“I always describe our story as one made for the movies,” shares Sarah Nunley, who met Christopher Walter at a pub in West Virginia during graduate school. “Sarah came up and spoke to me on a dare,” remembers Chris. The next evening, they finally had a chance to speak for more than a few minutes at another mixer; however, after she returned from the restroom, Sarah couldn’t find Chris anywhere – later finding out that a friend had told him she wasn’t interested, leading to his early departure. Exactly eight months after their first meeting, they saw each other yet again at another school function that took place at the same pub where they first met. “The sparks flew!” muses Sarah.
On a holiday vacation with family in Bonita Springs, Florida, Chris proposed to his beloved on Sanibel Island. While walking along the sand looking for seashells, Chris went into the ocean exclaiming he’d found one he’d been searching for. “Sitting in his palm was a beautiful golden conch shell with a gorgeous ring perched inside,” smiles Sarah. “It was the most special moment of my life!” Exactly one year later, the pair returned to the same locale for their destination wedding. Nearly 150 guests – many of whom traveled from India – were invited by way of an elegant laser-cut invitation suite in rich eggplant and emerald hues accented with gold details designed by Oda Creative that set the tone for the décor.
Though the nuptials took place in late December, the tropical setting allowed for an outdoor ceremony surrounded by lush greenery. “Sarah and I wanted something that would respect more traditional family members, but represent us and how happy we were to be married,” shares the groom of their vision. “Instead of doing a separate Hindu and Christian ceremony, we wanted to incorporate traditions from both into our very own unique ceremony,” notes the bride. To honor Hindu traditions, Sarah was escorted by her brothers and cousins; however, she later met her father to walk down the aisle as she’d always imagined. “She looked incredible – it was like a dream,” professes Chris. Sarah was stunning in an illusion long-sleeved gown styled by Belle Manjong of The Boutique by B.Belle Events, who also planned and designed the celebration.
“Our amazing wedding planner designed and created the most beautiful circular floral arrangement on the ground for the two of us, our officiant, and our entire bridal party,” the bride describes of the unique florals arranged on the lawn. “It kept the ones we love close to us in such an important moment.” The groom agrees: “The ceremony circle that Belle built was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.” A gorgeous wooden arch with intertwined driftwood and lush blooms marked the spot for the customized ceremony, which included words from scripture, poems by Robert Frost, Rabindrath Tagore, and Maya Angelou, and the couple’s personalized poetic vows.
“We wanted to continue the feeling of being in a garden after our ceremony had ended,” confirms the bride of their reception décor. “Our wedding planner took our dream and surprised us with gorgeous centerpieces and spectacular lighting,” declares Sarah. Tables were cloaked with deep emerald and champagne-hued linens from Nüage Designs, and centerpieces included both high and low arrangements of ranunculuses, orchids, anemones, and more, as well as earthy driftwood, air plants, succulents, herbs, lavender, eucalyptus, and moss. Bullion-hued charger plates were topped with a fresh gold-dipped leaf inscribed with each guest’s name, so they could easily find their seats for the sit-down dinner service as well as selections from an Indian buffet.
Though the traditional first dance, father-daughter dance, and mother-son dance were memorable for everyone in attendance, the newlyweds surprised their guests with a second first dance that began a night of revelry. “After dinner, Chris and I re-entered the reception hall in Indian clothing, performing a dance I choreographed,” reveals Sarah. “Indian weddings are usually filled with guests and family dancing, and we wanted the same.” Multiple loved ones continued the merriment with choreographed dances for the couple, including a surprise performance by Sarah’s bridesmaids. Her Bhangra dance group from college had the final performance, which opened up the dance floor for attendees to enjoy a mix of pop, Bollywood, Bhangra, and classic rock until 2AM.
The newlyweds were thrilled to share their cultures and love with friends and family, designing a celebration that was truly all their own. Though Sarah wishes she could have spent even more time with their guests, Chris notes just one thing he would do differently: “Ask Sarah to marry me sooner,” he smiles.