Written by Laura Bell. Photography by Two & Quarter.
Smitten after the very first date, Michelle Redman, a marketing executive director for Estee Lauder, and Jeff Willingham, a senior data scientist for TiVo Research met on Match.com. “Jeff was my first and only Match.com date,” said Michelle, who was originally from Brooklyn and grew up in California. “After our first date I was smitten but had a few other dates planned. Due to my work and travel schedule I was not able to make my other dates but I was able to make time to see Jeff. After our third date I cancelled all of my other dates with other suitors and cancelled my match membership.”
When asked when he knew Michelle was the one, Jeff recalls when he initially panicked before the full realisation set in. “I don’t remember the exact day, just the exact moment,” he said. “I was a wreck throughout the week because those three words (‘I love you…’) had slipped out of my mouth, and I was trying to back out of those words with convoluted logic. Anyway, I awoke one morning in an utterly indescribable state of peace, thinking to myself: ‘I could spend the rest of my life with this woman, I’m deeply in love with her.’”
After eight months of dating, Jeff took his beloved to meet his family and friends in his hometown of Denver, Colorado, where he prepared a grand proposal and ended up doing a retake after the first didn’t exactly go as planned.
“We spent a few days in the city of Denver meeting family and friends and then we headed to the Rocky Mountains,” reminisced Michelle. “We hiked a two- to three-mile trail, which had tons of various terrains and ended at the splendid Alberta Falls. At the top of the falls, in jest, I joked to Jeff that I’m happy he didn’t propose yet because if I was wearing an engagement ring it could have gotten damaged during the hike.
“Jeff asked me to scoot over as he said, ‘I think your ring would have been fine,’ and proceeded to move down to one bended knee. There were several families around us and I began to panic. I’m the type of lady that doesn’t like attention and I was extremely nervous. All I could say was ‘Jeff, stop. Not Now. Stop. Not Now.’ I felt so bad but I completely freaked out due to the people around us.
“The next day we went to Breckenridge, Colorado. It was in the middle of mud season, which is between the ski and the summer seasons. The town was completely empty—it was like we had it to ourselves. We took a walk on the river walk to explore the town and grab dinner. In the middle of our walk, on a small bridge, Jeff proposed, and teary-eyed, I said yes. It was very intimate and perfect. The entire night Jeff kept on telling strangers he just proposed; it was very sweet.”
The couple had previously visited a New York City jewellery store to ring shop so Jeff could find out what Michelle liked. In the end he settled on a perfect, round diamond in a low setting with a rose gold band and pave diamonds on the side.
Settling on a November wedding date, the couple chose Bermuda for their destination wedding. Visiting the island in 2015 over the July 4th weekend with her sister, Monique, the bride toured beach venues before deciding on Cambridge Beaches for both the intimate ceremony and reception.
“Once I saw Turtle Cove it was love at first site,” said Michelle. “The natural landscape of the beach and rock formations in the ocean was the perfect backdrop for the ceremony. I also loved the idea of walking down the stairs as my entrance.
“We had so many options on the resort, and the staff, including Richard (the manager) and Florenta (the wedding coordinator), were AMAZING! In addition, I loved the idea of the reception in the Aquarians Baths—an indoor pool area with a retractable roof. It was different from the standard restaurant environment that some of the other properties were offering.
“Jeff likes simple and elegant and that is exactly what Cambridge offered and delivered.”
Once the venue was decided the couple found it easy to select the other details of the wedding, including their coral and off-white colour palette (“I just love the way coral and off-white look with the blue beach water,” Michelle said) and the casual-meets-glam wedding attire. “Once we settled on a beach wedding it made it very simple to select our attire,” the bride said. “Jeff and I selected his linen pants, vest and shirt. I went to a few bridal stores in New York before I found my perfect dress at Pronovias. It was completely different than what I envisioned but the minute I put it on, I knew it was my dress. I thought it was a little too fancy for the beach but it was me—a deep-v back, form-fitting and mermaid bottom.”
Flowers by GiMi created the exquisite bouquets filled with magenta peonies, the bride’s favourite flower. They were also used on the cake and cake stand, while orchids were used in the bamboo arch for the ceremony. The reception table featured more orchids, calla lilies, hydrangeas and tulips cascading down the mirrored runner with floating candles further enhancing the romance. “Flowers by Gimi were amazing,” said Michelle. “I sent inspirational ideas and they put everything together in one pass.”
Thirty-eight guests travelled to the island from as far away as Los Angeles, Denver, Vancouver, Texas, Reno and Phoenix to celebrate the nuptials. Following the beach ceremony, the group headed up to the Sky Deck at Cambridge Beaches for a cocktail hour filled with speeches and toasts to the newlyweds while Randy Lambert played guitar. A banquet-style feast and big dance party followed and included some amusing surprises—including the bride’s sister and cousin singing a duet of “Endless Love.”
“It was comical due to the fact my sister can’t sing and insisted on singing the entire song! My aunties also had a surprise dance number to a Trinidadian calypso song. I don’t think Jeff and his family had ever been exposed to my wild Trini family but everyone had fun. Jeff’s mom told me my rhythm has rhythm!”
The next day the couple had planned with their photographers Ally and Mark Tatem to jump off the cliff at Admiralty House, but nerves got the best of Michelle and she attempted to back out. With the Tatems already on their way via boat from St. George’s, the couple settled for a quick tour of the island with the easy-going photographers. Finally, Michelle’s nerves settled and a short time later the couple found themselves taking the plunge in their full wedding attire—even though Michelle couldn’t swim! “My husband saved my non-swimming self every time,” she said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience—I’m so happy we did it!”
When asked if they could do it all over again, what they would do differently, Michelle answered: “I wish I could get married every year, as it was amazing.”