Ocean-Themed Wedding in Southern Florida

Deirdre and Bradford

Photographed by: Susan Stripling PhotographyLocation: Punta Gorda Isles, Florida, United States

Shortly after Brad Fayfield moved to Boulder, Colorado to start Freeskier magazine, he began nursing his late-night work schedule in the local coffee shop where University of Colorado student Deirdre Carew worked. Despite his repeated attempts to flirt with her, Deirdre ignored him. “It drove him crazy,” she says with a chuckle. One night, the two ran into each other in Denver, and a momentary lapse in his otherwise “flawless manners” finally captured her attention. Brad neglected to hold the door open for Deirdre, so she took it upon herself to leave a copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette––complete with a letter from “the author”––outside his ungentlemanly door. He responded to “Emily” with a note of his own, and a decorous courtship began.

During a getaway to the Fayfield vacation home in Boca Grande, Florida, Brad hatched an elaborate plan. He awoke early to go fishing, but at 8:30 in the morning he phoned Deirdre and begged her to come join him. When she arrived on the beach, Deirdre spied a treasure chest sitting half-buried in the sand. “I think the kid inside me was so excited––and still asleep––about the prospect of treasure that I truly thought the chest was real,” admits Deirdre. It turned out to be a series of three chests nestled inside one another, the first two filled with memorabilia from their dating past (including Etiquette). The final chest, however, held a stunning engagement ring, and Brad got down on one knee and proposed.

With everything set for an October 22, 2005 wedding, the couple arrived a week before the event to prepare the Boca Grande Club. As the days progressed, however, Deirdre and Brad learned Hurricane Wilma was gaining momentum and was scheduled to touch down in southwest Florida on their wedding day. After much discussion, the families and representatives of the wedding venue decided it was safer to postpone the celebration even though many of the couple’s out-of-town guests (including some from Ireland) would be unable to return. Deirdre and Brad met with the club the day before they left to secure a new date. “The puppeteering of vendors is a highly coordinated science that takes at least a year when it comes to weddings,” explains the bride. “We realized we’d be getting married in 2008 if we didn’t consider a Monday or a Thursday.” The couple finally agreed on Monday, December 5, 2005 and rushed to send out new invitations. (Fortunately, Deirdre’s mom had purchased wedding insurance in case of a hurricane.) With a little masking tape and the good-humored stroke of a marker, even the date on the canvas welcome bags was changed from “October” to “December.”

When their actual wedding date arrived, the unofficial theme of “just washed up” took on its intended meaning: a décor inspired by the surf and sand set against a backdrop of baby blue and white. Seashells appeared everywhere ––from the tops of toothpicks to the cake––and were featured most prominently on the long reception tables. They sat scattered alongside small arrangements of ivory roses, ranunculus, and hydrangea, adorned each delicate place setting, and cascaded from the wrought iron chandelier that hung overhead.

Expecting the church to get a little stuffy during the ceremony, Deirdre designed the wedding programs as usable fans. She sprinkled the ceremony information with entertaining factoids, some of which poked fun at her Irish side. “Would you like to be buried with my people?” was one example of the “Classic Irish Proposals” she printed on the fans that guests gratefully waved as she and Brad entered to Celtic bagpipes being played by a friend.

Back at the club, countless other projects that had consumed so much of the talented bride’s free time lovingly greeted guests. Guests plucked her shell-adorned escort cards from a sandbox display, and waiters passed out mini cheeseburgers on poppy seed buns that Deirdre, a pastry chef, had baked herself. She even personalized the blue and white flags that marked each burger and all the cocktail napkins with Irish jokes and toasts. Several types of sweets on the dessert buffet that surrounded the beach-inspired wedding cake were also her creations.

But just before they cut the cake, Brad delivered a speech that brought his new wife to tears. Afterwards, however, he kept alluding to the fact that he had not said everything he’d wanted to. When the two returned from their honeymoon safari, Deirdre discovered why: The editor’s letter of his current issue of Freeskier was devoted entirely to her. “So incredibly unnecessary yet so sweet,” she says. It seems Brad had been busy with a wedding project of his own.