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Friday, September 09, 2011

Destination dock

Couple finds the perfect venue to follow 'I do'.

When Jeff and Tara Allen were planning their June wedding, they decided the best place to hold their reception would be on their dock in Cedar Key.

"I think from day one, we always knew," said Tara. "This is the best venue you can ask for."

Because they were so committed to the location, Tara said she didn't make an in-case-of-rain plan until two days before the ceremony. Thankfully, they didn't need to hold the reception indoors.

"As it turns out, it was one of the best days of the year," said Jeff, adding that it wasn't too hot or humid.

Prepping the dock took a little doing. The Allens hauled all their furniture into their Sanpan pontoon boat and took it to Jeff's father's house in Forest Cove.

"It was all kind of thrown over in my dad's yard," said Jeff.

For the reception, the dock was furnished with 14 tables for seating, as well as tables for chafing dishes. The cabana was emptied so bartenders could serve drinks from inside where they had access to a refrigerator.

A large area in the middle of the 2,800-square-foot dock was left open for a dance floor, which Tara said got a lot of use. At its busiest, the dock held about 80 guests, plus a dozen workers including bartenders, the DJ and servers.

"They had people running up and down the hill to the dock with all the food," said Jeff. "We talked to them about a week later and they said they felt it the next day."

Jeff said the dock's size kept the reception from feeling crowded, because the guests were able to spread out to eat, mingle and dance. It's something the Allens appreciate throughout the year when they entertain family and friends on weekends or host get-togethers such as their annual pumpkin-carving party in October.

Jeff built the dock with one of his business partners in 1999 at the same time they were building the house. It features Trex flooring, a maintenance-free material.

"It's fairly commonplace now, but back in '99, it was just coming out," said Jeff. "I pressure-wash it every spring and it cleans up like it was brand new."

The dock's pilings are steel beams, set by Turner's Building, which were required because the cove has a rocky bottom, said Jeff. The metal's appearance was toned down, however, with paint to match the cabana's vinyl siding, which also was used on the Allens' Huddleston home.

Tara said while they love their home, they spend most of their time together relaxing dockside.

"Every evening when he gets home [from work], we go down to the dock," said Tara. "Sometimes we'll take snacks or dinner down there and we like to enjoy a bottle of wine."

As of late, Jeff has been spending a lot of time watching football games on the dock. The Allens have a flatscreen TV mounted to the cabana facing the boat slip. Jeff said he likes to sit in the pontoon boat and cheer for his favorite team - Virginia Tech, the college from which he graduated.

"He calls that his living room," said Tara. "He sits on the leather sofa and watches his big screen."

The Allens also stream music through the TV by connecting Jeff's cellphone using an HDMI cable. He has an app for Pandora, a website that allows users to create their own radio stations. Jeff said they've created stations for their regular guests so everyone can listen to something they enjoy.

On fall nights, the Allens sometimes set a fire in a portable fire pit they've placed on the dock and roast marshmallows and hot dogs, said Tara.

Because Cedar Key is a wildlife refuge, the Allens often spot woodland creatures such as the bald eagle that recently flew overhead, while lounging on the dock.

The Allens made Cedar Key their permanent residence last year, moving from Lynchburg where Jeff works as a CPA at Brockman, Drinkard & Pennington. Tara said they've enjoyed being full-time lake residents so much they didn't mind heading home from their Caribbean honeymoon.

"We weren't too terribly disappointed to come home," she said. "We went right down to the dock."