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Sunken Gardens wedding continues family tradition

Published Mar. 19, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG

More than 60 years ago, Greg Lee's grandparents married on the wedding lawn of Sunken Gardens.

On Friday night, Lee, 26, married Alysa Gibes in the same garden, sliding his grandmother's vintage ring on her finger.

Gibes, 26, walked down the aisle to Christina Perri's A Thousand Years, wearing an empire-waisted gown with lace overlaying the palest of pink underneath.

Her soon-to-be husband stood in a creamy white suit jacket and teared up at the sight of her.

The couple laughed and cried through their vows, promising to cook gourmet meals, sing and save cookies for each other in their marriage.

• • •

Sunken Gardens has been the backdrop to much of Lee's family history.

He was born and raised across the street. His parents, Kathy and Jack Lee, both 59, live in the house Kathy Lee's father built.

Kathy Lee grew up in the gardens. Her grandfather, George Turner Sr., founded the attraction in 1935 and her father, George Turner Jr., took over in 1962.

"Sunken Gardens was my playground," she said. "It was a great way to grow up."

Before that, George Turner Jr. married Joyce Houseman there in 1955.

"I've always wanted family history like that," Gibes said.

Rights to the attraction were sold to the city of St. Petersburg in 1999, but it remains a special place for the Lee family.

Upstairs in the garden room during Friday's ceremony, vintage postcards served as table markers and as replacements for a guest book.

Gold frames showcased old wedding photos of both Greg Lee's and Gibes' grandparents, including one taken at Sunken Gardens decades earlier.

"The ring is getting married twice in the same location years later," Kathy Lee said.

The icing on top of their "vintage St. Pete" wedding was two flamingo cake toppers, the groom wearing a black hat and the bride sporting fluffy pink feathers.

• • •

Greg Lee met Gibes, who is from Coral Springs, at a mutual friend's party while attending the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

She's a student finance adviser at Ultimate Medical Academy in Clearwater. He's a drainage engineer for a company in Tampa.

"We are both geeks," Gibes said. "I kind of just like watching him think."

Both are shy when talking about themselves, but light up when it comes to talking about each other.

Gibes loves when Greg Lee cooks for her, specifically steak with roasted asparagus and Parmesan cheese.

"Her favorite hobby is having me cook. I love it," he said.

Gibes' other love is Disney, specifically The Little Mermaid.

A trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando ended with Greg Lee down on one knee proposing with his grandmother's customized ring.

"They all tricked me," Gibes said. "I thought we were just taking a picture."

The couple's decision to marry at Sunken Gardens came easy.

"We looked at two other places, but they didn't really matter as much," Greg Lee said.

After the tropical wedding, the couple plan to honeymoon in the chilly Baltic Sea. Their 11-day cruise will take them through Norway, Germany, Estonia, Russia, Sweden and Denmark.

Gibes is giddy when she talks about visiting Denmark, the birthplace of the father of fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen.

"I can't wait to see The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen," Gibes said.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at ctatham@tampabay.com.

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