John & Lyda Arimond, celebrate their love

What joyous event featured a circus theme, a .face painter dressed as Cinderella, Dixieland jazz and sunset on the beach? Only the most fabulously fun wedding in local .history!

The April 2005 wedding of John and Lyda Arimond was more than a celebration of their love. It was a memorable and imaginative three-day festival wrapped around a beautiful, meaningful church ceremony.

"We have a lot of family who came in from all over the country," says Lyda, ".so we wanted not only a celebration of our wedding but a fun weekend for .everyone."

The weekend began that Friday night at the rehearsal dinner at the Lido Beach Resort on Lido Key. The dinner introduced the circus theme with Big Top tent decor, a DJ dressed as the circus Ringmaster, and the bride and groom making their entrance in capes, one of which was reportedly used in the 1952 classic movie "The Greatest Show on Earth."

"We even had clown noses set on straws as .centerpieces," Lyda says, "and all the guests put them on!"

Since there were several grandchildren in the wedding party, John and Lyda hired a face painter and a magician, who entertained kids of all ages.

Wedding planner Bobbi Hicks of Weddings by Bobbi, who helped John and Lyda coordinate the details of the three-day event, says, "Every single thing they did had a special meaning for them or their guests."

The next day, Saturday, the couple was married at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church on Siesta Key. Many family members participated in the wedding as ring bearers, flower girl, readers, even the officiant. "My brother is a Jesuit priest," says John, "so he married us." The nuptial mass began at 1 p.m. The ceremony was solemn, formal, and, as Bobbi Hicks says, "perfectly gorgeous!"

"I had a blue custom-designed wedding dress made," says Lyda. "Some of the beadwork was being done in the area that was just hit by the tsunami." Although the couple was saddened by the tsunami and its victims, there was some consternation about the dress being finished on time, "but they managed to get it done!"

As the newlyweds left the serious setting of the church, they were greeted by a Dixieland trio bursting into lively music. "John loves Dixieland music so I wanted to surprise him," says Lyda. "Then instead of throwing rice, we did a .butterfly release. It was beautiful! I'd never seen it done before."

There was more music variety at the reception at the Lido Beach Resort. "We had a harpist during cocktails and then a band for dinner and dancing," John says. That evening the wedding party and guests enjoyed watching a gorgeous sunset on the beach.

Instead of wedding cake at the reception, they served baked Alaska - all the waiters paraded in with each dish, topped by sparklers, held high above their heads.

On Sunday the Arimonds hosted a brunch at home, catered by Michael's On East. The circus theme was back, with the movie "The Greatest Show on Earth" playing in the background during the brunch.

"We took the circus idea from the fact we live in Sarasota, the home of John Ringling," according to Lyda. "Our wedding was a real blending of family and we thought this would be a great way to make it fun."

And a face painter dressed as Cinderella at the brunch? A sign of more good things to come - a honeymoon in Disney-world! John and Lyda took their grandchildren with them for a .whirlwind week at the theme park.

Ironically, John and Lyda lived within three blocks of each other years ago in New Jersey but never met until they both attended a church bereavement seminar. John had lost his first wife, Lyda had lost a close friend.

"You really get to know someone at that kind of thing," she says. "People really open up." The couple knew each other 10 years before marrying. They moved to Florida in 2001, a sort of homecoming for Lyda, who grew up in Coral Gables. Why choose Sarasota? "The arts - and the people. I just fell in love with the area."

Although it's been almost three years now, the Arimond's incredible three-day wedding event is still fresh in their minds. "We have wonderful memories and wonderful photographs."

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