BEACH PARK — Neither their parents nor best friends guessed the secret Kelly Lyons and Louis Breeding kept for a month and two days. Only his children, Kathryn, 10, and Graham, 8, were clued in on the big surprise — the couple's March 14 engagement party would really be their wedding. And the spring break ski trip they had planned would really be their honeymoon. Well, one other person knew — psychically. "My mother called me the morning of the party and said she had a dream about it,'' Kelly said. "She said, 'You're getting married today, aren't you?' "
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When Kelly, 29, and Louis, 39, met at Ceviche in June 2006, they'd already heard a lot about each other through a mutual friend. Maybe that's why Kelly got flustered and spilled the sangria that night.
The next day Louis asked that friend for Kelly's phone number. Knowing she was the marketing director for a fashion magazine, he came up with a pretense to call.
"He said he wanted to advertise one of his businesses, a mortgage company, in the magazine." Not the best fit, Kelly giggled.
(Louis also co-owns Granville Scott Inc., a real estate property tax consulting firm. Kelly has since become development specialist for the Children's Home Society of Florida.)
They met for lunch at Capital Grille and talked for hours. The soccer dad had to leave to run tryouts for his daughter's team, so they continued the conversation over drinks later that night.
That weekend, Kelly joined Louis and a limo-full of friends to celebrate his birthday. They hit Mangroves, Whiskey Park and SideBern's before winding up by the pool at his house.
If his birthday wish was to meet his future wife, it came true. The couple haven't been apart since.
Kelly fell in love with his children, too. "They're my best friends," she said. The fun-loving foursome enjoy playing games, jumping on the trampoline and visiting theme parks.
Earlier this year, in February, Louis told Kat and Graham he was going to ask Kelly to marry him. He asked them to share their feelings and concerns.
"They were very happy,'' he said. "They said they wanted to be there when I asked her."
Louis mulled it over: family dinner proposal or Valentine's Day dinner at Donatello?
He decided to go the romantic route, then realized Feb. 14 was the children's night at his house. He solved that by proposing two days before Valentine's Day, catching Kelly off guard.
"He was so calm, I wasn't expecting it at all,'' she said. Louis had slipped the ring to the waiter and asked him to bring it with dessert.
"He put it out on a plate with flowers, but with the box open, and that completely blew the speech I rehearsed,'' Louis said.
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The idea to combine engagement party and wedding, Beaver Creek, Colo., vacation and honeymoon, was perfect. Neither wanted a long engagement nor a big, fancy wedding.
"We both already had that,'' said Kelly, whose first marriage lasted less than a year.
They booked the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota for March 14 at 5 p.m. Kat, along with Kelly, chose the cake design and flowers.
After drinks and appetizers, the secret would be revealed. Kelly and Louis would exchange vows on a marble staircase outdoors. Dinner would follow in the hotel's waterfront garden under a tent.
But Mother Nature had other ideas. Rain poured steadily that afternoon. Hotel staff passed out umbrellas.
"They kept asking me, 'Should we move it indoors?' '' Kelly said, mimicking their concern.
"No," she told them, ever the optimist.
But the guests grew hungry. After several hours in the downpour, Kelly decided to open the buffet. Louis went to invite the pastor, who was hidden inside, to join them for dinner.
"He sat with some of my friends,'' Louis said. "And we told everyone he was a client of mine." Louis' rowdy buddies were mortified when they found out they'd been carrying on in front of the clergyman.
Suddenly, just as they sat down to eat, a ray of sunshine burst through the clouds.
"Now, now,'' Kelly tugged Louis.
Louis stood up. Leave everything and follow us, he said, escorting 50 bewildered friends and relatives across the wet grass.
Eyes opened wide and mouths dropped when he announced that they were about to marry.
"In the pictures you can see the shock on everyone's face,'' Kelly said. "It was priceless.''
Mr. and Mrs. Breeding and their guests returned to their dinners.
If it was cold, there were likely no complaints.
Amy Scherzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3332.