When Larissa met Wendell, they were in the midst of trying to diffuse a chaotic situation. The two worked together at the same school; she a teacher, he a law enforcement officer. One day, back in the spring of 2019, one of Larissa’s students was distraught after having a dispute with another student. Looking to resolve the situation, which ended up impacting her entire classroom, she called on the deputy resource officer to help — Wendell. It was their first time meeting.
“He came in and handled the situation, while making the students feel more comfortable with going to that class the next day. From that day, he was always very polite and made every effort to check on the students and myself,” she tells ESSENCE. Wendell went above and beyond, visiting the class and checking on Larissa consistently. He even supported the dance group she has for the kids. “He became a sponsor for my extracurricular Dance Club to ensure they had everything they needed in order to put on a great show,” she says. “It was his willingness and dedication to the students that stood out most.”
What also stood out was Larissa and Wendell’s growing attraction to one another. Inevitably, they started to see each other outside of school and slowly but surely fell in love. They kept that quiet though, especially from the students, so as to remain professional. When he moved up to a different department as their relationship progressed, they no longer had to hide it.
A year after they met, in May of 2020, Wendell would propose (more on that later) and the two would set their sights on forever, tying the knot on June 6, 2021 in Daytona Beach, Fla. A love that began with the two meeting in the school halls culminated in Larissa and Wendell meeting at the altar to make things official.
“We are so glad we met,” she says, “now we get to spend the rest of our lives together.”
Take a look at the gorgeous images from their big day and learn more about the love story that led to it.
Photography: Epiphany Image Photography @epiphanyimage
Videography: FH Creatives
Florals: No. 1 Flowers
Cake: B Cupcakes
Catering: Big Mike’s Catering (Orlando)/Belly Full Catering (Daytona Beach)
Hair: Thomas Adrianna Beauty
Dresses: Something New Bridal Boutique
Groom’s Tuxedo: Leonardo 5th Avenue
Makeup: Stenza Jae Artistry
Venue: Crystal Ballroom at Sunset Harbor (Daytona Beach, FL)
Want your wedding to be considered for feature in Bridal Bliss? Email us a few wedding photos and the story of your big day, with a few quotes, at [email protected].
How the Groom Knew He’d Found the One
“I realized I found the one when nothing or no one else started to matter. The only thing I cared about was making this woman happy,” Wendell says. “She was my best friend, we planned life together and we wanted to grow together. We always prayed together and started our relationship on our friendship foundation. I could always be open with Larissa and never worried about judgment. Larissa became my peace, my medicine, my all of the above, especially my one and only true love.”
How the Bride Knew She Found Her Mr. Right
“I realized I found the one when he gave me a feeling I had never felt before. The feeling of being safe and sound, while knowing and understanding that there was someone who loved and cared about me with all of their heart,” Larissa says. “He accepted me with all of my flaws and would do anything to make sure I was happy, safe, and felt loved unconditionally. The most important thing was that he would pray for me to have great days each morning. I thought to myself, ‘this man really loves you.’ It was the most selfless acts from my husband that captured my heart. I know with him, I will always be loved.”
On May 16, 2020, early in the pandemic, Wendell took Larissa to the Capital Grille, had their table decorated with confetti and long stem roses, and after a great dinner and conversation, popped the question.
“After talking and making me smile all night, he said he had to go to the restroom. When he came back, he was nervous and mentioned that he had ‘to do this now because someone in the restroom had just vented to him about a failed marriage,’” Larissa says. “Without even knowing [it], Wendell was about to pop the big question. He said, ‘You know I love you and I just can not see myself living in this world without you.’ He got on one knee and asked me to marry him. I said ‘YES!’ and gave him the longest hug and kiss ever.”
The First Touch
“Our best memory was the first touch,” Larissa says of the couple’s favorite moment from their day. “It was like we were one with each other during that time but we could not see each other’s faces. I was 110 percent certain that he was smiling from ear to ear because I sure was. He asked how I was feeling and if I was ready to be his wife. I said yes and led us in prayer. During that moment, I prayed for strength, guidance and unconditional love for me and my husband-to-be. At that moment, nothing else in the world mattered to us. It was all about us and the journey we were getting ready to embark on together. It made walking down the aisle that much more special.”
“My wife loved the staircase that the Crystal Ballroom Sunset Harbor provided,” Wendell says. “She always said she could imagine us standing on the staircase as husband and wife taking our portraits.”
He adds, “Crystal Ballroom had great staff that eased the wedding planning process. On the day of our wedding they provided a 5-star service that was second to none. We didn’t notice any problems or issues because they worked out all of the kinks before they could be made known to us.”
It’s the Flowers For Us
The floral decorations were done by No. 1 Flowers in Windermere and looked lovely as centerpieces on the guest tables.
A Packed House
While the couple originally capped their guest list at 200 people, in the end, 205 were present. However, precautions were taken to keep everyone safe for their June nuptials, including temperature checks. Most of the guests, the couple say, wore masks.
The Bride’s Tribe
Larissa, dressed in a gown from the
Something New Bridal Boutique in Winter Park, is all smiles alongside her beautiful bridesmaids.
Wendell, dressed in a Leonardo Fifth Avenue tuxedo, is surrounded by his groomsmen for a fierce photo.
Getting Down for the Garter
Wendell, what exactly was going on here? We’re not mad at it, though!
A Grand Exit
“Our guests were amazing!” Wendell says. “Everyone came to witness our union as well as party with us on our big day. There was not a dull moment from the start of our ceremony to our grand exit.”
“We are adjusting well to marriage,” the couple said in a joint message. “We call each day ‘a work in progress.’ We are learning how to be husband and wife and finding out what works for our family. There was a lot of advice given to us around the time of the wedding and we have learned that we have to do what works for us as a unit.”
What the Future Holds
“As we progress through marriage, our hopes are to have three beautiful girls and be the best parents and partners we can be,” the couple says in a joint message. “We are in the process of starting a natural soap company and a catering company together. We plan on continuing to travel and seeing the world together, as that is one of the things we both absolutely love to do. Lastly, we plan on loving each other the way that we want and need to be loved each day. We will continue the #SuddenlySmith tradition with spontaneity and love for the rest of our lives.”