A made for the movies love story, along with a mix of cultures and traditions, culminates in a picture perfect wedding.
It was like a Hallmark Channel romantic comedy, complete with a love triangle, a long-distance relationship and several mishaps, including a lost cellphone, a missed flight and a series of humorous misadventures. To complicate things even more, the bride and groom came from completely different ethnic backgrounds.
Antonio “Tony” Deras moved here 12 years ago from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, when he was just 19. He dreamed of being a boxer or a soccer player. But a job as a dishwasher at a local eatery led him to working as a line cook at several restaurants and, ultimately, to becoming executive chef at Tavern on the Square. The culinary world soon eclipsed his youthful sporting interests and is where he discovered one of his great passions.
The discovery of another great passion was soon to follow, in the form of one Katherine “Kat” Alexandra Sokol. Kat is the daughter of David and Patricia Sokol, owners of Katya Vineyards in Ocala. The word “Katya” comes from her father’s pet name for Kat, whose heritage is Polish, Czech and Irish. A graduate of Forest High School, she pursued a career in professional ballet in Florida, Kentucky and New York, and went to China as an instructor with the Royal Academy of Dance.
When the two met, Kat was living in California and was already in a relationship. She was visiting her family in Ocala when her folks invited her to have lunch at Tavern on the Square.
“My parents kept telling me about this really talented young chef and maybe we could do some catering events with him,” says Kat. “I came there with low expectations. I’m very picky how I like my steaks, and he didn’t even ask how I wanted it. It was perfect.”
After that initial meeting, Kat and Tony kept bumping into each other. One evening, they ended up talking all night and through to the following day. Over the next year, their casual encounters blossomed into a friendship. They talked every night and texted every morning.
“We were friends first,” Kat is quick to point out. “I had been thinking about moving back to my hometown. I flew 61,000 miles in six months, back and forth every two weeks. Then, I started spending more time in Ocala. There came a point when I didn’t buy a ticket back to California.”
Though Tony had never thought about getting married, he found himself looking forward to seeing Kat. What he did next surprised even him.
“She comes in one day and I grabbed her hand,” Tony recalls. “I looked at her and I said, ‘When you leave, I miss you.’ And she said, ‘Me too.’ I said, ‘You go back today and you tell that guy he’s in trouble. I’m gonna fight for you.’ She replied, ‘If you want me, come and get me.’”
Days later, with a plane ticket in his hand and Kat’s promise to have her car packed and ready to go, Tony raced to the Orlando airport. But, like most made-for-TV movies, his trip to California had many obstacles.
A traffic jam on I-75 caused him to miss his flight. The last plane out had already shut the door. In his mad dash to the gate, he got on the wrong tram. Finally, after hearing his story, a compassionate agent called ahead and sent Tony flying down the correct concourse past cheering airline employees. He boarded the plane to rousing applause from the waiting passengers.
The whirlwind excursion ended with Kat and Tony crammed inside her compact Chevy Cruze with all her worldly belongings, “and no breathing room,” says Kat. They made the trip to Ocala after a three-day stop in Las Vegas, followed by 37 hours on the road.
Tony and Kat became engaged Christmas morning 2018, when he presented her with a beautiful champagne sapphire, custom designed by Ocala’s Lady Jeweler. Tony soon left Tavern on the Square and became executive chef at Katya Vineyards.
They married a year later, on December 27th, 2019. They were both 31 years old.
“As soon as I got in the car, it hits me, I’m about to get married,” Tony recalls. “I said, ‘I don’t feel good. What is wrong with me?’ My stomach was feeling weird and I started to throw up.”
An hour later, he was standing at the altar at Grace Episcopal Church, an ornate chapel with stained-glass windows and muted lighting that cast an ethereal glow on a multilingual audience and a teary-eyed groom.
Tony recalls with fresh tears the moment Kat entered the church on her father’s arm to a Ukrainian Christmas Carol, “Bel Canto Choir” (“Carol of the Bells”). Her gown, an elegant layered tulle skirt with a beaded, hand-embroidered bodice came from Dalis’ Bridal Couture.
“When I saw her walking in, I thought, I’ve been hearing about this dress for a whole year,” says Tony. “Then we made eye contact and I thought, Yes! That’s my wife.”
