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Weddings that Give Back: Rayna + Jon, Tampa, FL

We featured an engagement session a few months ago, of this lovely couple doing big, intentional and wildly purposeful things in their community, with their non-profit, Four Letter Word! You can catch up on that side of their wedding story here. Fast forward a few months and they’re now married and had one heck of a socially conscious wedding to boot! The amount of thoughtful consideration that went into every, I repeat… EVERY, aspect of their BIG day is absolutely awe-inspiring! Grateful for this couple’s hearts for others, the bride’s amazing recap (shared below), and our BSB vendor, Savannah Lauren, who was there to capture every moment! raynajonyborwedding-492 ‘Including our community and the environment into our wedding day was a very special experience. We did this not only to bring awareness, but it is important to us, and a lifestyle we pursue daily. We learned a lot about people and got to know our community in a more intimate way. We experienced humility, and we are thankful for the efforts everyone put in, to not only making our day great, but making our community great. Our hearts are to bring not only us, but also our community, together as one. jonraynayborcityclspacewedding-1
We met many local vendors and got to talk about values and giving back in Tampa Bay. It is great to see a group of people that are now collaborating because our wedding was just the catalyst to many great relationships in our community.
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We saw our neighbor cutting up his fallen oak tree and asked him to cut us a few “slivers” it was refreshing to be outside talking to the people who surround you. We often forget to do life this way.
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We made our signs in the garage, and got excited to see progress every week. It was hot, but we got to encourage each other to keep going, even when we wanted just to go buy what we were making.
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We planted our own babies breath, because we wanted to learn something new about gardening and farming, it was an unsuccessful harvest, but we tried our best. We used seed paper in our invitations to get people to do the same.
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We chose Amazing Love Ministries, because we serve there and know the homeless that come in and out of their doors every week to get a hot meal. In fact, that’s where all our leftovers went.
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We made our ceremony unplugged because we wanted people to pause for a brief moment and enjoy their surroundings, to share the moment with us, and remember our voices and our faces.
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We got to connect with many vendors through word of mouth recommendations. It was a “treasure hunt” where one person would lead us to the next. Honestly it was one of the most fun parts of wedding planning, and we had so many wonderful surprises and we made life-long friends through the process.jonraynayborcityclspacewedding-104 jonraynayborcityclspacewedding-105 jonraynayborcityclspacewedding-108 jonraynayborcityclspacewedding-114 jonraynayborcityclspacewedding-115 jonraynayborcityclspacewedding-117 jonraynayborcityclspacewedding-122 jonraynayborcityclspacewedding-125 jonraynayborcityclspacewedding-127 jonraynayborcityclspacewedding-129 jonraynayborcityclspacewedding-142 jonraynayborcityclspacewedding-149 jonraynayborcityclspacewedding-152
We used compostable plates because instead of filling up a land-fill with paper and plastic, we can use the nutrients to grow, healthy, sustainable food in our garden.
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We harvested pine cones on our walks around the neighborhood at night, holding hands and talking about our future, then eventually our hands would be full of prickly pine cones. We learned you can really only hold so many, we made a lot of trips.
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The Bride and Groom chose to Give Back directly to following non-profits: Amazing Love Ministries, Tampa Christian Fellowship, Tampa Bay Harvest, and their own non-profit, Four Letter Word. And the giving didn’t stop there, here are the amazing vendors and aspects of their day and how they give back in their own way:
Wedding Coordinator: Rhonda Abdalla, From Yes to I Do and Events
“Rhonda at a young age was giving back to the community, growing up she spent most of her weekends with her family volunteering. She volunteered making meals for the homeless or arts & crafts and playing board games with the pediatric wing of her local hospital. Rhonda says, “ she was lucky enough to understand how important it was to give back, it’s truly a priceless and liberating feeling!” When Rhonda launched From Yes To I Do, she had no doubt in her mind that she wanted to incorporate this into her business. Rhonda proudly coordinates events for local nonprofit organizations. Having the opportunity to give back through her business is a dream come true and something she always planned on doing. Rhonda says she lives by the motto “you make a life by what you give to others” and because of this she can truly say her life is full of peace and prosperity.”
  Ceremony Venue:Amazing Love Ministries, Ybor
 “Amazing Love Ministries feeds over 300 people in the Ybor City area every week. In addition to providing hot meals and cold drinks, people are also given a to-go bag full of food to take with them. The ministry also provides many of the items that people need to live on the street: clothing, backpacks, shoes, blankets, toiletries, etc.”
