Joey Cavallo is the birthday gift that keeps on giving for Monica Ellis. The couple met on Monica’s birthday when her friend Cyndi, who was also celebrating a birthday, invited her out for drinks. Cyndi was planning a charitable event for an organization she and Joey’s brother are a part of and she gave Monica the birthday present of a lifetime when she requested that she meet “Tom’s cute brother, Joe.”

Seven years later to the day, the couple were on one of their weekly workouts along the beach and up six sets of stairs. Monica noticed Joey seemed very nervous and asked if he was all right, but he said his asthma was acting up. Naturally, she suggested they postpone the run to avoid further aggravating his symptoms, but he insisted. Halfway through the run, Joey got down on one knee and proposed. “I thought he was having a full blown asthma attack!” laughs Monica. “We still run and every time we approach the set of stairs where the proposal took place, he gets down on his knee and asks me for my hand once again.”

The couple knew immediately that they wanted to wed at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar in San Diego, and based many of their planning decisions on the availability of their dream venue. The fact that the location of the venue was convenient to their family and friends was a fortuitous bonus. 

Monica wore a Romona Keveža mermaid gown with a sweetheart neckline, a ruched bodice, and beaded embroidery throughout. Her hair was tied back in a classic half-up style with loose waves. Matching her bouquet, she wore a fresh orchid in her hair rather than a traditional veil. 

Though the bride and groom did not have a customary Catholic ceremony, they incorporated their Catholic faith into the nuptials by having their venue provide a cross to serve as the backdrop while they recited their vows. The Elizabeth Capella, the private chapel in the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, was beautifully decorated with candles ensconced in hurricanes, each embellished by a peach ribbon held by a jewel, that were gathered with ivory rose petals at the base of each pew. A pair of trees wrapped with orchids and additional cascading orchids, jewels, and pearls marked the start and end of the aisle. 

Floral design was crucial to Monica’s vision for her big day. As a flower lover in the jewelry business, she wanted to reflect her work in her flowers. Orchids and jewels were featured in the venue décor, centerpieces, and the bridal bouquet. “The best compliment I received was when one of our guests said to me, ‘Monica, we knew we were at your wedding when we walked in and saw the flowers... It is so you,’” reveals the bride.

Loved ones were touched when Joey danced to “What a Wonderful World” with Monica’s daughter, which followed a mother-son dance to Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance”. Guests enjoyed an oyster bar in addition to the three-course sit-down dinner, featuring filet mignon and lobster duet as the main course. “Stay authentic to who you are and your wedding will reflect just that,” Monica advises future brides. “I have a memory of sitting at the table and looking around the room, looking at the flowers and listening to the music and thinking, ‘We did this and it’s perfect.’”