Bride and groom first look at the Marie Selby Botanic Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. Photo by OkCrowe Photography.

July 12, 2023

A Breathtaking Tropical Wedding at the Marie Selby Botanic Gardens | Liz + Patrick

When we were contacted by Liz + Patrick for a full wedding package with photo and video at the amazing Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, the entire OkCrowe team packed their bags and booked their flights almost immediately! We absolutely love doing weddings in Sarasota, and a wedding at the amazingly beautiful Marie Selby Botanical Gardens was an exciting opportunity we couldn’t refuse!

Bride and groom first look at the Marie Selby Botanic Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. Photo by OkCrowe Photography.

Coming Home for a Beautiful Sarasota Wedding

Liz + Patrick have known each other forever. They grew up in Sarasota and even went to the same middle school just one year apart! However, even though they knew of each other, for the longest time they only existed in the periphery of each other’s lives – there, but not quite fully present just yet. It wasn’t until they happened to meet again during their college years that they finally and quickly became close friends. Eventually, that friendship evolved into something a little bit more, and now, they’re so excited to be getting married!

Over the course of six years, not only did Liz + Patrick fall in love, but they moved from their childhood homes in Sarasota to two states away in Nashville. They even adopted a cat along the way! Now that they’re getting married, their biggest priority during their wedding planning was to make sure they were putting their love first at the end of every big decision they made. For them, one of those decisions meant coming back home for a destination wedding in beautiful Sarasota where their story began. 

Getting Married in the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, is a breathtaking venue for couples looking to add a tropical feel to their wedding day. Nestled along the picturesque Sarasota Bay, this oasis paradise offers a truly enchanting setting. Between the mix of historic charm and natural beauty in the form of native foliage, magical gardens, groves of vibrant flowers and stunning trees, and tranquil water features, the Selby Gardens is the perfect blend of exotic and elegant for an unforgettable wedding. 

Couples who choose the Selby Gardens for their wedding venue have the choice of getting married at the Downtown Sarasota Campus or the Historic Spanish Point Campus. The Historic Spanish Point Campus offers the perfect look and style for couples searching for a slightly more traditional venue. It features the Duchene Lawn for outdoor ceremonies and Mary’s Chapel as an indoor option, while the White Cottage Lawn & Sunken Garden can hold an entire outdoor event from start to finish for up to 150 guests. 

For their wedding, Liz + Patrick went with the garden’s second option, the Downtown Sarasota Campus. The Downtown Campus is made up of the North and South Sides. The North Side features the Christy Payne Mansion & Lawn, where Liz + Patrick’s ceremony was held, as well as the Michael’s on the Bay Ballroom and Terrace, which is the Selby Garden’s premiere indoor event space. The South Side is where the beauty of the botanic gardens truly comes alive. With palm tree forests, a magnificent mangrove walkway, a romantic gazebo, and even an entire rainforest section featuring a banyan grove, koi pond, and bamboo garden, any inch of this gorgeous garden lends to the most unforgettable backdrop for your portraits and to say your I do’s. 

First Look in a Tropical Paradise

Since they were traveling from Nashville down to Sarasota for their wedding, Liz + Patrick rented two AirBnBs to get ready in with their wedding crews. On the morning of the wedding, Liz and her bridesmaids got an early start to the day by getting their hair and makeup done by I Do Brides & Beauty. While Liz was getting the final touches done to her hair, Clara, one of her maids of honor and Liz’s best friend of fifteen years, gave a beautiful speech about Liz and their friendship and, of course, how excited she was to see her closest friend marrying the love of her life.

Meanwhile, Patrick and his groomsmen donned their wedding attire and got to the Selby Gardens ahead of everyone else. We took the opportunity to take dapper portraits of Patrick among the palm trees as well as shots of the guys altogether hanging out in front of the Payne Mansion. Once the ladies arrived at the venue, we wasted no time and jumped right into preparing for Liz + Patrick’s first look. 

One of the big decisions couples have to make when planning their wedding photography schedule is whether or not to have a first look. For Liz + Patrick, having a first look was almost a no-brainer. Not only would it give them some private time together before their ceremony, but having a first look also meant that they would be able to fully celebrate with their guests after their ceremony without having to worry about taking more portraits. 

