After being introduced to each other by a mutual friend in a bar at a West Virginia mountain resort, there was no doubt that Brad Hoffman would remember Sondra Ortagus. “I mustered up the courage to give him a little pat on the butt and told him he could find me later and get me a drink,” Sondra recalls. “It worked.”
With the help of his brother, a jeweler, Brad designed the ring of Sondra’s dreams; later, he enlisted the assistance of a four-legged friend to pop the question. He invited Sondra to his house for dinner, and when she arrived she immediately noticed a dog bed and toys. “Then I looked over in the corner and there was the most adorable and scared little puppy!” Sondra remembers. Brad told her to check the puppy’s collar, which featured an engraving of the words, “Sondra… Will You Marry Me?” In her shock and excitement, Sondra didn’t give her beloved an answer. “Brad looks at me and asks, ‘Um, is that a yes?’ I completely forgot I had to respond. So of course I said yes!” Sondra happily reminisces.
The couple had visited beautiful Key West, Florida, six months into their relationship, and it quickly became “their place.” Naturally, the location was their first and only choice for the “beach glam” destination wedding they desired. Sondra enlisted the help of her aunt (“My partner-in-crime for the whole operation,” the bride reveals) and wedding planner Blair Peterson to help her design a celebration in a palette of white and gold with hints of green at a 1920s-era seaside resort.
A limeade station, monogrammed sunglasses, and flip-flops were on hand as guests arrived at the ceremony on the sand. Dark wooden chairs faced a small stage, which was adorned with billowing fabric and garlands of cream and ivory flowers. Ornate urns filled with frothy vanilla blooms flanked the area. Bridesmaids dressed in sparkling gilt gowns walked down the aisle to an acoustic rendition of the Forrest Gump theme; then, Sondra made her entrance in a halter-neck ball gown with a voluminous tulle skirt. Her relaxed fishtail braid, accented with a single floral hair accessory, completed her elegant, beachy look. “Sondra looked so gorgeous – the dress and her whole styling (she’d want me to use that word) were just perfect,” Brad describes.
The Episcopalian service included the couple’s favorite Bible readings, as well as a performance by a few friends of “Grow Old with You,” the song sung by Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer. “That was a hit!” Sondra exclaims. Following the vow exchange, attendees lounged on couches and armchairs for cocktail hour on the beach. The focal point was undoubtedly the sand sculpture of Sondra and Brad’s beloved dog, Tahoe – “an homage to the beginning of our life together: the proposal,” Brad explains.
Inside the ballroom of the resort, a gorgeous dark wood ceiling matched elegant hardwood floors, while light poured in from tall windows. Round tables were topped with either champagne sequined linens and centerpieces of phalaenopsis orchids and lush greens, or fluffy ivory tulle linens and a trio of white florals in mercury-glass containers. A mixture of gold and glass votives added the finishing touch to all tables. By contrast, the wooden rectangular head table was left bare of linens, and featured alternating high and low arrangements of phalaenopsis orchids, garden roses, ranunculuses, and split-leaf philodendrons. Ghost chairs blended seamlessly into the tropical décor.
Though they nixed the garter toss (“My dress was huge, so that would have taken way too long to find!” Sondra laughs), the couple was thrilled to include other traditions that still kept the event true to their personalities, such as “fun, sassy” speeches by family members, memorable dances to an energetic live band, and an amusing “messy” cutting of their three-tiered coconut and passion fruit cake.
After a post-reception dance party on the beach complete with a DJ, Sondra and Brad relished some private time gazing out at the ocean from their balcony and reflecting on their celebration. “It was a great exhale and really nice to finally spend some time together, just the two of us, after such an exhilarating day,” Brad remembers. Indeed, guests told the newlyweds that they were the first bride and groom they had seen who looked like they actually had fun at their own wedding. “We ate everything, danced all night, and used the photo booth and the selfie sticks,” Sondra boasts. “We actually got to enjoy all our months of hard work!”