While attending a weeklong company retreat, Marina Panagakos was impressed by her colleague Daniel Fitzgerald’s performance at the talent show. “He performed two times and played two different instruments – guitar and drums. I was sort of captivated by him,” she reminisces. “The next night, you could find us together screaming Backstreet Boys at the top of our longs at the karaoke after-party… the rest is history!” 

On their first official date, Marina and Daniel both felt they had found something special. “I remember feeling so nervous because I had never felt so connected and attracted to someone – especially after only one date,” remembers Daniel. Marina agrees: “He made me really realize what ‘love at first sight’ meant.” 

After making it through the pandemic in a small one-bedroom apartment in New York City, Daniel knew it was time to propose. “We had built each other up into the strongest versions of ourselves and were our biggest champions,” he confirms. “I remember thinking to myself that this is the woman that I wanted and needed to spend the rest of my life with.” 

After their engagement, they hired Gina Myers of La Cosa Bella Events to plan their celebration. “Gina Myers was our hero throughout the process,” shares Daniel. “She was very personable and professional and turned our dream into a reality.” 

Though they lived in New York at the time, Marina and Daniel knew they wanted to host a tent wedding in the South, where they planned to settle down. “I imagined having an outdoor wedding, somewhere where the scenery was beautiful,” affirms the bride. They selected a site on Johns Island in Charleston – the city they would eventually move to after the “I dos.” 

The bride originally desired a color palette highlighting burgundy and forest green for their fall wedding; however, when she showed her future husband, he said all of the colors looked brown. “Dan is color blind and some colors just blend together for him,” says Marina. “I didn’t want him to look around at our wedding and see different hues of brown everywhere; I wanted him to be able to enjoy the colors just as much as everyone else.” Thus, they moved forward with a gorgeous design showcasing white and ice blue

As a string quartet performed a blend of classical and modern-day music, friends and family gathered alfresco for the ceremony, which took place beneath a giant live oak tree. Since the setting was so stunning on its own, décor was kept minimal with just two floral-filled urns designating the spot for the vow exchange and additional arrangements at the start of the aisle. Marina was a vision in a glamorous ball gown featuring a draped bodice and cap sleeves, clutching an elegant floral bouquet in shades of vanilla and baby blue. 

The emotional service was made even more special when the couple recited handwritten vows to one another. “Though I wasn’t one of those little girls who always dreamed of her wedding – not until I met Dan at least, and I was no longer little then – I did always dream of the words that my future husband and I would share with each other,” explains the bride. “He had me in tears the entire time. I felt our love in every word that he spoke, and I know he felt the same with my vows. I will remember that moment for the rest of my life.” 

“Gina Myers [of La Cosa Bella Events] was our hero throughout the process. She was very personable and professional and turned our dream into a reality.”

Following a cocktail hour beneath the trees, loved ones made their way into the tented reception space, which held a lovely lounge area, multiple bars, a collection of beautifully decorated tablescapes, and a long head table with “the most stunning massive floral runner,” adds the bride. 

Friends and family found their seats atop cane-back chairs that surrounded tables covered with either crisp alabaster or blue-and-white patterned linens. Centerpieces displaying fresh greenery and bountiful blooms in blue and white were illuminated by ivory taper and pillar candles, as well as greenery-embellished chandeliers up above. 

After dinner, attendees hit the dance floor, which had been adorned with the pair’s monogram, for a night of revelry. “The band we had was really incredible!” exclaims the bride, who also made sure Greek music was played in honor of her heritage. “We had taken our entire wedding party to Greece and they had all learned how to Greek dance. In addition, Dan had practiced a special dance where he would take a shot off the floor… He did such an amazing job at this given he’s not Greek himself!” For a fitting late-night snack, loved ones enjoyed gyros and fries from a Greek food truck – “the cherry on top,” notes the groom of the welcome treat. 

“Everything fell into place and truly was the most beautiful, perfect day,” muses Marina, who took a moment with her new husband to step away and watch as the night unfolded. “We stood there in awe as we soaked in watching all of our friends and family mingle, laugh, and dance together,” smiles Daniel. “Every aspect of the wedding was flawless.”

This real wedding was originally published in the Winter 2024 issue of Inside Weddings magazine. 

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