Julianna Sharkey’s long-time friend and agent, Suzy, not only finds her modeling jobs, but also sneakily found her husband, CEO of Think Hospitality Shawn Vardi, too. Suzy and her husband Jayson, who both love playing cupid, arranged for the Juliana and Shawn to be at The Standard’s bar in Miami, on the same night with friends. It wasn’t until the following week, however, on a double-date that the couple really connected. “Conversation over pizza led to salsa dancing, and the rest was history,” says Julianna. One year later, Shawn proposed in Ravello, Italy, during a sunset dinner overlooking the Amalfi Coast.
They had just attended a friend’s wedding in Spain and were headed to Positano for a little getaway. Staying at La Sirenuse in Positano, the couple took a water taxi to Ravello for dinner. “I did notice he was especially quiet which is NOT Shawn Vardi but didn’t think much of it then, which makes me laugh now at how oblivious I was and how I didn’t pick up on anything,” says Julianna. After he popped the question, they ended up at Belmond Hotel Caruso for a champagne celebration that included calling their mothers with the exciting news.
During an impromptu trip, with the couple that set them up, to Saint Kitts and Nevis, the two agreed it would make for an ideal wedding destination and quickly booked the Park Hyatt for the rehearsal dinner, ceremony, and reception. The engaged duo did most of the planning, with help from Kathy Blount of Meeting Dynamics Global, Inc. And photographers LOVE + WOLVES CO also sent two New York shooters, Natalie and Sarah, down to document the whole weekend.
When looking for a wedding dress, Juliana wanted to feel comfortable and like herself. Over Christmas, her mother was visiting Miami from Wisconsin, and they seized their time together and made appointments at two bridal stores. “I was more into the quality time and experience with my mom than the seriousness of finding ‘The Dress,’” she says. However, at Ever After, consultant Camille Russler pulled a Vera Wang gown she had just received from New York that morning and convinced her to try it. “I cried immediately when I saw myself in it and my mom’s reaction,” says the bride.
To pair with her dream dress, Julianna went for delicate jewelry. She wore diamond studs, her tennis bracelet, and a small pearl ear cuff by Maria Black, as her “something new.” For her “something borrowed” and “something blue,” she affixed her grandmother’s pearls with her great grandmother’s blue silk handkerchief on her bouquet. Her beauty looks were handled by her good friend and makeup and hair stylist Virginia Le Fay, who did a loose low bun with a rosy, bronzed glow for the ceremony.
The groom wore a custom beige Tom Ford suit with brown Gucci loafers. Inside his jacket, he had his and his fiancés initials and their wedding date embroidered. Groomsmen wore beige suits and bridesmaids wore white looks of their choosing. “Right before the ceremony, I gifted my girls a pair of Acrilla mismatched pearl earrings by BECK Jewels, which really tied them all together in the simplest way,” says Julianna.
For the sunset terrace ceremony, overlooking the black sand beaches, the humorous couple recreated the “She’s Your Queen” serenade from the film Coming to America. “There is one moment that was captured that looks like Shawn is shedding tears at first sight, but no, that’s him crying of laughter at the performance. Arsenio Hall actually reposted the evidence on Instagram which really made our day!” Julianna remembers.
After that fun moment kicked things off, the bride walked down the aisle with her mom to an acoustic version of Ryan Adams’s “Wonderwall.” Their dear friend Zac Zabner officiated the marriage, celebrating the union of her Catholic upbringing and his Jewish faith. “Zac was always with us from the start of the relationship. He did such an amazing job telling our love story; he actually inspired friends to choose the same route for their weddings,” the bride says. As traditions are important to the couple, their friend Father Dean read Bible verses in English, while Shawn’s father read from the Torah in Hebrew, and they had a wine ceremony that both religions share.
After the happy couple had their first kiss as husband and wife, everyone moved to the lawn for a sunset cocktail hour and then to the beach-front reception. “All we wanted was a tropical disco . . . I wanted people to have their feet in the sand, dancing all night with beach fires and disco balls EVERYWHERE! We planned everything to flow around the dance floor on the sand,” says the bride. Guests were free to sit where they liked and dined on food stations at the Great House.
Speeches started with the mothers speaking together, and then Shawn’s father and brother, Eric, followed. “Eric closed with one of the most epic speeches I’ve ever heard. Everyone was rolling on the ground laughing!” says the bride. The newlyweds then took to the beach dance floor and danced to Sam Smith’s acoustic version of “Latch.”
After the reception, a cake fight broke out—yes, you’re reading that correctly. The reception was planned to end with cake and dessert, but the rain rushed things, and Julianna always wanted to shove cake in her new husband’s face. “It started raining and things escalated quickly, and before you know it, we were covered in cake,” she says. The two changed outfits, her into a white distressed satin slip dress by AOTC that was gifted by her friend and stylist Brandon Fogel and headed back to the Great House to continue partying until the early hours.