SARASOTA — After a decade spent fulfilling the dreams of others, wedding planner Brooke Palmer closed her eyes and saw every detail of a modern, white-tie celebration of her love for Craig Kuhl.
No place but the Ringling Museum of Art would do. Ceremony and cocktails on the Ca' d'Zan terrace; dinner and dancing in the courtyard overlooking Sarasota Bay.
The theme would reflect Great Expectations, the era of the classic novel and the future Brooke, 36, aspires to with Craig, 46.
To fully enjoy the intricate, formal affair she envisioned, Brooke followed her counsel to other brides: Bask in the moment and let others tend to the details.
"It was hard for me to let go," she confessed, "but a lot had to happen in a very short time frame."
One wedding planner, three floral and décor designers, five linen companies and three furniture renters were contracted. Three photographers and four videographers captured 5,000 photos and hours of video.
Five of Brooke's event-planner pals volunteered for day-of duties, including wrangling groomsmen and glittering toy circus animals and displaying 10-foot gold mirrors listing table assignments.
In all, 50 vendors and 150 workers came together to pull off the March 15 extravaganza, "the wedding of the century," tweeted some of the guests.
The newlyweds met the summer of 2008 when Brooke asked Craig, a sales manager for Coastal Wine and Spirits, for a vodka donation for an upcoming charity benefit. She made her pitch, and a bold bet, over drinks one night.
"I said the woman he was dating was all wrong for him and bet dinner at Bern's (Steak House) that they'd break up."
Brooke won that wager and, ultimately, a husband. Coincidentally, she now handles public relations for Bern's, SideBern's and Elevage at the Epicurean Hotel.
"I lost the bet but won a lifetime of happiness," Craig said, upon returning from a two-week honeymoon in Dubai and the Maldives. The groom's primary wedding task was to select the wine and liquor poured at custom-made, crystal-draped bars.
Bern's provided the aged filet and scallops that Puff n' Stuff Catering grilled and seared for 400 guests, served on mirrored tables and sparkly linens set beneath 20 chandeliers and a dazzling disco ball dangling from a giant crane. The head table seated 72, including 13 bridesmaids and 11 groomsmen.
Chocolate Pi chef Kim Yelvington baked a six-layer wedding cake, inspired by the Ringling architecture and the cherry blossoms that brightened the ceremony aisle, the bride's favorites growing up in Washington, D.C.
Two bands were imported for the night: Yacht Rock Schooner from Atlanta and the Tyrone Smith Revue of Nashville, who invited the bride to join them on the drums. Not even the groom knew what Brooke was up to when she changed into a short wedding dress, climbed on stage and rocked the Commodores' Brick House.
"It was a testament to the depth of my friendships in the industry," Brooke said. "And my extremely generous parents, who chose to give their daughter her dream wedding."
Amy Scherzer can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3332.