True Romance

By staff February 1, 2007


Mark Famiglio and Jennie Lascelle, 3/4/06

It was the Sarasota event of the year—just what Mark Famiglio had in mind. “We wanted to show our guests what this town was all about,” says the prominent entrepreneur, who celebrated his wedding to attorney Jennie Lascelle with a spectacular reception at that quintessential Sarasota landmark, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

Wearing internationally crafted finery—his tuxedo was hand-sewn in the Italian village where his grandmother was born; her gown was by Spanish designer Hannibal Laguna (the bridesmaids wore Vera Wang)—the bride and groom welcomed some 500 guests (including just about every VIP in town) to the museum’s courtyard, just a few feet from the new gallery that will bear Mark’s name.

Dinner under the stars, featuring Maine lobster and beef Wellington, was prepared as a personal tribute to the couple from close friend and renowned local caterer Phil Mancini. Another friend, B-52s frontman Fred Schneider, led a full orchestra in a serenade that preceded performances by Washington, D.C.’s Sound Connection and famed Beatles tribute band Beatlemania—as well as more than a few songs sung by Mark and members of his musically inclined Italian family.

Extravagance and theatricality came together for an eye-popping climax. “We cut the cake and bam, the fireworks started,” says Mark. As a spectacular 30-minute pyrotechnic display lit up the sky over the museum’s David, Beatlemania made an encore appearance. The opening song? All You Need Is Love.


Steve Ellis and Sherri Mills, 10/14/06

For what was to be the second marriage for both, Sarasota real estate agent Sherri Mills, 40, and health and fitness entrepreneur Steve Ellis, 52, wanted an intimate, relaxed wedding celebrating family and nature. Long before their engagement, Sherri’s children, Robert and Alexandra, had taken to calling their blended family the Crystal Clear Solutions Group, a sort of family club. Steve and Sherri embraced the CCS as an expression of the bond between what they call their four-member “tribe.”

Set in tiny Mary’s Chapel among the oaks and palms of Historic Spanish Point, the ceremony hosted only 11 guests—best friends and parents, each of whom shared a personally selected reading during the service. The kids were allowed to choose their own roles: Alexandra, 15, wanted to throw the bouquet; 12-year-old Robert asked to be his new stepfather’s best man.

During the exchange of vows—which had been written both to each other and to the children—Steve declared that not only had he chosen Sherri to be his wife, he had chosen Robert and Alexandra to be his family as well. He then gave each child a feather, as a bird outside unexpectedly filled the chapel with song. Robert and Alexandra were visibly moved. “They lost it,” Sherri says happily. “We ran out of tissues.”


Brad Kunz and Kimber Karras, 11/4/06

The winter wedding of Brad Kunz, 26, and Kimber Karras, 30, was, for the bride, an emotional experience from the very beginning. “The limo pulled up to the church, and my brother and father were standing there,” says Kimber. “And I just burst into tears.”

Brad and Kimber are representative of many Southwest Floridians: He’s a Midwesterner in construction; she’s from West Virginia and works for a retirement community. Appropriately, their wedding combined three Sarasota traditions: a Greek Orthodox ceremony at St. Barbara’s followed by a reception at the Lakewood Ranch Country Club—and all of it masterminded by wedding planner Sigrid Gebel, the widow of famed circus animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams.

Honoring Kimber’s Greek Orthodox upbringing, the traditional ceremony involved a number of Hellenic wedding rituals. Wearing headbands made of flowers and attached by a ribbon, the bride and groom were thrice crowned as king and queen of their household. Then they walked together around the altar three times—their first steps as man and wife.

The reception featured a pure white theme (a tribute to the snowy Novembers of the couple’s home states) and more tears of joy as Kimber shared dances—and festive foods—with her new husband and the rest of her family, including her 93-year-old grandmother, Yaya. “You can’t have a Greek wedding without Greek pastries, and you can’t have baklava without Yaya,” says Kimber proudly. “She danced up a storm.”


Jeffrey Sedacca and Nikki Feldbaum, 11/26/06

For a small Jewish wedding in their Indian Beach back yard, the marriage of Jeffrey Sedacca and Nikki Feldbaum garnered quite a guest list. “We wanted something special, yet small,” says Nikki, a jewelry designer whose bridesmaids included a bevy of Sarasota socialites. “We had friends come in from Thailand and India.”

The menu featured an elegant seafood spread, a gastronomic nod to Jeffrey, the president and CEO of Lu-Mar Lobster and Shrimp. And yet it remained a cozy affair. “The girls,” as Nikki calls her attendants—Margaret Wise and Joy Rowe among them—wore their own black gowns and even helped create the decorations. “We had a lot of good times making the flower arrangements,” she recalls.

And despite some minor snags (they lost the groomsmen’s yarmulkes and even temporarily misplaced the chuppah—the canopy that covers the couple), “once the ceremony started, it was magical,” says Nikki, who made her entrance descending an outdoor staircase overlooking Sarasota Bay. The two were wed by a rabbi under the waterfront chuppah, custom-made for the occasion and located just in time; and the ceremony ended as Jeffrey symbolically broke a glass underfoot (a tradition reminding observers that even in the happiest of times, sorrows and mishaps can occur). That moment will be memorialized in the couple’s doorway. “We’re turning the shards into a mezuzah [a box that holds a prayer scroll],” says Nikki.

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