Melissa & Robert's "anchored in love" underwater adventure wedding

August 7 |

This couple (plus a shark!) starred in a recent Monday Montage and we couldn't wait to bring this underwater-themed wedding to you.

Photography by Nate Silva
Photos by Nate Silva

The offbeat bride: Melissa, Sales and Marketing Manager (and Tribesmaid)

Her offbeat partner: Robert, Driver

Date and location of wedding: The Florida Aquarium, Tampa, FL — May 6, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We wanted an underwater-themed adventure wedding. Let's start with what we didn't do: no DJ, so we saved a bundle with an iPod and a PA system that I purchased from a pawn shop. This allowed us to play all of the music we both loved, including almost the entire soundtrack of the video game BioShock 2. The underwater setting was a perfect place to pay homage to the underwater city of Rapture, and a game series that we both enjoy.

Photography by Nate Silva

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We just couldn't picture ourselves slow dancing in front of all of our friends and family, so we didn't do that either. We just let the music play and watched everyone get down with their bad selves to our Spotify playlist.

Photography by Nate Silva

I chose a white silk shantung dress that was knee-length with an empire waist and pleats sticking up in the front. My veil was traditional mantilla style (a tribute to my family's roman Catholic background) but with silver tulle and white lace. The bouquets were made of paper, and were cost-efficient when compared to the price of real flowers.

Perhaps my favorite part of the attire calls back to Robert's Slovenian heritage. Red is a Slovenian wedding color that signifies one who is being wed. While I stuck out from the rest of the wedding party in bright white, my husband popped by wearing a red shirt and silver tie underneath his charcoal suit, completing his look with his signature fedora.

As guests entered the reception, they were encouraged to take a personalized Sharpie and sign a set of wooden oars that is now hanging in my dining room.

Photography by Nate Silva

Photography by Nate Silva

Tell us about the ceremony: We were married in front of a shark tank inside the Florida Aquarium. After the flower girl (or should I say "bubble girl") sprayed bubbles down the aisle, I came out to meet Robert for our handfasting ceremony. As we walked down the aisle after the ceremony, hands tied together, the accordion player nailed a rendition of "Le Mer (Beyond the Sea)."

We aren't a religious couple, so we chose handfasting to symbolize our love, as we felt the knot was a strong image.

Photography by Nate Silva

Photography by Nate Silva

Our biggest challenge: Finances were our biggest challenge. Robert and I shelled out half the cost of our wedding, and my parents picked up the rest, so it was important that we consolidated costs whenever possible. We did this by DIY save-the-dates and invites, affordable wedding gear, looking for deals on Etsy and through online vendors, finding a venue that was already decorated and offered co-location reception and in-house wedding planning, and side-skirting traditions that were not a reflection of who we are as a couple.

Photography by Nate Silva

My favorite moment: We hired an accordion player because we wanted to pay tribute to my late father-in-law, who loved the instrument. It turned out to be a great choice. It was really beautiful music.

Photography by Nate Silva

Guests also really seemed to love the shark tank. It was an exciting and interesting place to be wed. They kept swimming around behind us!

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My funniest moment: One memorable funny moment was when a friend of one of my guests had partaken in one too many drinks and was laying down outside the pavilion. I offered my guests Sharpies that said "Rob & Melissa" on them as favors, and some other guests made their mark on his face with them.

Photography by Nate Silva

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I always get a little anxious when you put all these people from different walks of life together in one room, many of whom do not know each other. In fact, my parents had only met my husband's mother just weeks before the wedding, and most of his family had never met most of my family before the rehearsal. I worried that maybe some personalities would clash, but everyone got along great.

Photography by Nate Silva

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? You DO NOT have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to have your dream wedding. That is a total myth. You just have to be a little creative and use some elbow grease. I wouldn't have been able to do it without help from my friends and family though, so pull your posse together and make it happen.

Photography by Nate Silva

Photography by Nate Silva

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. Gorgeous! Awesome venue – everyone looks so happy and full of love :)

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    • Thank you! We got that "full of love" sentiment a lot, and it's wonderful! If there is one way I would like people to remember my particular brand of off-beat wedding, it's definitely "full of love"

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  2. I'm loving the white specs. And the veil – my first thought was that the lace edging looks just like shark teeth! How appropriate for the venue. :)

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    • The white glasses were definitely a statement. Some people loved them right off the bat and others thought that they were going to be too much, but I didn't care. I've always done my own thing with my wardrobe, and in my mind it always turns out great! (Except for one time, in Alaska, when I was a little kid and I insisted on going trick or treating in ballet slippers and my dad had to carry me half the way because my feet were cold and wet!) Anyway, I've always been stubborn about my wardrobe and I wanted it to be just right for my wedding, I thought it was the perfect balance of funky, flirty and elegant. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. So glad you were featured! Not the most flattering pics of me, but what can ya do? It was definitely a fun, one of a kind wedding!

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  4. Wonderful showcase of how to think outside of the box! Makes me think of a wedding taking place in a big league stadium and other fun venues. Love your paper bouquet!

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  5. Fabulous! I am so in love with that venue… I would love to know what the bride thought of the food, because I know they require use of their on-site catering.

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    • I liked the food a lot. Consolidating the catering, decoration and wedding planning with the venue was a HUGE win for Rob and I. We were able to give instruction to the folks there and focus on other details of the wedding. More importantly, the caterers worked within my budget and with my finicky diet. I was vegan for several years before my wedding (and sort of pseudo vegan now)and I wanted to showcase vegan food as an option for guests. My husband is pretty much a meat only kind of guy, so we were going to do a blend of finger foods as we thought this would save us money and allow us the most variety. We had spent hours looking over the pre packaged menu options they offered and, given our odd diets, nothing spoke to us as a couple, so we had pretty much resigned to a finger food buffet.

      When I spoke to the caterer and the wedding planner, they thought that this would not necessarily be the best option, because offering finger foods to guests would leave the guests hungry, and offering enough food to replace a meal would be more costly. The caterer listened to my thoughts on the meal planning and drafted up several menus. One included a full customized vegan meal and a full meat/pasta dish, along with sides and finger foods for the cocktail hour. Because he knew my budget, this option fit right inside of it and was actually cheaper than the finger food idea. The vegetable ratatouille was delicious and I received a ton of great feedback on the chicken pasta from meat eating guests. The time I spend discussing my options with the caterer in that situation really paid off for us!

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      • Thank you for responding! The sig and I are serious foodies…we seriously are considering just renting a restaurant. But if we can get tasty food + aquarium…well, yeah, that might just be the ticket.
        FYI, I drooled over all of your pictures. :)

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  6. Me and my fiance were JUST talking about how awesome it would be to have a Bioshock themed wedding in an aquarium, so seeing these pictures is extra delightful!

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  7. the Both of you look absolutely adorable!! and your glasses where so fabulous!! Love it!! ;)

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  8. Florida bride holla!! I went to college in Tampa!

    Lovely wedding :)

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  9. Oh my goodness, this is so cool! And just a few doors down from the hotel where I work. Yay for Florida offbeat brides!

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  10. Love that soundtrack! We played a lot of the songs at our wedding too, although that was about the extent of our Bioshock influence. But anyway, very cool!

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  11. Awesome! I live in St. Pete and LOVE the aquarium. I always figured it would be UBER expensive to get married there. I am so regretful now that I didn't check into it :( Yah for Tampa Bay Offbeat Brides! And a big congrats!

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  12. I always LOVE aquariums and was thinking of doing my marriage in one. However the one in WA costs a lot so we're just going to go there for our engagement photo sessior instead. Aquariums & sharks are still awesome though. Congratulations!

    1 agrees

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