'Let the good times roll," read the laminated sign being waved by an ethereal, blond Weeki Wachee mermaid floating in a fish tank.
Not a difficult task for the 370 guests at the wedding of Dr. Yi-Hwa Sun Outerbridge and Felix Cannella on Nov. 11, 2011.
The couple designed an entire experience around the idea that weddings should be enjoyed by everyone — not just the bride.
"I just wanted everyone to have a good time," said Yi-Hwa, 55, an anesthesiologist from Tampa. "I didn't want anyone to be bored."
An easy goal for a globe-trotting couple with roots in Florida and abroad.
Yi-Hwa was born in Taiwan and moved to Fort Lauderdale when she was 13. The Florida Gator stayed in Tampa to practice after graduating from the University of South Florida's medical school.
She was looking for a condo in 2001 when the Realtor, a friend of Felix's, showed her his building.
"He came in and said hello," she remembered.
After she moved in, he brought her welcome candy and was only across the hall if she needed anything.
"If I needed a light bulb changed or something fixed, he could come over," she recalled.
Then she met his family.
"His family is wonderful and so close," Yi-Hwa said. "I thought, 'With a family like that he has to be good.' "
So six months after they met, Felix and Yi-Hwa started dating.
They've traveled together to every continent but Antarctica — twice.
On an evening out in Tampa in 2007, Felix asked Yi-Hwa if she would marry him. "Her eyes were so big and beautiful and bright," Felix said.
Yi-Hwa wanted to make sure the date of her wedding was just right. She settled on 11/11/11, nearly two years in advance, and started planning the big day from there.
Fourteen months in the making, the night wedding at the Florida Aquarium in Channelside took a small army of coordinated workers and volunteers to keep everyone entertained. But there was pride in the work, said Felix, 52, a third-generation Tampa native who is semi-retired from the ice manufacturing business.
"Once people heard the ideas, they wanted to take the extra step to make it special," he explained.
What came to fruition was the stuff of dreams.
A row of tiny penguins marched down the aisle — a surrogate wedding party— before Yi-Hwa's two younger brothers escorted her to the altar.
During cocktail hour, guests were free to roam through aquarium exhibits, and employees walked around with a horned owl and snakes for animal encounters.
As guests entered the reception they were greeted by a Polynesian band playing island music. Later, the band performed a dance routine on the steps to the lower level. Guests even got in on the act, learning to hula and performing with the Polynesian dancers.
The four-tier round wedding cake was adorned with edible orchids and the Chinese symbol for double happiness.
Fresh orchid plants flown in from Thailand and fish bowls filled with magnetic magic fish decorated the reception tables.
"I don't like cut plants. I like living things," Yi-Hwa explained.
Guests were encouraged to take the plants with them when they left.
"Some friends who took them are telling me the plants are still blooming," Felix said. "I'm glad they're still enjoying it."
But that was the plan all along.