“I knew from our first date that I was going to marry her,” confesses Alex Wood, starting pitcher for the National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, when talking about Suzanna Villarreal. “I still have the text that I sent to my best friend back home to prove it.” The couple met while attending college at the University of Georgia, though they were mostly acquaintances until years later when Alex began his MLB career with the Atlanta Braves and the bride was living in the same town. Though hesitant when a mutual friend arranged their date, Suzanna took a leap of faith and agreed. “I was blown away by Alex’s genuineness, kindness, and humility. It didn’t hurt that he was super cute, too. We’ve been together ever since.”
True to a man with Southern grace, Alex asked Suzanna’s mother for permission to propose. “They’re really close and I knew that would be important,” shares the groom. While vacationing in St. Barths, Alex popped the question, offering Suzanna a love letter and a stunning diamond ring he had designed himself. “Super dreamy!” she describes of the entire experience.
Like many brides, Suzanna became inundated with ideas and uncertain of what type of locale would be ideal, until finally realizing they should wed in the city where they fell in love. Initially envisioning an alfresco celebration, the couple changed their minds after touring The St. Regis Atlanta. “It felt so special and homey,” remembers Suzanna, who opted to bring some of the elements of the outdoors in by incorporating plenty of greenery into the décor. The sweethearts also settled on a color palette: moody shades of merlot with touches of blush and cream.
Since Alex was in the midst of a thrilling baseball season – one in which he would accomplish pitching history – the couple agreed that Suzanna would take charge of the planning. “Suz is one of the most creative and artistic people I know,” he notes, fully trusting her with the task. What the bride had not anticipated was the Dodgers going to the World Series right before their wedding! “It definitely made for a hectic and fun month leading up to our day,” she reflects.
The ceremony felt intimate; the aisle lined with candles in tall hurricane glasses created a romantic glow just as the bride envisioned, and an arbor of lush flowers and fresh verdure indicated the spot for the vow exchange. As “Sweet Disposition” by The Temper Trap began to play, the bridal party – clad in wine-colored dresses and holding pretty nosegays of pink and burgundy blooms – started their procession. The maid of honor trailed, as she had the special task of escorting an important guest: the couple’s precious pup Paxton. “He added a bit of comedic relief!” Suzanna confirms.
The bride was a vision in a fitted lace gown with a deep V-neck bodice; her long locks in loose curls were complemented with a frothy veil. She made her way to her beloved, unaccompanied, to the tune of “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey. “My dad passed away when I was little, so I always thought about who would walk me down the aisle,” she explains. “When that moment came, it only felt right for me to walk by myself. Losing my dad is a part of my history, and it’s made me strong in a lot of ways. I felt that [my choice] really honored him and celebrated that part of who I am.”
As Suzanna and Alex recited their handwritten vows, the bride knew the tender exchange was worth all the time spent persuading her groom, who had initially resisted. “At one point when I looked up, it seemed everyone was simultaneously sniffling and wiping their tears,” she says of the heartfelt moment. “I really wanted all our friends and family to feel included and connected to us during the ceremony, and I think we accomplished that.”
At last, the reception space was revealed and Alex marveled at all of its beauty. “Suz worked really hard on all the details and to see it come together in the way that it did was incredible,” he adds. Suzanna illustrates that she wanted to evoke the ambience of a “modern, sexy garden, but still feel romantic and have some California flair. We’re from the South, but have definitely adopted some West Coast style.” Tablescapes were decorated with either high or low centerpieces of orchids, hydrangeas, peonies, and roses arranged into wild overgrown designs in addition to a plethora of candles. Marble, mirrors, faux fur, and mixed metals – many of the same elements seen in their luxe invitation suite – were incorporated throughout the overall décor scheme. “We used subtle hints of wood grain as a whimsical homage to my new last name, Wood,” Suzanna smiles.
Cleverly designed tall hedges and walls of greenery covered the DJ booth and the dance-floor area. Affixed to one of these structures was Alex’s favorite detail, a custom neon sign that read “Wood Vibes Only.” “It was the perfect place for us to party all night,” Suzanna affirms. To prepare for late-evening revelry, loved ones were offered strawberries-and-cream wedding cake and custom-flavored donuts. The DJ successfully kept the crowd energized and on their feet. “He played basically every genre that represents ‘party mode’ to us, from our childhood into our present lives,” attests the groom.
Before they retired to their room for the night, the newlyweds surprised guests with late-night eats from Shake Shack. Suzanna and Alex would not have changed a single moment of their magical day. They felt nothing but happy, thankful, and eager to jet off on their honeymoon getaway to St. Lucia.