St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Letter to the editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

Finding a date to the ball becomes a fairy tale

Published June 22, 2007

Allison Beard and Tom Luzier wed March 17 at the Bayshore Boulevard home of her parents, Lea and Richard A. Beard III. Her wedding gown was designed by couturier Bibhu Mohapatra, whose Hollywood clientele wear his designs on the red carpet.
[Ryan Joseph Photographics]
[Photo by Danilo Hess]
Allison Beard's dress was designed by Bibhu Mohapatra, director of design for French fashion house J. Mendel.

PALMA CEIA - It wasn't that Allison Beard had trouble getting dates. But on her endless to-do list, "Find a date for the Pavilion ball" got buried between the Junior League meetings and Republican fundraisers. Back in November 2004, Beard was co-chairwoman of the ball's patrons committee. So rounding up guests at $1, 250 per ticket took precedence over finding her own escort. Beard had moved back to Tampa in January 2000 after a 10-year absence. She left a chic Upper West Side apartment in Manhattan and a job on Wall Street for a bungalow in Palma Ceia and a career managing a team of commercial underwriters for Bank of America. Her friends, Noel and Mark McDonell, had the fix:

A fix-up with real estate lawyer Tom Luzier, 40, a partner with Dunlap & Moran in Sarasota. They figured Luzier could relate to Beard's situation. In 1998 and 1999, Luzier was chairman of the UnGala Gala, Ringling Museum of Art's version of Pavilion, a posh annual benefit hosted by the Tampa Museum of Art.

The matchmakers got it right. Beard, 34, and Luzier run in the same circles, "parallel lives, " Beard said, "just in different cities."

- - -

The introduction was a little rocky.

Luzier got lost looking for the RattleFish Raw Bar and Grill the October day the McDonells invited him to meet Beard for brunch. By the time he arrived - 40 minutes late and slightly hungover from his birthday party the night before - everybody's expectations were low.

"So I was surprised the next day when Noel forwarded an e-mail from Tom saying how much he enjoyed meeting me, " Beard said.

Noel McDonell quickly followed up with a get-together after a Tampa Bay Bucs game. Luzier brought Beard's favorite white wine, Conundrum, the first sign of their mutual tastes. As they chatted, they discovered many others.

Like Beard, Luzier owns a circa-1920s bungalow. His is in downtown Sarasota, the home where he grew up. Both are neat freaks, follow local politics and graduated from Georgia colleges; Emory, Class of 1988 for Luzier; Georgia Tech, Class of 1996 for Beard.

A few weeks later, Luzier donned his tux to accompany Beard to Pavilion. Watching her socialize with the artsy, society crowd, he said, "was like watching a female version of myself."

As the evening wound down, Beard and Luzier huddled like a pair of gala quarterbacks critiquing the event: who scored, what fumbled, who sat on the sidelines.

"Neither of us met a big party we didn't like, " Luzier said.

Beard's friends noticed them in their element. One girlfriend predicted, "You're going to marry that guy."

The busy couple were soon coordinating schedules to maximize time together. On Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings, Beard rode her horse in Palmetto, then drove south to Sarasota.

"It's less than an hour door to door, " Luzier said. When they adopted LuLu the dachshund, Beard traveled back and forth, too.

Crystal River was a frequent getaway. Her parents, Lea and Richard Beard III, prominent developer and former University of South Florida chairman of the board, own a weekend home two blocks from Luzier's parents, retired nurse Toni and wooden boat builder Homer, whose handcrafted boats are treasured like works of art.

- - -

They set the wedding date, March 17, 2007, around horse shows, pirate invasions and hurricane season.

Monsignor Laurence Higgins would officiate at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Beard's parents would host 500 guests at their Bayshore Boulevard home.

The groom enjoyed wedding planning as much as the bride, insisting on Fete Catering of Longboat Key and choosing crayfish, chateaubriand and grouper buffets, as well as a New Orleans jazz band and Atlanta society orchestra.

The party was picture perfect, and the wedding gown was a showstopper. Family friend Bibhu Mohapatra, director of design for French fashion house J. Mendel, spent a year creating the breathtaking candlelight satin strapless fitted dress with beaded lace mermaid hem and train. A cathedral veil shimmered with tiny crystals.

"It was unreal, " Beard said, demurring at revealing the cost. "Thank goodness for Bibhu's couture family discount."

The designer has the gown in New York and may offer it to a fashion museum, she said.

Mr. and Mrs. Luzier traveled to exclusive Mustique Island in the Caribbean for their honeymoon. They're still traveling between their homes in Tampa and Sarasota, making daily plans according to their social calendars.

Amy Scherzer can be reached at or (813) 226-3332.


Coming soon

List your event

Be part of City Times' social calendar. Send e-mails to with date, name, beneficiary, time, place and ticket price of fundraisers/events for fall 2007 to spring 2008. Amy Scherzer can be reached at 226-3332.


[Last modified June 21, 2007, 07:36:04]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters