Memphis Goes to Ponte Vedra
The Ponte Vedra wedding of Patton Leigh Ellis of Memphis and Lawrence Kirkwood Weber IV of Jacksonville.
photography by Dennis Zanone
A beautifully engraved invitation to the Ponte Vedra wedding of Patton Leigh Ellis of Memphis and Lawrence Kirkwood Weber IV of Jacksonville, Florida arrived in our mailbox last August, and proved to be the perfect excuse for a gorgeous fall weekend getaway for the O’Neills.
Just half an hour by car from Jacksonville International Airport, Ponte Vedra is an elegant Atlantic Ocean resort and the crown jewel of what’s known in northeast Florida as the “Historic Coast.” (For good reason: Nearby
St. Augustine, founded in 1565, is America’s oldest city.) The bride’s Memphis parents, Julie and George Ellis, have a second condominium home there, and the groom’s family, Paige and Larry Weber III, live year-round in the area. While this was a destination wedding for those of us coming from Memphis, Ponte Vedra is “home” for many guests and family members, which made it a fitting and fun choice for all the festivities.
The setting was beautiful, the weather was picture-perfect, the bride and groom were gorgeous (of course), and the joy all around was palpable. Many guests stayed at the storied Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, a world-class golf and tennis resort and major Florida landmark for 85 years. Since its founding in the Roaring Twenties, the Inn has been a favorite vacation spot for Memphians as well as for famous visitors from all over the country and the world. Luxurious, pastel-colored homes with palm-tree-shaded lawns surround the Inn and make driving around the area a pure pleasure. There were several other excellent hotel options as well, including the nearby Marriott Golf Resort & Spa and the Hilton Garden Inn.
Friday’s welcoming cocktail reception was held on the Surf Club patio, located right on the beach within the Ponte Vedra Inn complex. It was exciting to see so many familiar Memphis faces everywhere you looked. Julie Ellis, mother of the bride, is a busy lawyer at Memphis’ Butler Snow, but she did make time a few years back to serve as Queen of Memphi, one of Carnival Memphis’ grand krewes, and many members of Memphi were in attendance. Clearly Julie’s subjects will follow her anywhere! Also “on the beach” were Tom Jones, a regular editorial columnist in this magazine, and his wife, Carolyn, a talented interior designer who has decorated many Ellis family homes. The rehearsal dinner on the previous evening was for the wedding party and relatives only, and was held in the clubhouse of The Plantation, a gated community of gorgeous homes. A spa luncheon party for the bridesmaids was given at the world-class Ponte Vedra Spa by Julie’s sister, Melissa Huston Elmore. The boys played golf, of course!
The day of the wedding broke sunny and warm, with incredible clear blue skies. It seemed most auspicious for the big day, and we all cheered the couple’s good luck. In late afternoon, the wedding ceremony itself was performed by the Reverend Bob Morris at Christ Episcopal Church in Ponte Vedra, and never have you seen a happier, more glowing couple than Patton and Larry. The bride was attended by seven bridesmaids; her sister, Barclay Kuntz Bowen, and her Hutchison classmate, Helen Morrison Guyton, were matrons of honor. The groom had seven groomsmen, including the bride’s brother, Billy Kuntz, and two best men. Patton’s gorgeous wedding dress was by Vera Wang (New York), and she proudly wore her sister Barclay’s bridal veil, also by Vera Wang. To add a bright pop of color, turquoise Manolo Blahnik pumps peeked out from below the bride’s beautiful dress.
After leaving the church, we all headed to the magnificent reception at the Tournament Players Club (TPC) Sawgrass, the centerpiece of a 1,100-acre development which is home to the “Players Championship” golf tournament every May, and the world headquarters for the PGA Tour. The long driveway is lined with lampposts bearing portraits of world-famous golfers, and the stunning clubhouse resembles nothing so much as a magnificent Tuscan villa. Greeted by a bagpiper, we were served cocktails on the splendid back lawn, before we were ushered inside up a grand staircase to the main ballroom. Well-known Memphis photographer Dennis Zanone was on the scene to capture the affair for posterity, and Compozitionz, a 19-member Jackson, Mississippi band (maybe the best wedding band I have ever heard, with their distinctive Delta blues and soul sound and amazing choreography) provided the dance music. The reception got off to a rollicking start with a surprise “flash mob dance” secretly planned by the father of the bride, George, in cahoots with the event planners, and the band, and the TPC.
Set up in two large rooms either side of the dance floor, lavish food stations offered a variety of delicious dinner choices. Nancy Padgett was the local wedding planner, and Glenn Certain and Brent Tuten composed the event and floral design team. Coincidentally Bill Hughes, the general manager/regional director of the Sawgrass TPC Club, had previously been general manager/director of golf at Southwind here in Memphis. His talented events-planning team, headed by Christine Hoffman, helped to make it a dream wedding.
Clearly every aspect of this fairy-tale wedding took many hours of thoughtful planning, and the planners made a special effort to incorporate “Memphis” into the event. Mimi Taylor at the Pink Door, Memphis’ Lilly Pulitzer signature shop, provided the bridesmaids’ gifts for Patton’s bachelorette weekend at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida — a fitting choice since Lilly Pulitzer created her eponymous brand of colorful prints in this resort town in the 1960s. April Brady of RSVP Stationers in our Regalia Shopping Center arranged for the “Save the Date” cards, wedding invitations, church programs, and other assorted paper products. The bride’s wedding band and wedding earrings (a gift from her parents) were from Mednikow Jewelers. Stovall Stationers provided cocktail-reception invitations. The gift bags for wedding guests were filled with a variety of hometown goodies including, among other items, a flask of Jack Daniels from Josh Hammond at Buster’s (arranged by father of the bride, George); Shotwell salted caramels by Jarred Smith (available at Social); and potato chips from Central Barbecue.
Julie’s mother-of-the-bride dress and jacket outfit was by California designer Kevan Hall, courtesy of Laurelwood’s Joseph. George Ellis’ tuxedo was from Oak Hall, and the sea turtle-patterned cummerbunds and bow ties for the groomsmen were from Oak Hall’s Vineyard Vines store. The bride’s china and crystal were registered at Babcock Gifts and also at Social.
Julie summed up her feelings in saying, “The very best gifts from Memphis were the wonderful friends who came and celebrated with us in a beautiful spot dear to our families’ hearts” — to which I feel sure the guests would all respond, “It was a privilege.” She also told me the newlyweds (who met in New York City where both were working) would now be setting up housekeeping in Jacksonville. Larry is a financial advisor in the Global Wealth and Investment Management Group at Merrill Lynch, and Patton is an implementation consultant at Black Diamond Performance Reporting LLC.
All the more reason that Julie is pushing to get Memphis/Jacksonville non-stop flights back on the books!
Anne Cunningham O’Neill is the arts and lifestyle editor of Memphis magazine.
Website for Dennis Zanone is zanone.com