “That was the weekend we fell in love with Seaside,” Julie explains. “My husband will tell you it was the weekend he knew he was ready to propose.” They got engaged three months later.

Julie had always wanted a beach wedding. “And we both wanted a destination wedding since we had tons of friends and family traveling from California, Chicago and other states,” Julie adds.

They were married October 14, 2012, on the beach at the Coleman Pavilion at sunset, with a reception at Bud & Alley’s. “All brides say their wedding was a magical day but ours was truly a magical weekend,” Julie says. “We both smiled so much it hurt the whole time. Some of our favorite memories were seeing our friends around the town, riding bikes, playing beach games, enjoying the restaurants and watching them all fall in love with Seaside like we had. It was a very laid-back wedding and one hell of a party! We absolutely loved every minute of it.”

Julie owns her own design and brand consulting practice and Eric is a tech sales engineer.

Photos by Emily Martin Photography