Major League Baseball Pitcher Ron Darling's Sonoma Wedding

Joanna and Ron

Photographed by: Simone & Martin PhotographyLocation: Napa, California, United States

It is funny for Joanna and Ron to look back on their relationship and remember the time when they first met, when neither of them gave the other a second thought. In fact, admits Joanna, “I actually suggested he meet a girlfriend of mine!” Back then, they both worked for Fox Sports TV, Joanna as a makeup artist and Ron (a former major league pitcher for the 1986 World Championship NY Mets) as a baseball analyst. They finally had an opportunity to spend some time together outside of work, and by the end of a long conversation, they discovered what had been right under their noses all along: their destiny.

Ron had planned to propose to Joanna while they were away in Europe, but the night before they left he made a spontaneous decision to ask her to marry him at her favorite restaurant. As it turned out, the surprise was also on him. They had just finished eating, and as the busboy was clearing their dishes he accidentally revealed a beautiful ring box sitting on the table sooner than Ron had expected. Seizing the opportunity, Ron asked Joanna to be his wife, and she admits, “I was so overcome by the moment that I’m not sure I even heard him ask me to marry him!”

The couple was engaged for two years, using the time to secure the precise location for their wedding that would meet their very specific needs. Joanna and Ron love to travel and during one of their trips they had fallen in love with the food, the warmth and the countryside of Italy. Their hope was to recreate the beauty of their time spent in Tuscany, complete with a private villa surrounded by rolling vineyards. They also wanted to accommodate their fifty wedding guests in one central place so each cherished moment could be shared and celebrated together. Magically, their wishes were granted by taking over the Kenwood Inn & Spa amidst the breathtaking wine country of Sonoma, CA. It turned out that July was the ideal month for taking advantage of the warm summer nights and the surrounding vineyards bursting with grapes.

While the couple established the canvas for their cozy and romantic affair, Joanna is quick to credit her talented vendors with painting their celebration with stunning and personal strokes. The rich colors of the inn’s Tuscan architecture created a contrasting backdrop for the “most spectacular” arrangements of white and pale green flowers the bride had ever seen. Food and wine were especially important to the couple, and their guests commented again and again that the Italian-meets- California menu created by Kenwood’s chef was extraordinary.

For their ceremony, Joanna and Ron wanted a traditional observance that also transcended a specific religion or culture. Their minister achieved this balance by conducting the ceremony in three languages. He led a prayer in Aramaic, offered the couple’s vows in English and gave a blessing in Hawaiian to honor Ron’s mother. This diversity created an inclusiveness that allowed for an emotional experience for the audience as well as the bride and groom.

After the ceremony, the intimate group gathered to dine on ravioli with porcini cream sauce and seared salmon with tarragon mashed potatoes, followed by a sweet course of limoncello floats and chocolate wedding cake. After Joanna and Ron fed each other a bite of their cake they shared a taste with Ron’s two sons, Tyler and Jordan, in a touching display that marked the beginning of a new family.

Joanna and Ron gave their guests a bottle of wine and an opener engraved with their monogram and wedding date so that every time their guests enjoyed a special meal, they would remember the celebration they had helped to make so meaningful. It was the perfect way to encourage their unofficial theme — eat, drink and be married — to live on.