Real Florida Wedding: Courtney Shaw and James Gabelbauer

Real Florida Wedding: Courtney Shaw and James Gabelbauer | Weddings Illustrated

In August of 2008, when wedding planner Courtney Shaw, owner of Fabulously Chic Weddings, spotted James Gabelbauer playing guitar with his band in Cape Coral, where they both live, she was smitten. But unlike many music fans who leave their crushes behind when the curtain comes down, Courtney decided to do something about it. “I decided to chat with him during his break, and the rest is history,” she says. The attraction was mutual, and Courtney and James dated for the next four years.

The couple’s relationship took an exciting turn one evening in 2012, when, as her job often requires, Courtney came home from a wedding close to midnight. “I opened the door to find that Jim had set up a ton of pillar candles around the house,” Courtney says. “I found him in a suit and down on one knee.”

On January 25, 2014, Courtney and James were married at Grandezza Country Club in Estero, in a decadent black, ivory, and gold wedding that Courtney herself designed. Of choosing the venue, Courtney says, “As a wedding planner, it was extremely important to me to get married somewhere I had not worked before, so it felt special. And I wanted a private ceremony space that had a garden feel, and a neutral-colored reception room. Grandezza was the perfect place!”

To achieve the look and feel she dreamed of—”Classic/modern glam,” she says—Courtney enlisted some trusted vendors. Libby’s Flowers created the bridal bouquet with peonies, ranunculus, parrot tulips, fringed tulips, and white hanging amaranthus; bridesmaids’ bouquets containing alabaster garden roses, hydrangea, freesia, and ranunculus; boutonnieres for the groom and his attendants using fringed tulips and ranunculus; and, for the reception, centerpieces of white ohara garden roses, alabaster garden roses, hanging amanrathus, white stock, vandella roses, ranunculus and tulips.

And though the venue had an arch of its own for ceremonies, it wasn’t quite what Courtney had in mind. Unable to have the arch removed—”It was bolted to the ground!” she says—Courtney asked her trusted friend George of Island Events to step in and help. “George opted to cover the existing structure, and told me it wouldn’t be seen,” Courtney says. “I was a little bit nervous about the outcome, but I cannot believe how beautiful it looked! It truly was the most beautiful archway I’ve ever seen.” With Courtney wanting something flowy and soft that “fit well with the garden feel of the venue, but still substantial and impactful,” Libby’s Flowers used a combination of vandella roses, white ohara, alabaster, stock, tulips, hydrangea, and hanging amaranthus to create a covering tailored just to the bride’s liking. “The outcome truly amazed me,” Courtney says.

Another special moment for Courtney came before the ceremony even began, when she got into her Allure wedding dress. “I see so many magical, perfect days [as a wedding planner], and the moment became real when I saw myself in my dress,” she says. “I felt like I was playing someone else’s role. It was surreal! I felt beautiful and I finally felt like a bride.”

With her dream ceremony venue complete and her gown perfectly in place, Courtney walked down the aisle between her father and stepfather, with a little “something new” glinting from her ears. “My mom had a pair of diamond earrings I was going to wear on my wedding day. The morning of the wedding, she couldn’t find them,” Courtney says. “My dad surprised me with a brand-new pair of diamond earrings. Considering everything they spent on my wedding, I couldn’t believe that he went above and beyond, again, to make sure my day was perfect. It meant the world to me.”

Immediately following the ceremony, Courtney and James took time for photos, but the couple were pleasantly surprised when they finished ahead of schedule and were able to join their guests for cocktail hour. “We had 20 minutes or so to really hang out with guests and say hi to everyone,” Courtney says of their unexpected bonus time. “It was so great, and I now always encourage my couples to attend their cocktail hour.”

Afterward, the newlyweds and their guests headed inside, to Grandezza’s ballroom, for the reception, which, while fun, Courtney wanted to feel glamorous and elegant. “I love the look of classic black and white (or ivory, in my case),” she says, and the color scheme was used down to every last detail.

Kakes by Karen created a sophisticated and elegant cake that comprised almond layers with white chocolate-raspberry buttercream filling, as well as marble layers with chocolate-peanut butter buttercream, and an ivory fondant covering.

Of the furnishings, Courtney says, “I wanted to avoid the more typical sequined linens, so I went with square-shaped sequins. It’s amazing how the material that the linen is made of can look so soft and elegant, yet so glamorous and bold at the same time.” Courtney also wanted the reception to have a “modern vintage” feel, but in a fresh, reimagined way. “I like the classic feel of candelabras and the Gatsby look, without all the old stuff, and vintage details,” she says. “We had shiny black plates stacked on a gold charger at each place setting. The black lamour napkin was tucked under the top plate, with a linear menu placed on top. The beautiful, modern menus, designed by Dana Marino, were a solid black with metallic gold font.”

While guests dined, toasted, and danced the night away, they were also treated to two surprises that made the celebration that much sweeter. “It was important to me to do something for my husband, since the wedding was so much about me,” Courtney says. “So I gifted him a cigar roller at the wedding, which was a huge hit with all the male guests! And I’m obsessed with cotton candy, and I thought it would be a super fun late-night snack. The guests were all on the dance floor with cotton candy in hand, and it turned out exactly as I imagined it would!” For a wedding planner turned bride, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Photography: Trenholm Photo / Videography: iHEART Films / Venue: Grandezza Country Club / Florals: Libby’s Flowers / Bride’s Gown: Allure (For the Bride Boutique) / Hair and Makeup: Jess Waldrop Artists / Invitations, Menu,and Signage:  Dana Marino Design / Entertainment: Seaside Strings (Ceremony), Stereophonic DJs (Reception) / Cigar Roller: World Famous Cigar Bar / Cotton Candy: Taylor Rental Naples / Linens: La Tavola Fine Linen / Chairs: Niche Event Rentals / Arch and Draping: Island Events / Cake: Kakes by Karen / Event Planning and Design: Fabulously Chic Weddings

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