“Every time we would visit, we always talked about how special and magical it would be to get married there,” Emily Koplin says of marrying fiancé Alexander Jenkins at his childhood home in Tampa, Florida. “We loved the idea of a backyard wedding.”
The home, set on a horse farm with acres of oak trees, was a “no brainer” when it came to choosing a wedding venue after the pair were engaged during a trip to the Bahamas. Emily, a special education teacher, and Alexander, a venture capitalist, wanted to mix a black-tie event with the farm setting, using natural décor that would look as if it originated in the space. To pull it off, they hired Anna Lucia Events to create a whimsical day.
“They turned our vision into a reality and made sure the whole weekend was beyond anything we could have ever imagined,” Emily says. That included a ceremony in the “Avenue of Trees” with a custom-built aisle, a cocktail hour on the pool terrace that featured a raw bar, and a tented reception with a formal dining space and a club-inspired dance floor complete with a neon-light chandelier.
Despite being at a private residence, the couple pulled out all the stops to make it feel as luxurious as a five-star hotel. The dancing tent’s brass bar was modeled after the décor in the Four Seasons Surf Club, outside of Miami, and guests were given custom hotel slippers during the afterparty. Cushy lounge areas embellished the space as did a cigar station that was open all night.
Anna Lucia Richardson of Anna Lucia Events collaborated with TPD Design House on the invitation suite, paper goods, and welcome basket. The latter doubled as the wedding favors, featuring everything from snacks for the weekend to P.F. Candle Co. jasmine-scented candles and Tocca hand cream.
The night before the wedding day, Emily and Alexander, who goes by Alex, threw a welcome party. They admit, though, that they spent so much time talking with guests that they forgot to eat! In a hilarious memory, they jetted to McDonald’s for a late-night feast before the big day.
“While I was getting my hair done, my bridesmaids and my mom gave me a book filled with pictures and memories that we’ve all shared together throughout the years,” Emily says. “It was so unbelievably special. It was so fun to look through and get in a good laugh and cry.”
“My mom and nana’s reactions are what really sold me,” Emily says of her gown, which was the last of 80 dresses she tried on. She fell in love with its high neck and tulle A-line skirt. To accent the Birenzweig dress, she added only earrings, her rings, and a Birenzweig veil.
Her bouquet was quite an arrangement. The oversized bridal bouquet included a mix of butterfly ranunculus, white wax flowers, cappuccino roses, Queen Ann’s lace, willow eucalyptus, rosemary, and spirea, all designed by her florist, 50fifty Events.
One of the couple’s favorite moments was their intimate first look, where they read letters to one another—their version of personalized vows. “It was nice to have a moment alone together,” Emily adds.
"Since my dress had a lot of detail, I wanted the bridesmaid dresses to be elegant and simple," explains the bride. "I also didn’t want to do traditional bridesmaids dresses so each bridesmaid wore a different color, floor-length slip dress."
Despite the tradition to not see one another before the ceremony, Emily and Alex had breakfast together then got ready at their home with their separate wedding parties.
Emily and Alex first met in college but it took Alex four years to finally ask Emily out. “Alex told me that he first saw me when we lived in the same dorm our freshman year of college but was always too nervous to say something until that night, our last night of senior year,” Emily says of the moment their love story began. Luckily, they were both set to stay in Tallahassee for another year and claim to be “inseparable ever since.”
“Pastoral elegance” was the working theme for the celebration, which extended to the overflowing arrangements of flowers, floral-accented programs, and bucolic touches like a basket filled with pashminas. “We worked very hard to keep the overall aesthetic [in line] with the wedding location,” Emily says.
For the ceremony, the couple would say “I do” in an area on the property they have dubbed the “Avenue of Trees.” Massive oak trees line a path just wide enough for garden chairs and a custom wooden aisle flanked by arrangements of white heather, white hybrid delphinium, hedera, and salal.
I love how they were both there by my side during the most important moment of my life.
Emily was escorted down the aisle by her parents as 220 guests looked on. “I love how they were both there by my side during the most important moment of my life,” she says.
I think I experienced every emotion you could feel in the span of 30 minutes.
“I think I experienced every emotion you could feel in the span of 30 minutes,” Emily says of the ceremony.
“Seeing people that I love smiling and waving at me was just what I needed to see at that moment,” says Emily, who admits that she was quite nervous to be the center of attention during the ceremony. “Seeing my husband and our best friends just made me so happy.”
The cocktail hour was designed to look as if it already existed in the pool area of the home.
To reinforce the pastoral quality of the venue, the couple’s custom escort card display was designed to look like an English garden. Each leather card came attached to a mini potted plant with white waxflower and fresh moss.
The bar was accented with fresh moss and iron lanterns. Drinks included Veuve Clicquot Champagne, Whispering Angel Rosè, and Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon.
Guests were then escorted to a Sperry tent, lined with white drapery, for the dinner portion of the evening.
Inside, wooden tables nodded to the farm venue, while French country chairs and sleek arrangements of hydrangea, ranunculus, and rosemary kept the space feeling elevated and modern. An 18-piece orchestra played during the candlelit dinner.
“Finding a team to work with who understands your vision and style is so important,” the bride says of working with Anna Lucia Events. “We could have never done it without them.”
Emily and Alex say that choosing the menu was one tough line item as there were “so many delicious options.” They landed on classics: dry-aged filet mignon and a lemon-thyme baked branzino.
The couple’s five-tier vanilla chiffon cake rested on a unique platform. Instead of linens, the table was covered in custom floral-printed paper.
After dinner, guests moved to a second tent with a more “clubby” atmosphere dedicated to dancing. The emerald-and-brass bar there was modeled after that of the Four Seasons Surf Club, a historic property near Miami, and everything in the space felt luxe, right down to the velvet drapes.
Element Music played a mix of music from the 1970s to today, as guests danced under a neon-light chandelier.
Since the dance party included disco balls and mini pizzas, Emily changed into a fringed mini dress by Naeem Khan.
“We wanted to make sure the dance floor would be packed all night,” Emily says of choosing music that would appeal to everyone and passing out late-night snacks.
“There was so much customization and detail in every aspect of the ceremony and reception but it all came together so naturally,” Emily says. “We wanted to mix a black-tie event and a backyard wedding all into one.”
Planner Anna Lucia Richardson of Anna Lucia Events
Officiant Merrin Jenkins
Bridal Gown & Veil Birenzweig
Bridal Salon Chernaya Bridal House
Shoes Rene Caovilla
Reception Dress Naeem Khan
Hair & Makeup Femme Akoi Beauty Studio
Groom’s Attire Ralph Lauren
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands Shayan Afshar
Floral Design 50fifty Events
Stationery TPD Design House
Music Element Music
Catering Creative Edge Parties
Cake Hands On Sweets
Cigars Covadonga Cigars
Rentals A Chair Affair; Artistic Spaces; Events on the Loose; Frost Florida; La Tavola Fine Linen; Letz Dance On It; Naples Custom Furniture; Nuage Designs; Over The Top; Pialisa; Sperry Tents; Swag Decor; TentLogix; Vivant Event Design
Neon Sign Suncoast Neon
Transportation Olympus Limo Inc.
Accommodations Tampa Marriott Water Street
Photo Booth MVS Studio
Videography Elysium Productions
Photography KT Merry