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Laura Sansone & Grant Shaw.

Invitations hinted at the beachy-chic theme of the ceremony.

Each guest was flown in by charter helicopter.

ConceptBAIT was tapped for its thoughtfully constructed details, like these sparkling draperies pinned with chandeliers.

Decadent hors d’oeuvres treated guests to the flavors of the Caribbean.

Dense floral centerpieces.

Elegant Temptations shipped a sparkling confection complete with blushing rose. 

Bahamian Rhapsody

Laura Sansone & Grant Shaw March 26, 2012

A Florida couple sets sail to Cat Cay in the Caribbean for a fantasy wedding—and a new lease on life.

For Laura Sansone and Grant Shaw, their wedding was not simply a spiritual affirmation of love. In a way, it was a relief. A long-distance couple for five years before becoming engaged two days before Valentine’s Day in Sarasota, the pair would finally be dwelling in both the same state and the same square footage.

But ultimately, the wedding ceremony was an avowal of life. Four months after their engagement, Sansone was diagnosed, “with a large brain tumor,” she says. “Grant stood by me as I had brain surgery and 12 months of chemotherapy. The wedding was scheduled between rounds of chemotherapy.”

As if brain surgery, chemotherapy and planning a wedding weren’t challenging enough, Sansone and Shaw, who is in software sales for Oracle, decided to hold destination nuptials on Cat Cay, a tiny, private Bahamian island where the bride’s father has a home. “It has been a special vacation spot for us,” says Sansone, a psychotherapist with a private practice in counseling, says. “The island is just magical—a place where we can really unplug and relax.”

To that end, they made the wedding weekend itself as magical and relaxing as possible for their guests as well as themselves, marrying classic luxury with seaside comforts. The Yacht Club was host to all the couple’s guests for the weekend, from the Friday night rehearsal dinner to hosted lunches, served next to the glittering, crystalline freshwater pool.

The bride and groom married near Sansone’s father’s house on Kitten Key Point. On the bride’s side were her stepmother, who she calls “an unpaid wedding planner,” and her actual planner, Shannon Wilson of Table 6 Productions. “Without their help, this event would have never happened. I like to think of myself as organized,” Sansone says, “but the necessary attention to detail for planning this wedding was something I was not capable of during chemotherapy.”

Because Cat Cay is a privately held island with limited resources, the 130 guests were chartered in from Miami—after their commercial flights were met—as was the food, the flowers, the cake and just about everything else for the party. In addition, the island has no hotel, so the wedding party and guests were quartered in the residents’ beachfront homes.

In the end, not a single, stylish ball was dropped. The couple’s goal—to have a “really fun party, with good food, good wines and good music”—was reached. Shaw arranged a stunning fireworks display as a special treat and, in deference to island culture, the wedding also featured a Bahamian junkanoo band as well as a string trio, a DJ and the band Higher Ground.

For those who couldn’t make the Cat Cay weekend, a second reception was held two months later in St. Petersburg. After all the celebrations were over, however, the real one began: the duo recently bought their first house together in the Tampa area. And, best of all, Sansone is cancer-free and able to look back on her favorite moment of the ceremony as a metaphor for life—walking down the aisle over uneven ground toward Shaw, on sky-high, sparkly blue Louboutins, without reservations.