Having your wedding at Sunken Gardens is a unique experience.
Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg FL is a roadside attraction that is over 100 years old. It’s called “Sunken Gardens” because the man who originally purchased the land drained a lake that was below sea level and then planted it with a beautiful garden (I’ve lived here 20 years and just learned that!). It holds a special place in the hearts of people in the area because it’s one of the few remaining “roadside attractions” from “old Florida.” I have worked there several times on weddings and portrait sessions and it’s always a delight because I first visited Sunken Gardens when I came here on vacation as a child so for me it’s always been “Florida” in my mind.
The Wedding Venue at Sunken Gardens
Many people don’t realize that you can get married at Sunken Gardens. There is a beautiful area for an outside ceremony, surrounded by lush greenery and flowers. You would never know that you are in the heart of the city. There’s also a building for the reception, beautifully restored, that has been on the property for almost 100 years (it’s been a Coca-Cola bottler and a wax museum!). The gardens and the building were purchased by the City of St. Petersburg in 1999 and restored. Now the ground floor is a children’s museum and the top floor is a venue space perfect for weddings.
Ashleigh and Casey’s Wedding
I’ve known Ashleigh for a while. Every year I travel to Orlando to help out a fellow photographer with a very big job. We photograph a High School graduation ceremony for home-schoolers. Ashleigh and I are behind the stage doing all the “cap and gown” portraits. I was delighted when she asked me to be her wedding photographer.
Sunken Gardens was the perfect place for this couple. Both are gentle souls, environmentally conscious and great lovers of nature. The wedding was scheduled for sunset in the garden.
One of the tricky things about outdoor weddings is dealing with the changing lighting. The sun is setting during the ceremony, which means constantly adapting to those conditions. Then, after the ceremony when you do all the group portraits you lose all your light completely which means you have to know how to set up portrait lighting on location and get it done quickly because the reception starts soon! If you are thinking of getting married at Sunken Gardens, make sure your photographer has plenty of experience in this sort of situation.
We ended up with over 400 great images from the day. As always, I’m only posting about 40 in this post to give you an idea of what the day was like but I’m happy to show you everything if you are planning to get married at Sunken Sardens.
I recently photographed a Bat Mitzvah at Temple Beth El in Pasadena with the party at The West Events. As is always the case, it was a joy. I know that it may sound like hype but it’s true that Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs are probably my favorite thing to do. Everyone is always so nice and there is so much love at these events that you can’t help but be happy when you’re involved!
Temple Beth El has a new Rabbi
I’ve done several Bar Mitzvahs at Temple Beth El this year and it’s been extra special because they have a new Rabbi. Rabbi Jenn Margold is my first female Rabbi! I am married to a strong woman and I have two daughters so I’m especially excited to be working with Jenn and she turned out to be great. “Bubbly” is the first word that comes to mind when you meet her. She is always smiling and she absolutely wants good pictures for the family.
My rule has always been that it’s the Rabbi’s house so respect them at all times which means you never know what you’re gonna get. Rabbi Margold jumped to the top of my list immediately after working with her the first time. She is accommodating in every way and understands how important these pictures are to the family. To be clear, I’ve never worked with a “bad” Rabbi but it’s nice when you work with someone who understands that what we do is important. Rabbi Margold gets it.
Jenevieve was incredible. (To be fair, they all are. I’ve never had a bad Bat Mitzvah girl). I was supposed to photograph her brother’s Bar Mitzvah but Covid shut that down.
The West Events is a great venue
The party was at The West Events in Madeira Beach. This was my first time at the venue as it’s new. What a special space this is… near the beach, perfect size for smaller weddings or parties. There’s a great little courtyard with AstroTurf so it’s always neat and clean (I just learned that spell check will capitalize “astroturf” because it’s a brand name). My wife and I used to have a beach wedding business and trying to find smaller venues for smaller weddings near the beach was always hard. I wish The West Events had been around then!
When it was all done I delivered over 300 images to the family. here are just a few to give you a taste of the event and the venue:
It’s been a rough year for Tampa Bar Mitzvahs. In 2020 I had an entire year cancel. Just like that I was out of the Bar Mitzvah Photography business. Oh sure, I did a few small events and a couple at homes but it was nothing compared to what I usually do every year.
Thankfully, things are returning to normal. The phone started ringing early in 2021 and now I’m photographing Bar Mitzvahs and weddings every weekend again. It’s so nice to be back! If it hadn’t been for my corporate clients doing headshots I don’t know what I would have done!
Recently I was contacted by a photographer friend who told me that she was doing school portraits and had a boy who was posing like a star. She asked him where he learned to pose like that and he said, “My Bar Mitzvah photographer taught me!” She laughed because she knew what the next answer would be. “Who was that?” she asked, “Booray Perry!” he replied.
That really made me smile. I also knew without asking who that kid had to be. It had to be Jacob.
Jacob is at Congregation Kol Ami and from the minute he walked in for his temple portraits I knew that he was going to be a lot of fun. Some kids can be shy and you really have to coax them out but not Jacob. He was “ready for his close-up” and we had a ball. But the best was yet to come!
The theme for the party was “MCU.” For those of you not versed in the comic book world, that stands for “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” In other words, the super-heroes that you see in all the Marvel movies. In case you are wondering why it is called “MCU” it’s because the movie universe is a little different than the actual comic book universe. For example, the “Star-Lord” character in the comic books is not quite as clownish as the movies. Thor in the comic books is more mature as well. That’s right, I was a comic book kid. Still am, really.
The family did not disappoint. They showed up in full costume for the party at Carrollwood Country Club. Tony Stark, The Scarlet Witch, Loki and “little Loki” were ready to party! I love it when a Bar Mitzvah party does costumes, even if it’s just baseball shirts for a baseball theme or the like. It’s a nice break from the usual.
The food was great, the party was a blast. That’s the thing about traditions: You don[‘t realize how much you miss them until they’re gone.
These are just a few images from the event of course. There are over 300 total. :)