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Although Maria and Robert "Bobby" Gulley are from out of state, they felt right at home during their beautiful Sarasota wedding. Despite travel delays and detours due to Tropical Storm Andrea, friends and family from all over the country were determined to make the trip to Sarasota. From fun surprises, like football-shaped cakes, to intimate details like the bouquet swatch made from Maria's grandmother's wedding dress, the day was both exceptional and unforgettable.

How did you and Robert meet? 

Robert and I met our sophomore year of college at Miami University (in Ohio) through a mutual friend of mine from high school. It was a quick exchange of “hello” and “nice to meet you."

A few days later, I received a text from someone named “Bobby” wanting to hang out sometime. Our first night out on the town together was filled with lots of college fun, and we ended up staying awake ALL night talking–it actually felt like we had known each other forever and it was so natural talking to him.

Afterwards, I called my mom and told her I met my husband! She immediately told me I was overreacting and being dramatic (something I’m definitely known for), but little did she know…

Sarasota wedding

What is your favorite thing about Robert? 

Honestly, I don’t think I can pick just one thing! My favorite things about him are his kind heart, his loyalty, his goofiness and his athleticism.

How did Robert propose?  

Well, I don't normally like surprises.

We were in Sarasota visiting with my family for the Fourth of July weekend last summer, and on Saturday morning when we woke up, Bobby had this plan to go to the Ringling Museum. I couldn’t understand why he would want to go to the museum on such a gorgeous day when we had been there before, but everyone kept insisting. so I finally gave in. Little did I know that my whole family knew about the proposal months before. when Bobby asked my dad for permission.

While we were standing on the terrace at the Ca D'Zan mansion,  I looked back at Bobby and he was down on one knee. It had just rained that morning and the marble terrace was really wet, so I thought he had slipped and fallen. I told him to get up, and that's when he pulled out the Tiffany ring box from his waistband and asked me to marry him. I couldn’t tell you what else he said because I was so in shock. I said yes with absolutely no hesitation while tears ran down my face.

It was the most amazing moment of my life.

Sarasota wedding

Sarasota wedding

How did you go about choosing your two venues, St. Martha's Church and the Sarasota Yacht Club?

My parents are parishioners at St. Martha’s and our entire family adores Father Fausto…he’s hilarious and makes Mass so fun! My parents are members of the Sarasota Yacht Club, and the beautiful club and the view of the bay exceeded my expectations; I knew I wanted to have the celebration there. I also loved that the venue could accommodate both inside and outside spaces.

This was a destination wedding for you! Where are you and Robert from? Why did you choose Sarasota to have your wedding? 

Yes, it was a “destination wedding,” if you will. I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Bobby is from Cleveland, Ohio, and we currently live in Chicago. We chose Sarasota mainly because we were engaged in town and my parents live in University Park. It’s hilarious to think that you really cannot plan for major life events no matter how hard you try…if you were to ask me where I would get married five years ago, I would have said in the month of October in Pittsburgh! It’s funny how life works itself out.

Sarasota wedding

Can you tell me a little about the surprise grooms cake? What about the surprise slide-show? 

Bobby played football for the Miami Redhawks for five seasons, and so football will always be a meaningful part of our lives. I thought it was totally appropriate to surprise him with a delicious Reese’s Miami University football cake from A Slice of Heaven. He was on a sugar high for weeks eating all of the leftovers!

The surprise slideshow was for my dad, and it displayed old photos of him and me from the time I was a newborn to present-day during our father-daughter dance. I expected him to shed a tear or two while watching the slideshow and reminsicing, but he cried a lot more than I anticipated. My dad is notoriously a tough guy, so it was very touching to see him as emotional as he was.

Sarasota wedding

Sarasota wedding

Looking back, is there a particular moment of your wedding day that really stands out? 

Yes, there are a few! Before our wedding ceremony at St. Martha’s, Bobby and I wrote each other a letter and wanted to give it to each other in person without physically seeing each other and ruining the surprise of him seeing his bride for the first time. We coordinated a time and place to meet with one of the old, wooden church doors separating us to exchange our letters. Prior to that moment, I was so nervous about walking down the aisle, but after we exchanged letters, I held his hand and heard his voice and I was instantly calmed and ready to get married.

Second, the alone time I had with my dad before walking down the aisle. We were outside of St. Martha’s and he was saying the sweetest words, but I couldn’t manage to say anything back because I was so afraid of crying and didn’t want to ruin my makeup!

Third, when I gave my mom her handmade handkerchief that said “Mom – to dry your tears as you have always dried mine.” It was such a wonderfully emotional gift for my dear mom, who was by my side every step of the planning process.

Sarasota wedding

Sarasota wedding



Wedding Planning: SRQTees 

Ceremony Venue: St. Martha Church

Reception/venue:  Sarasota Yacht Club

Wedding Cake: A Slice of Heaven

Floral Design: Beneva Flowers 

Photography: Pixel Art (taken at various locations)

Make-up: Eri Vincent  

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