As a cheerleader and wide receiver for the Raiders, Tori Braga and Darrius Heyward-Bey were often in the same place at the same time. But it was a night off the field (at a San Francisco nightclub, specifically!) that eventually brought the two together in November 2012. “On our first date, we found it so easy to talk to each other about everything from movies to faith, dreams, fears, and goals,” Tori recalls. “We closed down the restaurant and continued to talk for hours more in the parking lot.”
Flash forward several years to July 13, 2018, when Darrius surprised Tori with a trip to Amangiri, planning to propose in a location that was "exclusive, unique, and romantic." "Man, planning this engagement was something huge for me," Darrius admits with a laugh. "If anyone knows me, I don't do well with planning ahead...But when you love someone, you gotta bring it, so I had to plan the best proposal possible!" On the morning of the engagement, the couple went on what Darrius describes as a “crazy mountain climb." "I don’t do hikes,” he adds with a laugh. They both "survived" the hike and Darrius proposed at a private dinner that night—though, he admits, it didn't go entirely as planned. "As I was about to do my thing, Tori looked out into the desert and pointed out the photographer who was supposed to be hidden and unnoticed," he says. "It ended up being all good because it broke the ice for a very nervous moment. I got down on one knee, and gave one of the most beautiful speeches ever...but, unfortunately, Tori doesn't remember since she was crying tears of joy the whole time!" In the end, she said "yes." Mission complete!
The couple said "I do" exactly one year later, on July 13, 2019, at the Bently Reserve in San Francisco. "We wanted to get married in San Francisco, which is where we met for the first time," Tori says. "We loved that the venue had the elegant feeling we were going for!" Keep reading to see the couple's beautifully elegant wedding, which filled with glamorous touches and heartfelt surprises, as planned by Every Elegant Detail and captured by Larissa Cleveland Photography.
“We wanted to host an elegant, fun wedding that brought together our friends and families,” says Tori. To set the tone, Underwood Letterpress designed custom invitations in white and gold to match the wedding's color palette. As a special touch, the suite included a map marked with locations across the U.S. that had played a part in the couple’s love story.
On the big day, Tori and her mother got ready together at the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco. "I wore the veil my mom wore at her wedding," she says. "It was very special to both of us.”
“When I tried it on, I knew this dress was the one!” says Tori of her Galia Lahav gown. “I loved that there was an option of adding a gorgeous train for the ceremony, which I was able to remove to have a bit of a different look for the reception.” She completed her look with a sparkly headpiece and heels by Jimmy Choo.
Tori and her bridesmaids posed for portraits on the steps of the wedding venue, Bently Reserve, before the ceremony.
Darrius looked dapper in a tuxedo from Elevée paired with black velvet slippers. His groomsmen wore tuxedos rented from The Black Tux. “Since the groomsmen live in many different parts of the U.S., we needed to work with a tuxedo company that could ship top quality tuxedos and they made this process seamless,” adds the bride.
“We wanted our day to be an event to remember, not only for us but for our family and friends,” says Tori. “With our amazing wedding planner, Janece Shellooe from Every Elegant Detail, we came up with a beautiful ceremony, surprises for guests, and, in my opinion, the best day any bride could have had.”
The couple hosted their event at Bently Reserve, the former headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Tori and Darrius loved the building’s elegant, Beaux-Arts design, which was complemented by statement-making florals by Amy Burke. “Flowers were so important to us and we loved that they seemed to be everywhere during the ceremony,” says the bride. “The altarpiece was especially stunning and created a beautiful backdrop for us, while large arrangements at the end of the rows really gave the space a dramatic look.”
Darrius and his groomsmen entered the ceremony to “You Are My Lady,” by Freddy Jackson, while the bridesmaids processed to “For You” by Kenny Lattimore. The bride was escorted up the aisle by her father as MAJOR.’s “Why I Love You” played. “As I was about to walk down the aisle I started to get nervous,” Tori admits. “We didn’t have a first look, and I really wanted to see Darrius, but as I started down the aisle our eyes met and during the rest of the ceremony, Darrius kept reminding me everything was perfect and it allowed me to relax. He knows just what to say and it was just another reminder of how wonderful he is.”
The couple’s ceremony was officiated by Tori’s brother, while Darrius and Tori's niece and nephews served as their flower girl and ring bearers. “We purchased a remote control car one nephew rode in while the other nephew controlled it!” Tory says with a laugh.
After making it official with a kiss, the newlyweds danced their way down the aisle to “24/7” by Meek Mill.
During their engagement trip, Darrius and Tori flew into Las Vegas then drove three hours to their resort in Utah. “The cool thing was how normal this was for us,” says Darrius. “Taking a road trip, listening to music, debating about movies and hip-hop. These are all things we love doing together.”
Following the ceremony, guests sipped on two signature cocktails: a “Tortini” made with vodka, triple sec, lemon juice, and grenadine, and a “Rick James,” with Grand Marnier and pineapple.
Friends and family found their seats on charts displayed against a show-stopping flower wall. “It was a lush, beautiful, and Instagram-worthy piece everyone was photographing all night long,” says the bride.
“Our ceremony and reception were in the same space so we really wanted to wow our guests after the room flipped for dinner,” says Tori. For the reception, the room was filled with a mix of round and long tables topped with more statement-making florals and surrounded by gold chairs. Following the wedding, the flowers were donated to George Mark Children’s House
Once the room was fully flipped for the reception, the newlyweds were announced with a confetti shower. At dinner, everyone was seated at tables decorated with gold accents, candlelight, and lush centerpieces that included Dendrobium orchids, a nod to Tori’s father’s Hawaiian side of the family. To pay homage to Darrius’s home state of Maryland, guests dined on blue crab cakes for their first course.
Tori and Darrius shared their first dance to “Best Part” by H.E.R. The groom and his mother swayed to “As” by Stevie Wonder, while Tori and her father danced to Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let You Go.”
“One of the hardest parts of the planning process was keeping a special dance a secret from Darrius,” admits the bride. “I’d invited some of the pro bowl cheerleaders to perform a choreographed dance with me during the reception. He was very surprised!”
The floral installation used as the couple’s ceremony backdrop was repurposed during the reception to showcase the couple’s stunning five-tier wedding cake. “It framed our cake perfectly and really made it pop,” says the bride.
“One of our favorite movies is ‘Coming to America,’ so it seemed like a fun surprise to served late-night McDonald's-type burgers, shakes, and fries,” says Tori.
“The dance floor was packed all night, even before dinner was served,” says Tori. “Our DJ had to tell everyone to stop and sit down to eat dinner before it got cold!” But, she admits, the best part of the night “was marrying Darrius." “We have this unbelievable connection that’s continued to grow over time," she says. "We built something special between the two of us, and our love and respect for each other have crafted and molded us for the long haul.”
Wedding Venue Bently Reserve
Wedding Planner Every Elegant Detail
Bride’s Shoes Jimmy Choo
Hair Patty Perez
Bride’s Makeup Ashley Bias
Bridal Party Makeup Makeup by Tre
Groom’s Attire Elevée
Groomsmen Attire The Black Tux
Floral Design Amy Burke Designs
Stationery Underwood Letterpress
Entertainment DJ Hector
Catering Componere Fine Catering
Transportation Black Tie Transportation
Accommodations Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco
Day-Of Tailor The Wedding Detailer
Beverage Company Smith’s Beverage
Photo Booth Mirmir
Lighting Got Light
Confetti Cannon Entire Productions
Videography Elysium Productions
Photography Larissa Cleveland Photography