The past years have been full of surprises for Tara, daughter of Amelia Island residents Paige and Jeff Whitaker. Jeff and his brother, Brett, own and operate Robison Jewelry Company on Centre Street in historic downtown Fernandina Beach.
The first surprise was meeting Michael Fortner at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. “I was playing soccer and attending school when Michael visited his best-friend. We met and discovered we both love soccer, and the rest is history,” smiles Tara.
The next surprise came two short years later when she was living in Georgia and the two enjoyed a walk along Lake Lanier to celebrate their anniversary. “I had no idea that he was about to propose,” she laughs. “I noticed he’d fallen a little behind, and when I looked back, he was on one knee.” And so he was, holding a Robison Jewelry box with a princess-cut diamond that Tara’s father had helped Michael pick out for his daughter. As it turned out, Tara’s maid-of-honor to-be and best friend also became engaged that same day!
“We knew we’d have our wedding on Amelia Island,” Tara confirms. “I like the tradition of the wedding in the girl’s hometown, and Michael loves the island.” Additionally, it was a fun destination for their 16 attendants and guests. As the crowd arrived, they enjoyed staying at the Residence Inn Amelia Island. “We had a great time hanging on the beach with all of our friends,” Tara reminisces. “Our friends were huge fans of Pepper’s Mexican Grill & Cantina, where the rehearsal dinner was held.”
The wedding day seemed to arrive so quickly, and Tara is forever grateful for her mother’s assistance. “It was tough living out-of-town and trying to plan everything,” Tara explains. “Mom made everything perfect for us!” That included the bridal brunch Pam Simmons and several friends from First Baptist Church graciously hosted.
“It was very special for me to spend that morning with loved ones and even Sunday School teachers from my childhood.” While the ladies enjoyed their soiree, the groom and his buddies hit the Amelia River Golf Course.
By the time Tara met the bridesmaids at the Golf Club of Amelia Island to dress, the countdown had begun. Pam Bell Photography collected the memories in beautiful photos.
“The lawn beside the 18th green at the Golf Club of Amelia Island was the perfect backdrop for Tara and Michael’s ceremony,” says Director of Catering Sales Linsey Haas. Tara agreed the setting was perfect, and her nerves were calmed by discussing Florida Gator football with her father as they prepared to walk down the aisle.
“The ceremony is a favorite memory because my dad officiated our wedding!” says Tara. An extra special touch for the ceremony was that the music was provided by the bride’s Uncle Brett Whitaker’s six children, who formed a small string ensemble!
Following the ceremony, a cocktail hour was enjoyed on the terrace, which is surrounded by giant oaks hung with twinkling lights. Artistic Florist provided the floral designs for the ceremony, the bouquets, and the dinner and dancing held inside the clubhouse. The menu included a pasta bar, and it was finished with cake and cupcakes displayed on a cake stand constructed by the groom’s father.
Six months into their marriage, Tara and Michael could not be happier! They recently moved back to the Fernandina Beach area, and they love going to the beach with their German Shepherd, Amelia, and of course, playing soccer!