Liz + Patrick’s first look took place in front of a serene waterfall along one of the many pathways in the garden. Large banyan trees kept the area shaded while ferns and other tropical plants crawled across the natural rock to keep the area secluded from prying eyes, making it the perfect spot for the big reveal. Liz’s maids of honor held up her dress as she made her way along the trail to where Patrick stood with his back turned by the waterfall. The moment Liz placed her hand on Patrick’s back, signaling him to turn, huge smiles erupted on both of their faces as soon as they saw each other for the first time. 

After their first look session, we toured the South Side of the garden for their bride and groom portraits. Since they weren’t planning to have a separate newlywed session after their ceremony, we really took the time to capture as much of the beauty of the garden as possible in this session. We took beautiful romantic portraits by the overgrown gazebo before making our way through the otherworldly banyan grove until, finally, we made it back to the waterfront overlooking the bay. There Liz + Patrick exchanged a private vow reading and gave each other small gifts to commemorate this huge moment in their lives. 

Elegant Outdoor Ceremony at Payne Mansion on the Downtown Campus

When the couple came back from their photography session, we gathered the whole wedding party together for photos in front of the tropical palm trees. It was easy to tell how much love stood between this group of friends. Their wedding party portraits were filled with huge smiles, laughter, and tons of silly moments between friends that made for the perfect candid (and posed!) photos. 

With the time for their ceremony edging nearer and nearer, guests began to filter in. As they arrived, guests were greeted by the garden’s professional waitstaff and given a sparkling flute of champagne. They then were able to mingle in the beautiful, manicured Display Gardens, including the butterfly and fragrance gardens just outside of the Payne Mansion, before they were ushered towards the lawn to find their seats for the ceremony. 

Even though the sun was hidden behind a blur of gray clouds, Liz + Patrick’s wedding ceremony was a lovely event. All of the seats faced a huge ancient oak tree decorated with hanging vines of white flowers that swayed in the light freeze for a magical touch. With the stately mansion standing behind the guests and the gentle sounds of the lapping waves in the bay beyond the trees, the ceremony was as sweet, charming, and picturesque as Liz + Patrick had always hoped it would be.  

Dancing the Night Away at a Music-Inspired Reception

Right after the ceremony, the couple and their families gathered beneath the oak tree for family portraits. Once that was out of the way, all hands were on deck to get the party started! 

Liz + Patrick joined their guests at the Michael’s on the Bay Patio & Terrace where cocktail hour was in full swing. This spacious outdoor area overlooks a large portion of Sarasota Bay. It’s the perfect place in the gardens to get the full view of panoramic sunsets over the water. The ballroom even has 80 feet of full glass windows to get the most out of the spectacular view even from inside. The Michael’s on the Bay Patio & Terrace is located directly in front of the ballroom where the reception was going to be held. Both the ballroom and the patio & terrace are named after Michael’s on the Bay, the in-house catering company that handles all food and drink served at the Selby Gardens on a daily basis as well as all of the weddings and private events held onsite.  

As the sun sank below the horizon, the doors to the ballroom opened, allowing guests to find their seats. Liz + Patrick themed their reception around their love of music. Instead of traditional place cards, the couple created vinyl records for each table and decorated them with the names of their favorite bands plus the names of the people seated at each table. 

From the moment the reception began and the wedding party and couple made their grand entrance, the dance floor was filled. Liz, Patrick, and all of their guests held nothing back when it came to partying and dancing. Space was squeezed in for dinner to be served, speeches to be given, and all of the memorable dances of the night to be had, but otherwise, everyone was on the dance floor fully celebrating this beautiful couple and their big day. After dinner and speeches were through, tie-dye and flower headbands and sunglasses were handed out, and the Matt Winters Band gave it their all to keep up with the party on the dance floor.

When the cake was cut and the reception finally came to a close, Liz + Patrick had one final private dance on the empty dance floor before heading out for their send off as newlyweds. All of their loved ones lined the pathways of the garden holding LED balloons up in the air. Liz + Patrick danced between the twinkling lights and shared one last movie-worthy kiss before hopping into their getaway car and speeding off into the night. 

LED balloon send off at the Marie Selby Botanic Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. Photo by OkCrowe Photography.


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