  Reception Venue:CL Space, Ybor
 “Creative Loafing focuses on connecting the Tampa Bay area through their free online and print publication, which is a great source for events, restaurants, concerts and shows, Visual Arts reviews, news and opinions.”
  Caterer:Holy Hog BBQ 
 “Holy Hog BBQ is heavily involved in the local communities surrounding our stores in and around Tampa. The Hog donates various products and services to numerous organizations through out each year. We offer a 15% discount to all military and police including Fire and EMS all day every day. We most recently donated to the One Orlando Fund and and participated and Eat, Drink Red last year as well. We believe it is important to give back and help support the local community in any way possible.”
  Photographer:Savannah Lauren
“Savannah is affiliated with Feeding America, she volunteers her time and donates her photography services to food kitchens and underprivileged communities, she even created a series called The Intrepid Sessions.”
Second Photographer: Ivana Cajina
DJ/EmCee:Will Jackson
Will Jackson is the Creative Director for Grace Family Church in Tampa, Florida. He invests in youth and worship ministries, he is very passionate about his career in ministry and serves well as a leader to his community.   Officiant:Sixto and Susan Ward  
Violinist: Sarah Taylor
“Sarah gives back by supporting Ezra/Beat NB (A childhood cancer research foundation) and by donating her old clothes and furniture to Salvation Army. Sarah has a career as a music teacher in Hillsborough County, Tampa a truly finds passion in teaching the next generation music.”   Transportation:Jolley Trolley    Cake:Publix Bayshore
 “The founder of Publix, George Jenkins was once asked what he thought he would be worth had he not given so much away. Humbly, he answered “Probably nothing”. Publix gives to thousands of local non-profit organizations, tailoring giving to the needs of each local community. We put the weight of the company behind these campaigns; Special Olympics, Food for Sharing, March of Dimes, Children’s Miracle Network, Food for All, United Way, Tools for School and many others. If you shop at Publix, there’s a good chance you support them, too. “
  Hair: Sally Bakalyar “Sally donates time at her salon to give free back-to-school haircuts. She serves on the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary. Sally also advocates for the homeless, women’s shelters, and is involved with many churches and charities in the Tampa Bay area.”
  Small Paper Flowers: Made from old recycled bibles and hymn books, bought locally at Oldsmar Flea Market, crafted by Rayna and Robin Cohen – also seen in Brides Bouquet, Grooms Boutonnière, and Centerpieces.  
Makeup: Maribel Guisto InvitationsForever Fiancés  Envelopes: Recycled paper bag envelopes from Amazon RSVP and Details: Designed by Rayna, printed locally by Ashtay Printing/Zebra flyers  Bride Rings: Bought locally from a Gemologist, conflict-free diamonds Grooms Ring: Alamea, crafted from sustainable harvested Koa wood from Hawaii Bouquets and Hair Pieces: Babies Breath – grown in the Brasier garden and filled with additional babies breath from Carlstedt’s Confetti: Made from the remnants of the paper flowers Large Paper Flowers: Bought second- hand. Artist: Yanet Ademan Centerpieces: Wood rings – from a neighbor’s fallen tree, Manzanita – from Blooms and Branches Pallet Signs: Painted by Beverly Bakalyar  Party Favors: Trail mix bar, local fruit bought from Bearss Groves and dried by Rayna and Jon Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn Ybor Pipes and Drape/Uplighting: BayStage Live (www.baystagelive.com) Tables/Chairs/Linens: Rent All (www.rentallcity.com) Broccoli Bouquet: Bearss Groves Market Grooms Bowtie: Two Guys Bowties  Groomsmen watches and sunglasses: TreeHut  Bridemaids Skirts: Space46 Boutique  Dress and Veil:Allure – CC’s Bridal Boutique Featured local craft brews: Cigar City Jai Alai, 3 Daughters Beach Blonde, Florida Avenue IPA, Green Bench Brewing Sunshine City IPA All other goods made by the bride and groom, bought locally, or supported skilled artisans; bridesmaids robes, parent gift photo albums, garter, hour glass, flower girl basket, stamps, pearl head piece. ________________ To learn more about the bride and groom’s desire to serve others with their non-profit, Four Letter Word, visit their website!

