Night at the Museum

A dramatic wedding of historical proportions.

Photographs by Gary Fox

Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Blackman, 27, of the U.S. Army Reserves and
Tyler King, 26, marketing writer for Full Sail University, were married on
Feb. 27, 2010, at the Orange County Regional History Center in downtown Orlando.

It is entirely possible to be traditional and atypical simultaneously, and as difficult as that is to articulate, it is exactly what my husband and I were going for. We both have a background in theater and fine art, so we endeavored to plan an evening that celebrated our military traditions and sense of the dramatic, but also provided an unusual experience for our guests. Most important to achieving that goal was the selection of the perfect venue.

When I set out to find a location for our wedding, I wasn’t certain what I was looking for. I didn’t have a cheat sheet of buzzwords or certain criteria; I just waited to be inspired. It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon a photo of a wedding held in the 1927 courtroom of the Orange County Regional History Center.

Immediately, I envisioned my fiancé, Jeffrey Blackman, a staff sergeant in the Army Reserves, and military guests dressed in formal uniforms, flanked by bridesmaids and groomsmen dressed in black, and of course, the stunning bride draped in ivory silk with delicate bouquets of white roses and peonies.

The courtroom itself has an enchanting ambiance that feels rich and vintage, with original antique pews, a dark wood judge’s bench, and red velvet drapes that framed tall windows and reminded me of classic stage curtains. I imagined our friends and family entering the room and being overwhelmed with curiosity about the trials that took place there, recalling prohibition era images of flappers, rumrunners and films starring Charlie Chaplin or Mary Pickford.

We strayed away from explicit themes, but allowed the venue to provide a classical, formal atmosphere yet offered a unique after-hours visit to a museum few of our guests had ever seen. The premise of having the five-story facility to roam was alluring and delivered on the promise of offering a once-in-a-lifetime encounter for all who attended.

One facet of the ceremony that was at the top of my must-have list was the inclusion of an Army saber arch. This traditional military ritual involves an honor guard of soldiers that stand in formation on either side of the bride and groom to salute the couple’s exit by raising gleaming swords of gold and steel around them.

The display allowed for dramatic photographs, and was a genuine crowd-pleaser for our family and friends who had never witnessed the ritual. I was most anxious for the customary recognition of my membership among the ranks of Army wives as the last soldier in line is expected to swat the bride on the rump and announce, “Welcome to the Army.” As unconventional an act it is to take a swipe at a bride with a sword, it was an initiation that I appreciated and took great satisfaction in receiving as a proud military spouse.

For two Orange County natives and self-proclaimed artists, the History Center exceeded all of our expectations to present a unique setting that was visually impressive and supplied its own sense of ambiance with minimal decoration. Naturally, my husband and I encountered the setbacks and minor disasters of any wedding—my gown was irreparably damaged during final alterations 30 days before the wedding, but the manager at Alfred Angelo in Altamonte Springs wasted no time in ordering the fabrication of a new dress, which was delivered in one week.

But our event was memorable because of unconventional and dramatic touches that engaged and entertained our loved ones. Ultimately, we pulled off an amalgamation of the traditional and avant-garde that expressed who we are as individuals, and as a couple.

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