The connection between the two was immediate when Nicole DeBartolo and Chad Chronister met in a business meeting a decade ago. “We both had completely separate lives at the time, but instantly became best friends,” says Nicole. As the years passed and their situations changed, the couple realized there was more to their relationship than friendship… and Chad popped the question with the help of Nicole’s six-year-old son. “Asher got down on one knee and asked, ‘Mommy, will you marry Chad?’” recalls the bride. “Nothing to me could have been more perfect than to begin the rest of my life that day with my two favorite boys.”

The couple wanted a location that was far enough from their home base of Tampa to feel like a destination wedding, but not so far that the planning would be prohibitively difficult. Palm Beach proved to be the perfect location for not only the wedding, but a glittering rehearsal dinner and after-party as well. A planning team comprised of Nicole, Chad, and both of their mothers made trips to Palm Beach to meet with the wedding consultant and vendors. “They never pressed their feelings on us, but they were always there for advice if we needed it,” says the bride of the pair’s helpful and considerate family members. “That made it all so special.”

The Breakers was the setting for an Italian-themed rehearsal dinner, with the hotel’s storied ballroom serving as the beautifully festive backdrop. Awash in red lighting, the ornate space was decorated with romantic roses, rich table linens, and wooden chairs with red velvet cushions. “I was involved with every detail,” admits Chad, “except for the part where my wife surprised me with [opera singing group] The Three Waiters!” The music-filled dinner was preceded by an al fresco cocktail hour on the gorgeous, manicured grounds of the resort.

The following day, a fantasy of flowers, flowing fabric, and romantic lighting created an ethereal setting for Nicole and Chad’s wedding ceremony. Two white arches made of painted branches and topped with masses of orchids were linked with a glittering chandelier. A raised platform featured a floral draped podium behind which a very special offiiant stood ready to conduct the service. “We had one of our mutual friends marry us, as we wanted the ceremony to truly come from the heart of someone that had been with us since day one,” shares the bride. “She did a wonderful job, and we couldn’t have been happier.” Bridesmaids wearing black cocktail dresses in varying styles carried lovely bouquets of white anemones surrounded with snowy tulips. The formality of the occasion received a delightful dose of levity when Asher took his turn down the aisle as ring bearer. “We let my son choose his own song for the children’s processional,” explains Nicole, “so between beautiful songs by a string quartet, Asher walked down the aisle to ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen!” The bride made a more traditional entrance carrying a spectacular bouquet of French tulips with a delicate center of valley lilies. Her stunning strapless gown featured graceful embroidery and was beautifully accented with a lace-edged veil. “Seeing Nicole immediately brought back the memory of the first time I met her and was overwhelmed with her beauty,” Chad recalls. “I became overcome with emotion knowing I was truly the luckiest and happiest man alive!”

At the conclusion of the service, the newlyweds and their guests filed into an amazing black-and-white reception accented with the slightest trace of green. “Walking into the room filled with orchids was magical,” recalls the bride. “It brought tears to the eyes of both of us, and took our breath away.”

Snowy branches strung with crystals and entwined with white flowers formed towering centerpieces, while glowing votives bathed the room in candlelight. Beautiful ebony linens and chair covers with white leaf cutouts alternated with the reverse design throughout the room, and flawlessly coordinated with a border of custom flooring. Faceted chandeliers and cut-crystal accents added sparkle to the space, while creamy floral arrangements draped a stunning bar and topped a massive vase-shaped ice sculpture. Even the couple’s wedding cake reflected the contrast of the reception décor, with dramatic black tiers embellished with bunches of sugar orchids. “Not only was it the most beautiful cake I have ever seen,” confides the bride, “but it tasted as wonderful as it looked.” A multi-course dinner created by celebrity chef Tyler Florence was enjoyed, and musical performances by Boogie Nights and Boyz II Men were the crowning touch to an outstanding celebration.

The fun continued with the post-reception party held in an adjoining space. A zebra patterned dance floor literally set the stage for the fashionable soirée, where guests danced to sets by DJ Samantha Ronson. Carved bar stools, leather lounge furniture, mood lighting, and a bar dotted with fuchsia flowers completed the stylish scene. “The after-party allowed everyone to change outfits, get comfortable, and relax,” asserts Nicole, who donned a crystal-dotted tracksuit in bridal white for the occasion.

All of the wedding proceedings were infused with the couple’s combined personalities, from their generous request that charitable donations be made in lieu of wedding gifts, to the tastefully chic feel of the décor at each event. “Our wedding would not have been ‘us’ if it was not fun,” confirms Nicole, but the overriding sentiment was one of love, happiness, and the joy of being joined together at last. “Honestly, it was a case of love at first sight,” Chad confides of that initial meeting with Nicole a decade before. “But it was over the next 10 years that I got to know the real Nikki, and just how beautiful a person she truly is.” “We took the long road to each other, but that’s okay,” Nicole agrees. “It made us appreciate each other and what we have together so much more.”