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  • Todd Strunk

UK-USA Merger : The Wedding of Sarah Barker and Michael Barnwell @

We were really looking forward to returning to Tanner Hall in Winter Garden— a truly pleasant and beautiful event location on Lake Apopka— where on the balmy late afternoon of September 30th, we had the privilege of catering the wedding celebration of Sarah Barker and Michael Barnwell of Winter Park.

Tanner Hall is a venue with great attributes that aren’t immediately apparent to the first-time visitor. You arrive at a very tidy, attractive white building that appears as if it could be the local garden club. Inside is a spotless rectangular interior with barreled ceiling that feels just right for a group of 100 or so. But when you step out back on the verandah and see the vast, gently sloping green acreage and stone pathway below, winding toward the large lakefront wedding gazebo, you really see what it’s all about. Off to one side of this sweeping vista is an impressive elevated lookout spot where, in a firm breeze, some of the post-wedding photos were taken of the newly minted husband and wife.

United Kingdom native Sarah Barker has worked formerly for Disney Cruise Lines and as a nanny in alpine Switzerland. Currently, she is employed as a nanny in Winter Park for two very lucky children. Michael is employed in the life sciences as a data analyst for UBC/Express Scripts.

We were thinking that the two might combine surnames and start a line of gourmet food products (e.g., “Barker & Barnwell Pure English Fruit Preserves, available at specialty stores everywhere”). Though in any case, Sarah will now only have to remember to write “n-w-e-l-l” after the first three letters of her maiden name. We see this as a real plus.

Sarah looked really terrific in her white gown. She’s shown here just before her walk down to the lake for the ceremony, and we think her expression in this photo says it all.

Michael presented himself in an elegant three-piece gray number with pastel yellow tie, and somehow seemed as relaxed as someone waiting to be shown his table in a restaurant. And after observing his remarkable portfolio of facial expressions, we also suspect that, in a past life, Michael may have been a 1920s silent film comedian.

Rounding things out were a great looking squad of eight bridesmaids and groomsmen, wearing gray and blue. About 100 guests and bridal party members attended the ceremony and reception, including many who came in from Europe.

We must make mention of how impressed we are with Michael and Sarah, who exude such easy charm and joie de vivre. We were considering this as we surveyed their whimsical reception décor and amenities, which promised an atmosphere of lighthearted fun for their guests. We had earlier sensed a certain generosity of spirit in these two, so when we learned that they’d met doing charitable work at the wonderful Give Kids the World, near Walt Disney World, the pieces locked into place. We were very glad we were able to see them during their wedding ceremony, which was lovely and jovial. They did a brilliant job of weaving the circumstances of their meeting into their wedding theme, particularly throughout the reception area and with the wedding cake motif.

Afterwards, we set up on the verandah with a bar and served drinks and savory appetizers whipped up by our chef Todd. A bit later we began indoors with a bar station and meal service. The bride and groom chose a full buffet service and carving station with roast sirloin. We heard wonderful toasts, including remarks by family members and Michael himself, who showed such wedding day poise that we thought there might be a moonlighting opportunity for him as a coach for shaky bridegrooms. Sarah’s sister and Michael’s brother, who served as maid of honor and best man, respectively, both delivered wonderful toasts.

We also must make special note of Sarah’s father’s tour de force of a toast— a monologue that encompassed the entire hall and which may qualify as a work of post-modern performance art. And we knew when we saw the stack of papers in his hand that there had been thoughtful preparation. Shortly thereafter, he had enough reserve in the tank to offer an energetic encore on the dance floor. At first we did not know where his dance partner had come from, but then realized it was Mrs. Barker who’d actually made a change into more performance friendly attire. The two wedding party troupers then proceeded to tear up the dance floor. We gave it 9.5 out of 10, our highest score ever for a parental dance routine.

We brought our camera along for this great event. Please take a few minutes to see what we saw, on our Michael & Sarah Pinterest board:

Sincere thanks to Sarah and Michael- and cheers! We’re sure that only happiness and success lay ahead. We were certain of this when we saw the rainbow appear in the northern sky just after the ceremony (see aforementioned photo board). Or was this part of the wedding package? ■

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