The couple had their perfect day on Nov. 10 at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
It’s as classic as it gets: firefighter meets preschool teacher and live happily ever after.
Rachel Palladino had just gotten out of a relationship and wasn’t looking to move forward with anyone else for awhile. But when Rachel’s cousin pulled up Shawn Sanders’ photo on Facebook, she couldn’t help but say “yes” to meeting him.
Two days later, Shawn Sanders gave her a call and they went out to dinner and dated for the next four years.
Fast-forward to 2016. Shawn had just gotten home from work. As a firefighter, he worked 24 hours on, 48 off. So when Shawn said to Rachel, “Hey, let’s take the boat out and take the dog with us for the morning,” Rachel thought nothing of it.
Rachel had been waiting for the past two years to get engaged. Little did she know, Shawn was good at keeping secrets. He had already asked her dad and bought the ring. However, he didn’t tell anyone when, where or how he was going to ask Rachel to be his wife.
It was a routine boating day for Rachel, Shawn and their dog, Sierra, until Shawn got down on one knee.
Complete with champagne, the moment was just right for them. Since nobody knew Shawn was proposing that morning, they had the time all to themselves.
“It was so nice to have that 20-30 minutes on the boat, just the three of us, before anyone else knew,” Rachel says.
Just like her lesson plans, Rachel had her wedding planned early. Really, she’s been planning it since she was a little girl.
“I planned everything down to where the candles were going, to what time I would walk down the aisle and everything,” Rachel says.
To help with her planning, Rachel attended wedding shows, visited multiple vendors and kept a wedding notebook, AKA, “Shawn’s Dreaded Thing,” to which he would say, “Oh no, the notebook!”
For the outdoor-romantic feel Rachel was going for, she knew right away that she wanted to get married at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. The colors and flower choices came along with that feel.
On the day of, all of Rachel’s hard work and planning paid off.
“NK was our planner day-of,” Rachel says. “It was hard to hand over my wedding to Nicole, but everything was perfect. There was nothing that went wrong. Literally nothing went wrong.”
Before the ceremony, the couple opted out of a first look, and instead chose to have a first touch. The photographer placed the two of them back-to-back, where they held hands and exchanged notes.
“The first touch was special to me because it was the first time that I got to be around Rachel and was able to talk to her,” Shawn said. “During all the chaos of getting ready for the wedding, it was nice to have a quiet moment just the two of us.”
Their wedding day was an overcast almost all day, until it was time for Rachel to walk down the aisle.
“The minute I turned the corner the sun peaked out and Shawn gave me his classic wave that he does,” Rachel says. “It immediately made me laugh and made everyone else disappear. It was our little moment.”
At the end of the day, Shawn’s best man had a surprise for the bride and groom.
“Shawn’s best man, also a firefighter, said there was a surprise waiting for me,” Rachel says. “I said, ‘Is it a firetruck?’ and we went outside and there was a firetruck there. It was a really cool moment to stand on the firetruck and know that this was a third family I was going to have.”