TAMPA — Gunfire rang out shortly after Melissa Kunkel and Gary Webb said “I do” on Sunday.
The shots — aimed at heart-shaped bulls-eyes on paper targets — might have been among the friendliest fire in history.
Following a wedding ceremony attended by about 50 people in a banquet room at Shooters World on Fletcher Avenue, the newlyweds took aim and fired.
After an initial volley of shots that left holes around the bulls-eye, Melissa Webb pierced the paper heart with two bullets.
“It’s an unusual experience, but it couldn’t have turned out nicer,” said the bride’s father, Tom Daniels of Clearwater. “She had been advised that if she wanted to learn to shoot, go to Shooters World with Gary.”
Webb and Kunkel worked together before their unofficial first date at Shooters World last year, and the shooting range soon became their favorite date-night destination.
She bought a new gun the first time she met Webb at the range and later took its concealed weapons permit course.
After the couple became members of the range, he joked that it would be an ideal venue for their wedding.
She took him seriously.
The couple worked with wedding planner Amanda Bowers of Bowers Event Design to incorporate themed details, such as Webb’s boutonniere made of a .308 caliber shell casing and the cake topper — a couple standing back-to-back holding guns.
Even the targets, eventually riddled with bullets fired by the newlyweds and several guests, were customized with the words: “Gary and Melissa — Shooting for Forever.”
There was even a gun theme at the guest sign-in table, where a sign made of .45 caliber bullets spelled the groom’s last name.
Todd Moir, Kunkel’s cousin, wore a pair of headset-style ear protectors and protective goggles. He said it was the first time he’d been to a wedding at a shooting range.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” he said.
Asked if he was shooting that day, Moir laughed.
“No, I just wanted to look the part,” he said.
Jim Hull, a friend of the couple, said the shooting range wedding was a first for him, as well.
“It’s pretty unique,” he said.
Unlike Moir, Hull came ready to shoot with a .45-caliber handgun by his side.
The wedding ceremony was performed by Shooters World store manager Josh Wilson, whose words were occasionally punctuated by muffled gunfire.
“One outing at this gun range has brought us to this moment,” Wilson said.
“Some people say they find love, as if it were an object hidden under a rock,” Wilson said.
By contrast, he said, Webb and Kunkel found a “deep and quiet love.”
Looking into the eyes of his smiling blonde bride, Webb called her his best friend, and a wife that he would “trust and appreciate.”
“I promise to be there when you need me,” he said. “When you cry, I will comfort you. When you fall, I will catch you.”
Kunkel recited her vows through happy tears.
“I believe our paths crossed for a reason,” she said. “You saw my clouds and took me to sunlight.”