Officiating were the Rev. Walter H. Grundorf, presiding bishop from Oviedo, and the bride’s father, David Sokol, an ordained Anglican priest.
Bicultural traditions prevailed throughout the ceremony, beginning with El Lazo, a Spanish ritual in which a long string of rosary beads is placed around the shoulders of the couple in the shape of a figure eight, symbolically binding them together in marriage.
During the recitation of vows, David Sokol held a broadsword between the bride and groom. They placed their hands on it and repeated the vow, “until death do us part.”
The Anglican tradition of handfasting was also performed, with the priest wrapping a white cloth around the couple’s hands while reciting, “Those whom God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
Two hundred people attended the wedding, including 50 from Tony’s family. Most of his relatives, including his mother, Norma Deras, live in Ocala and several drove up from Miami.
Kat’s best friend, Dr. Anastasia Bohsali, and her husband, Dr. Kareem Bohsali, were maid of honor and best man. Her sister, Lauren Ebbecke, was matron of honor. Also in the wedding party were Tony’s three sisters, Yuri Guardado, Stefanie Pagado and Monica Soroa.
Kat’s brothers, Kyle and Shane, were ushers, and their children, Nikolai Douglass Sokol and Piper Reily Sokol, also participated as ring bearer and flower girl, along with Tony’s little niece, Ruby Marisol Munoz.
In accordance with Slavic/Polish traditions, rosemary was used to signify remembrance, and olive branches to signify love and fidelity. The greenery came from the Sokols’ farm in Morriston. Everyone in the wedding party had some of those sprigs in their bouquets and in their headpieces. Kat wore a similar crown of silver, and her bouquet was a mix of olive leaves and rosemary, plus one gardenia in remembrance of her late grandmother.
Then there was the traditional unity candle, which created an unforgettable moment for Kat.
“There was this point with the unity candles and we were kneeling there and Tony’s candle was near the air conditioner, and it [the candle] was like a torch,” Kat says, laughing. “My maid of honor crawled on all fours to blow it out before it lit the church on fire.”
The reception took place at the Hilton Ocala ballroom, which was decked out with lots of greenery and tables bearing gold lanterns with candles inside, a special touch by Taylor Grace, owner of The Graceful Gardener.
“We used all local vendors,” offers Kat.
The Hilton’s chef, Luiggie Alvarez, created a delicious choice of salmon or chicken. For Tony, the reception wouldn’t have been complete without the stunning black-and-gold wedding cake, created by pastry chef Albert Barrett of Stella’s Modern Pantry.
A highlight, according to Kat, was D.J. Rocket’s bilingual music and music videos that were livestreamed on TV screens.
“The most touching thing I remember was when Tony danced with his mother to ‘First Love,’” reveals Kat. “Then, I danced with my father to ‘I Loved Her First.’ We were all crying; it was very special. My dad cried during the toast too. And he cried when we walked into the church. He blamed it on me digging my nails in his arm, but I know it was his emotions.”
Kat and Tony had their own special moment on the dance floor. They chose Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect,” a song they had played several times during their cross-country drive to Ocala.
“We had to stay awake for hours,” she recalls. “We played love songs, and this one talks about the past, about the present, and about the future and having children. The song was completely us. It was perfect.”
Their perfect day and the events surrounding their wedding were expertly chronicled by two of Ocala Style’s favorite local photographers, Meagan Gumpert and Dave Miller. The two talented creatives actually first crossed paths while working on assignment for the magazine and recently joined forces to create Maven Photo + Film. Their collaborative efforts and singular vision allowed them to capture so many unforgettable moments for Kat and Tony that will be a tremendous source of joy for the couple for many years to come.
On their honeymoon, Tony and Kat traveled to Honduras to visit Tony’s grandfather, who had raised him, and other relatives who were unable to come to Florida for the wedding. Then they went to Roatán, an island in the Caribbean.
“We spent seven days there, snorkeling, horseback riding and four-wheeling,” Kat offers. “It was beautiful—the water—I didn’t know those colors of blue existed in nature.”
The Derases’ “happily ever after” will continue in downtown Ocala, the place they have chosen to call home.
“Downtown is in our hearts and that’s where we want to raise our family,” says Kat. “It’s where everything started and it’s very special to us.”