A Tropical Winter Wedding on the Beach in Marco Island, Florida

bride and groom on beach
Hunter Ryan Photo

Shea Thompson and Donovan Jarvis bonded over a shared commitment to working out when they met through their gym in 2015. "Donovan was a boxing instructor and I signed up for a boxing class," Shea says. "We became quick friends and the next thing I knew I found myself filling the 'girl' slot on Donovan's flag football team. The rest is history." Five years later, Donovan woke Shea up at 3 a.m., "frantic, and it was clear he hadn't slept all night," she says. "I was worried, but also tired and wanted to just go back to sleep." After several minutes of Donovan thinking "incoherent thoughts" out loud, he said, "I'm just going to do it now," dropped to his knee, and proposed. "We went together to pick out a ring the next day," say Shea.

The early-morning proposal occurred in January 2020, and Shea and Donovan began planning for a wedding that same year—December 12, 2020—in New York City, where they live. "I liked the date—easy to remember—and I wanted to get married around the holidays so we could take a long honeymoon," says Shea. In March, when businesses began shutting down due to COVID-19 restrictions, they began thinking about whether they would need to "cancel, postpone, or pivot"—until their venue made the decision for them. "When our wedding venue called to say they were unfortunately not planning on renewing their lease and closing shop due to COVID-19, thus giving us a full refund, I thought it was a sign that we could pivot without losing our deposit," says Shea. A conversation with her maid of honor also made the re-plan feel like fate: "She reminded me that when I was in high school, I always said that I never wanted a big wedding and would love to get married on the beach with just my close friends and family," says Shea. "That sealed the deal. We were going to try to pivot to a very small wedding on the beach."

Shea and Donovan kept their original wedding date, trimmed their guest list to just 22 people, and chose the JW Marriott on Marco Island, Florida, as their new beachfront location. "The beach was beautiful, and it had a penthouse suite which would allow us to have a very private and intimate reception," says Shea. "Some of our guests were more concerned about COVID-19 than others, so it was important to us to be able to have as much of the wedding and reception outdoors as possible. The penthouse suite was the best option because it allowed us to have an outdoor reception, but still have a private indoor area for our guests." With help from Carrie Darling Events, the couple designed their big day in just two months. "I consider myself a severe Type A personality and always thought that I could do all the organization that was the responsibility of a wedding planner," says Shea. "Boy, was I wrong! She helped me put together a wedding that I didn't know was possible, let alone the dream wedding I never could have imagined alone. I had zero stress and really just got to enjoy my day. Best gift I could have asked for!"

01 of 19

Going Green

wedding invites with palm-frond green text, a jute tie, and a printed vellum wrap
Hunter Ryan Photo

Shea and Donovan sent digital invitations, but asked Luster Designs to create a keepsake version, with palm-frond green text, a jute tie, and a printed vellum wrap that previewed the tropical theme.

02 of 19

In the Bag

welcome bags for wedding
Hunter Ryan Photo

Custom welcome bags filled with local treats and an orange-adorned itinerary previewed the theme and color palette. "There was a neutral base of cream and ivory, pops of tropical color—fuchsia, pink, and orange—and a few accents of black," says Shea. "It was a combination of the VIP vibe of the penthouse and the Florida 'orange' theme."

03 of 19

Just in Time

bride wearing lace and crepe gown
Hunter Ryan Photo

Before realizing they would need to change their plans, Shea had secured just two big-day elements—their original venue and her Stella York lace and crepe wedding dress. "Luckily I bought it two weeks before the shutdown!" she says. "I knew I wanted a gown with sleeves since I was planning a December wedding, but I didn't want it to be too embellished. This one was perfect because it was detailed at the top, but had a very simple skirt."

04 of 19

Bright and Beautiful

bride with bridesmaids in floor-length black dresses
Hunter Ryan Photo

Shea's bridesmaids wore floor-length black dresses from Lulus—an elegant and timeless choice that allowed the vibrant colors of the bouquets to brighten the day.

05 of 19

Eyes on Each Other

bride and groom first look
Hunter Ryan Photo

A private first look before the ceremony allowed Shea and Don to soothe their nerves. "I felt so excited and anxious before the first look, and when he turned around he was speechless—which was the goal," says Shea. "After the first look was the best, because we were able to just relax together before the ceremony and didn't have any jitters."

06 of 19

A Bold Bouquet

bride's bouquet with pink, cream, and yellow peonies, anthurium, scabiosa, ranunculus, and orchids
Hunter Ryan Photo

A bouquet from Isn't She Lovely included pink, cream, and yellow flowers—peonies, anthurium, scabiosa, ranunculus, and orchids—backed by tropical foliage.

07 of 19

Party Time

bride and groom with the wedding party
Hunter Ryan Photo

Donovan's groomsmen matched the bridesmaids in black suits and black ties, while the groom opted for a light gray three-piece suit and black bow tie. "We wanted Donovan to wear a different color suit than his groomsmen," says Shea, "so that we both stood out in the pictures."

