A high school cafeteria can be a surprisingly romantic place. Just ask Brittany Freda and A.J. Somers, who felt an “instant connection” during their first time getting to know each other in their school’s lunchroom. Since their best friends happened to be brother and sister, A.J. and Brittany became fast friends themselves while spending time at the siblings’ house, and soon began a courtship that would last throughout high school, college, and beyond. “They always say you should date someone you were friends with first, and this was definitely the case for us,” A.J. confirms.

Ten years after their love story began, A.J. surprised his beloved with a Valentine’s Day weekend trip to tropical paradise. Upon Brittany’s return from work, A.J. told her to pack her bags, and the next morning they were on a flight to Anguilla. “I didn’t know at the time, but he had emailed my boss months in advance to clear the weekend,” Brittany smiles. The couple kicked off their excursion with a dreamy sunset cruise; then, they arrived back at their hotel to find their room filled with roses and flickering candles – the perfect backdrop for A.J.’s proposal. They celebrated Brittany’s “yes” with a romantic private dinner on the beach.

The couple’s love of beaches influenced their choice of venue: an ornate oceanfront resort in Palm Beach, where they had spent nearly every December vacation since they began dating. “We wanted our wedding [location] to be a destination with meaning to us,” Brittany says. While A.J. handled the logistical details, Brittany got to work designing a “colorful and romantic” ceremony filled with sherbet-toned flowers, to contrast with the ivory, contemporary reception.

A grand ballroom modeled after the loggias of Italian villas was bathed in raspberry lighting for the vibrant, classically beautiful service. Gilt chiavari chairs with ivory cushions stood atop a gold-and-white checkered floor. A lush arch of pink, peach, and cream roses and eggshell hydrangeas stood at the beginning of the aisle, while rows of glass cylinders filled with floating candles illuminated the way to the magnificent chuppah. The sumptuous wrought-iron structure was overflowing with greenery and blooms that matched the entrance.

An eight-piece string and percussion ensemble played contemporary hits by Bruno Mars and Ellie Goulding during the bridal procession. The ladies wore snowy floor-length gowns with a variety of necklines, and carried bouquets of orange and coral roses that echoed the surrounding floral displays. Brittany was a timeless beauty in a strapless fit-and-flare gown adorned with florid embroidery.

The Jewish service included the couple’s treasured cultural traditions: the Sheva Brachot, or “seven blessings,” a ketubah reading, and breaking of the glass. “When the rabbi read our vows during the ceremony, which were inscribed on our ketubah, I felt really proud,” A.J. describes. “Our vows outlined our values and how we expect to act towards one another, and with our future family.”

Guests convened in a courtyard ensconced in tropical flora for cocktail hour – just in time for a magnificent sunset. Then, they were ushered into a ballroom that served as a beautiful blank canvas for Brittany to design her dream “white and modern” reception. “I wanted to make it completely different from the ceremony,” she explains. Round tables were topped with mirrors, which complemented the dance floor, and gold charger plates. Each table displayed one of two centerpieces. The tall style consisted of vanilla roses, tulips, and hydrangeas in crystal trumpet vases, surrounded by bullion and silver mercury-glass votives. The low configuration featured a trio of floral arrangements and a cluster of pillar and floating candles raised on glass stands of varying heights. Pale pink and violet lighting filled the space with radiant color.

For Brittany, the night officially began when she and A.J. were introduced as husband and wife and had their first dance. She was then brought to tears by her new husband’s heartfelt speech. “I had no idea what he was going to say, so it was an amazing surprise,” Brittany remembers. After cutting their awe-inspiring 50-inch cake encrusted with cream and blush sugar peonies, roses, tulips, hydrangeas, and orchids, late-night revelers enjoyed an after-party in a gilt-paneled ballroom that was transformed into a sophisticated nightclub.

The groom marvels at the way each phase of the celebration flowed so effortlessly, without ever feeling like loved ones were in one place for too long. “Each room had such unique characteristics, continuing to surprise guests as they made their way from one space to the next,” he muses. Agrees Brittany, who asserts that she wouldn’t change a single element of their big day, “Everything about the night exceeded my expectations.”