Bride Blogger- Engagements with Purpose- Rayna & Jon

The following Engagement with Purpose feature was written by amazing bride-to-be and Four Letter Word non-profit founder, Rayna Cohen, and photographed by the ever so talented Savannah Lauren Photography. rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-5 We like to think we are people who care about the environment, the nations, and those who are less fortunate, but you don’t have to donate all your money to charity or volunteer every bit of your spare time to be the best you.  After all, it is small steps that lead to big changes.  Soon after starting Four Letter Word, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, in 2014 jumpstarted a lifestyle for my fiancé and I to be intentional about where we spend, what we buy, and how it impacts our community and environment. Four Letter Word provides resources, education, and empowers both individuals and communities to build healthy self-sustainable habitats. We currently work in 6 countries and have community farms where we teach people how to provide for themselves using the resources they have available. rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-10 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-13 It’s easy to get caught up in the moments and details of planning a wedding. It’s not always in the forefront of our minds to think about how our spending can impact the environment and people around us, how it could make all the difference or significantly take away from local small businesses in our communities. We’ve noticed the wedding industry thriving on over abundance and opulence, and were overwhelmed trying to plan a wedding that didn’t feel like “us”. We saw an opportunity and it became fun and extremely important picking options that gave-back-to or benefitted our local community; now every detail has a purpose and a plan that will last longer than our “one big day”.  Although we have nothing against fortune 500 companies, because let’s be honest who doesn’t love Target, this quote captures how we feel perfectly; “when you buy from a small business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third vacation home. You are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, a mom put food on the table, a dad pay a mortgage or a student pay for college.” That is why we became motivated to give back in everything that we do, and in that there is peace. rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-18 All of our vendors are either word-of-mouth recommendations, or people that we already know. Each person that is part of our day is here with a purpose, and most of them sew into the small communities in which they live in their own unique ways. We will be having our wedding ceremony at a local homeless ministry, Amazing Love, which we volunteer a few times a month. Amazing Love Ministries feeds over 300 people in the Ybor City area every week. In addition to providing hot meals and cold drinks, people are also given a to-go bag full of food to take with them. The ministry also provides many of the items that people need to live on the street: clothing, backpacks, shoes, blankets, toiletries, etc. rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-22 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-23 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-25 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-30 We wanted our Engagement photo shoot to reflect and showcase a few of our favorite things; like how important it is to buy local. At one of our favorite local produce markets, Bearss Groves, we had an amazing time picking out freshly picked fruits and veggies that we would use in the days to come.  rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-32 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-39 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-43  rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-54 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-57 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-64 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-68 We chose our second location at a friend Julie Shematz’s farm, where she and her husband help victims of human trafficking. Julie started Beauty from Ashes in 2005 and developed faith based programs in prevention, intervention, and restoration for victims of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and sex trafficking. She specializes in Equine, Art, and Creative Therapies, which are evidence-based treatments for abuse and trauma. To take this one more level into sustainability we decided to use Smart Press to print our Save the Date magnets (because magnets are reusable) that has a “Green Choice” initiative where they use earth-conscious printers, recycled paper options, environmentally superior printing presses, and continue to plant trees to better the environment. For our invitations we are looking into options like seed paper; a type of handmade paper that includes any number of different plant seeds. The seeds themselves can still germinate after the paper making process and they can sprout when the paper is planted in soil.  rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-71 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-80 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-88 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-95 We are currently growing our own Baby’s Breath and also incorporating paper flowers (recyclable) and fruits and veggies (edible) into our flower and table arrangements. We, along with a team of friends, are making most of our own hand-crafted decorations out of wood and found items from thrift shops and flea markets. We plan on using eco-friendly palm leaf plates and wooden cutlery to recycle and compost everything consumed at our reception. rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-102 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-108 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-111 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-114 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-117 We will be donating proceeds to a few different local ministries and non-profits in honor of our guests as part of our wedding favors.  We are also going to do a build-your-own trail mix bar, where we will be purchasing all locally grown seasonal fruit and dehydrating it ourselves so our guests can enjoy some native Florida delicacies. rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-130 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-135 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-138 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-140 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-142 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-147 rj-engagement-field-farm-fruit stand-local-161 Planning intentionally and not over-buying are little ways you can be more sustainable. Being earth-conscious doesn’t mean you make your Bridesmaid’s wear brown paper dresses but find something they can all re-wear in the future. Its little details that can make a big overall difference, we are very excited to include our community and the environment into our special day. Photography: Savannah Lauren | Rayna and Jon’s non-profit – www.fourletterword.org | Wedding Ceremony – www.amazinglovemin.org | Produce Market/Engagement- www.bearssgroves.com | Human Trafficking Ministry/Engagement – www.beautyfromashes.org | Save the Date printer – www.smartpress.com