Gainesville musician takes micro weddings to the next level

Nellie Sunshine outdoor
Nellie Sunshine outdoor
Photo courtesy Nellie Sunshine

Martha Stewart was all over the micro wedding idea back in 2017 when she explained their popularity as “couples get the gift they want most: time with their nearest and dearest.”

But the idea of a smaller, private wedding has become an even more popular trend aimed at safety in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One Gainesville musician has figured out a way to take the idea of less is better one step further.

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Nellie Sunshine, owner of Celebration Strings Event Music, decided that with all of the wedding cancellations since last March that she needed to find a way to increase her odds of booking future nuptial events.

So the answer for her: Get ordained and offer micro weddings as both the musician and officiant.

Sunshine, 41, is a Gainesville native and University of Florida grad with a degree in music education. She said she made her mark in the community by teaching cello and piano to hundreds of students in her music studio.

Sunshine said she adapted her lessons and has been keeping her business afloat during the 2020 pandemic by converting her face-to-face studio to virtual lessons. She has depended on word-of-mouth advertising to book lessons and events.

And while the lesson side of her business has excelled during the pandemic, the wedding gigs fell off the calendar.

During the summer she was able to take part in the drive-thru weddings officiated by Alachua County Clerk of the Court J.K. “Jess” Irby.

Sunshine’s company offered the music as couples from all over Florida and some from nearby states ascended upon Gainesville attracting national media as one of the few places to get married at a courthouse.

Sunshine said she noticed that many of her friends were getting married secretly because of the pandemic and none of them were using string music for their ceremonies.

“In an attempt to revive my business, I became a minister to also be able to officiate weddings as well as play for them,” she said.

According to Sunshine, she plays her cello during the wedding party procession and then once everyone is in place, she sets the cello down and and officiates the ceremony.

Once the couple is married, she plays the recessional music and accompanies any internal ceremony such as sand pouring or candle lighting ceremonies. In addition, cocktail music can be provided. Sunshine said she and the wedding party follow CDC guidelines to insure a safe experience.

Sunshine at podium

Sunshine said she crafts all of the custom arrangements for the ceremonies. She meets with the bride and groom to find out what genre of music they prefer.

“I give them a repertoire list of over 1,000 songs,” she said. “And they choose based on genre—contemporary, classical, or a mixture.”

Sunshine is ordained by the Universal Life Church and is recognized in Florida as an officiant.

She performed musically and as the minister at a wedding with just 15 people on Saturday in a local country club pavilion.

“It went flawlessly,” she said.

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