08 of 19

Beach, Please

wedding ceremony area on beach
Hunter Ryan Photo

A picturesque beachfront spot became an intimate ceremony area with wooden bench seating and colorful floral arrangements. "At the front of the aisle were two wooden pillars with beautiful, lush floral arrangements, in the cremes, pinks and oranges, with a fan of tropical greenery," says Shea. "Underneath were large baskets of the same florals that made it feel more luxe!"

09 of 19

Pillow Talk

pillows on wooden benches for wedding ceremony
Hunter Ryan Photo

Pillows in a variety of patterns—including a custom orange fruit print that reappeared throughout the day—made the benches feel cozy and comfortable. "On the aisle there were half-moon rattan rugs with colorful florals in black wired vases, which brought in those black touches," says Shea.

10 of 19

In Their Own Words

bride and groom during ceremony on beach
Hunter Ryan Photo

Reverend Russ Winn officiated the couple's ceremony, which opened with a prayer and included vows the couple wrote themselves. He also incorporated personal writings from Shea and Donovan. "Our pastor had us do an exercise where we picked three words or qualities of what we loved most about each other and provided a short description on why," says Shea. "He read them at the ceremony and it was the first time either of us heard what the other person had written. It was by far my favorite part of the ceremony and something I will always treasure."

11 of 19

Dancing Into Married Life

bride and groom dancing on beach
Hunter Ryan Photo

Shea and Donovan danced their way back up the aisle and straight into married life at the conclusion of their service.

12 of 19

A Toast to the Future

key box for wedding reception
Hunter Ryan Photo

The newlyweds paused for some Champagne on their way to the reception, clinking glasses in front of a custom display reading, "Meet Me in the Penthouse." "The wainscoting backdrop was custom made by Carrie Darling Events, and had a 'key box' to display key chains with tassels," says Shea. "The table in front of the display had Champagne flutes for the guests so they could have a little bubbly on their way upstairs."

13 of 19

Key Moment

wedding escort keys
Hunter Ryan Photo

Each guest took a tasseled keychain—with one side noting the couple's last name and wedding date, and the other displaying the penthouse room number—from the display on their way to dinner.

14 of 19

Raising the Bar

a private outdoor bar area for a wedding
Hunter Ryan Photo

A private outdoor bar area on the penthouse terrace allowed guests to safely mingle after the ceremony, while custom stools and counter-wrap incorporated the couple's signature print.

15 of 19

Leafy Greens

long reception table with white table cloth
Hunter Ryan Photo

Guests sat under twinkling string lights and a pretty pergola at one long table dressed in white linen. "The outside terrace of the Fiji Suite was such a fun vantage point for a wedding, being able to look down and enjoy the views of the beach and the sunset," says Shea. "Florals were all floating above the tables with tropical greens and punches of hot pink, pink, oranges and touches of yellow."

16 of 19

Orange Appeal

reception tables with floral centerpieces and oranges
Hunter Ryan Photo

Smaller floral centerpieces along the center of the table coordinated with the showstopping installation overhead, while cane-webbed votives matched the frayed-edge placements. Velvet napkins and black flatware added a chic complement to the orange-print chargers and green laser-cut place cards. "A clementine was placed at each place setting, and a laser-cut wooden leaf was placed underneath it as if it was attached to the stem," says Shea.

17 of 19

Sweet Love

wedding dessert display with a cookies and cream cake and cupcakes
Hunter Ryan Photo

Shea and Donovan cut a small cookies-and-cream cake, topped with bright pink flowers and displayed on a wooden pedestal, from Sweetified. Cupcakes in five different flavors—cookies and cream, chocolate peanut butter, vanilla with fudge, carrot cake, and pineapple—sat on wooden and black metal risers under a floral chandelier. "We had a fun song for our cake cutting—'Birthday' by Flo Rida—and I had no idea that Donovan was planning to do a dance when they played it," says Shea. "All our vendors said it was the most exciting cake cutting they had ever seen. It was hilarious and so him—I loved it!"

18 of 19

Together Forever

Bride and groom dancing at reception
Hunter Ryan Photo

As night fell over the water, the couple shared their first dance, to Natalie Cole's "This Will Be (an Everlasting Love)." "We knew we wanted an upbeat song, so we went through hundreds of 'top' wedding songs and tried to dance to them all," says Shea. "We settled on this one, because out of the songs that we liked to dance to, we thought its words fit us best."

19 of 19


groom kissing bride on beach
Hunter Ryan Photo

Photography, Hunter Ryan Photo
Venue and Catering, JW Marriott Marco Island
Wedding Planning, Carrie Darling Events
Flowers, Isn't She Lovely
Videography, Imagery Weddings Films
Officiant, Russ Winn
Stationery, Luster Designs
Cake, Sweetified
Music, Stereophonic DJs
Rentals, Elements & Accents
Bride's Gown, Stella York
Bride's Shoes, Bella Belle
Hair and Makeup, Duality Artistry
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Lulus
Lighting, DiBox Events
Transportation, Naples Transportation and Tours

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