For many men and women who work in the restaurant industry, favorite perks of the job include free food and drinks. But for Kelsey Willaman and Jason Emmett, who met in 2008 while working at a Duffy’s Sports Grill location that Jason, now the company’s president, was running, the benefits went far beyond bar bites, to love. “Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t until years later that we started dating, after a chance encounter in Delray Beach,” says Kelsey, a fitness professional, of the couple’s then-budding romance. “It was then that sparks flew, and we never wanted to be apart again.”
For two years, Kelsey and Jason, whose late father, Paul Emmett, built the Duffy’s franchise from the ground up, lived together in Delray Beach, where they expanded their family with two adopted dogs. The couple eventually decided to move north, to West Palm Beach, and most recently purchased a home in Palm Beach Gardens “with a yard for the dogs—and, one day, ‘real’ kids—to play in,” Kelsey says.
On April 27th, 2014, during a spontaneous date-night visit to The Breakers for dinner and drinks, Jason gave Kelsey the surprise of her life when a sunset walk by the water turned into a romantic proposal. “Before our cocktails even arrived, Jason suggested we take a walk outside to see the sunset,” Kelsey says. As Kelsey looked out over the ocean, Jason fell back behind. When Kelsey turned to look at him, she found him down on one knee, ring in hand. “Before he could even speak, my eyes filled with tears of joy,” she says. “He never even had a chance to officially ask the question, and my face told my obvious answer.” Adding deeper meaning to the evening’s events, Jason proposed with the same ring that his father, who passed away in 2015, had given to Jason’s stepmother, Geri, more than 30 years earlier. “Paul and Geri had, unbeknownst to me, given this special ring to Jason, to give to me. I am so honored to be able to wear such an important and meaningful ring every day. We both feel that in some small way, this ring allows the incredible love that they shared to live on through our own love.”
For their January 16, 2016, wedding, Kelsey and Jason decided to return to The Breakers. “The Breakers was always part of our family way of life,” Kelsey says. “It was blocks away from Jason’s family home, and we always loved the beauty of the ocean and all that The Breakers offers.”
With Jason’s uncle, the Reverend Dr. Steven Emmett, officiating, the couple swapped vows on The Breakers Ocean Lawn with 202 friends and family looking on. “It was very special to have Reverend Dr. Steven Emmett marry us since he’s Jason’s uncle, and the brother of Jason’s father, Paul,” Kelsey says. “As the day was filled with love and joy, not having Paul there with us—as well as Jason’s grandparents, who also passed away in 2015—gave it a somber tone. Reverend Dr. Steven Emmett gave such a beautiful and fitting tribute to Paul and Jason’s grandparents at the altar since they were so very special to us.”
For their big day, Kelsey and Jason chose to create an atmosphere of “timeless seaside romance,” complete with a palette of white, cream, and gold. Kelsey carried a garden-inspired bouquet of cream and white garden roses, peonies, freesia, and stephanotis, with some blooms bearing crystal centers. “The stems were bound with white satin ribbon and beaded lace from my wedding dress,” she says, adding, “My bridal party all had bouquets of pale blush garden roses and orchids, with the stems bound in ivory satin.”
To incorporate family history and a personal touch, Kelsey and Jason toasted with the glasses that Paul and Geri Emmett used for their own wedding, more than 30 years ago, and used a 1930s family Bible from Jason’s grandmother. The couple chose hurricane lamps with touches of coral for the ceremony, and they carried that theme through to the tables indoors with coral serving as their table numbers.
Additional features of the reception included a sweetheart table that Kelsey says “was set for us so we could share each moment together,” and a six-tier cake—Florida Key lime filling and buttercream icing—covered in ivory frosting and studded with gold flower accents that were replicated from a pair of Kelsey’s favorite earrings.
“Everything was so prefect and more than I could have ever asked for or expected,” says Kelsey of the couple’s wedding day. “I couldn’t have dreamed of a more prefect setting to be married!”
Photography: Nancy Cohn Photography / Venue: The Breakers Palm Beach / Wedding planner: Heather Lowenthal of Posh Parties / Cake and catering: The Breakers Palm Beach / Flowers and decor: The Breakers Design Center / Bride’s gown: Trish McEvoy Beauty, custom / Hair: Shirley Baptista from Lotus Hair Studio; Sheryl Block from Cosmo & Company; and Mika from Avenue Salon NYC / Makeup: Trish McEvoy Beauty NYC / Invitations and paper: Tiffany & Co. / Calligraphy: Carla Hagan Designs / Videography: Senderey Video / Entertainment: Powerhouse Band