Though Jillian Bishop and John Hughes III, a retired NFL veteran, first met while they both attended the University of Cincinnati, their relationship didn’t begin until much later, as they were both dating other people. After college, John moved to Cleveland to play for the Cleveland Browns and Jillian stayed in Cincinnati for a few years; however, five years later, they reconnected on Facebook after Jillian moved to Columbus, “when we were both single,” she shares. “We planned our first date, and the rest is history!” 

While on vacation in Costa Rica, John took the opportunity to propose to his beloved on the beach over a romantic candlelit dinner. “When we got back to our room, he showed me a video he had made with congratulations from my parents, his parents, and my best friends,” Jillian smiles. He also showed his new bride a photo of himself with her friends at the jeweler, as they shopped for the engagement ring together. “It was so unexpected and the most romantic proposal; beyond anything I could have dreamt up,” she adds. 

Jillian and John initially planned to exchange vows in March 2020 in Tulum, Mexico with their closest friends and family in attendance, followed by a larger reception in Columbus; however, they soon discovered the world was about to change. “When we had to cancel those plans in early March due to Covid, we hired event planner Lucretia Williams of Distinct Event Planning and began planning our wedding for September 2020,” shares the bride. “It was the best decision we could have made.” 

When putting together their wedding team, “we made an effort to hire all black-owned businesses,” shares Jillian, who took advice on the very best vendors from their wedding planner throughout the process. The venue was a simple choice: the couple’s first home they had purchased around the time of their initial wedding date. “Our land has a lot of grass and trees,” confirms Jillian of the site, which set the tone for the décor featuring plentiful greenery and plants with organic white florals and warm touches of gold. 

“Our first dance was so romantic and everything we wanted it to be.”

The ceremony took place alfresco, with friends and family taking their seats on either side of a winding aisle strewn with white flower petals atop translucent-backed chairs in front of a gorgeous golden arch decorated with tropical greenery and billowing white blooms. Jillian was stunning in a V-neck lace gown with a front slit; she carried a lush bouquet of white roses, ranunculuses, and fresh greenery. John was handsome in white pants and a grey suit jacket featuring a custom lining showcasing photos of the couple. 

Following the heartfelt vow exchange, loved ones made their way to a tented structure to enjoy a fun cocktail hour complete with signature drinks and additional libations served from a bar decorated with fresh greenery and crisp vanilla-tone flowers. Guests were seated at round tables strewn with ivory linens and decorated with glass and gold vases filled with white roses and tropical plants. Place settings showcased white-and-gold flatware and a bold palm-print napkin atop a gold-rimmed charger plate. 

Friends and family served themselves from a buffet of multiple themed food stations, including a vegan soul Caribbean station, a Mexican food station, a live-action Italian food station where dishes were made in front of attendees, and a rolled-up ice cream station for dessert. As an additional sweet treat, cookies shaped like footballs and the groom’s Cleveland Browns jersey and helmet were provided as wedding favors. 

Jillian and John shared their first dance to “For Us” by DVSN. “Our first dance was so romantic and everything we wanted it to be,” muses Jillian. For the rest of the night, a DJ kept the party going all night long. “The DJ we hired also went to UC while we were there, so he knew all the songs we used to party to… so much fun!” confirms the bride.