You Do What?

By Forest Balderson Photography by Courtesy Photos March 1, 2011

Crystal chandeliers hanging from trees, $10,000 wedding cakes by celebrity cake maker Marina Sousa, hand-made chocolate place cards, grooms on white horses—sounds like a Hollywood wedding, right? But Sarasota wedding planner Maria Brady—who plans weddings for famous sports figures, rock stars and movie celebrities (she’ll never name names) as well as commoners—plans most of her deluxe nuptials for couples in Southwest Florida.

With 41 vendors and five assistants in tow, Brady—a former dancer and choreographer—has worked with budgets up to $500,000 and says most parties take one to one-and-a-half years to create. Her Sarasota-based company, Choreographed Events, has earned a word-of-mouth reputation among the elite for show-stopping events—“Think of Federico Fellini combining the real with the surreal,” she says.

Choreographer, conductor and therapist, Brady does her best to keep brides calm. “There are days when brides have called me to say, ‘I don’t know if I really love him,’” she says. “We develop such strong bonds that by the time the wedding comes, I’m like a member of the family.” And that’s also why complete confidentiality is crucial—she knows too much. Some of the celebrity brides and grooms are on their seventh and eighth marriage.

“I thought about starting a division of my company called Encore Weddings,” she jokes.

But mostly, she aims to please and will go to almost any lengths. “One time, there was a girl who wanted her bouquet to look like one big rose,” says Brady, “so the florist had someone hand sew tons and tons of single rose petals together while sitting in a cooler the day of the wedding, so the petals wouldn’t wilt.”

She’s also had close calls. She remembers a bride whose veil was flushed down the toilet by a bridesmaid 15 minutes before the wedding march. “I just told her that it was meant to be; I put a flower in her hair and sent her down the aisle,” says Brady. “To me life is theater, and the show must go on.”

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