When Mike Evans, wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was ready to propose to Ashli Dotson, he knew he wanted to pop the question with their families around them. So he took advantage of a well-timed family gathering at his home in Tampa, Florida. On December 19, 2014, two days after Ashli's birthday and just before Christmas, everyone got together to open holiday gifts since both families wouldn't be spending the actual day together. "I was opening a gift from Mike, a pair of black high heels, and inside this wrapped shoe box was a smaller ring box," Ashli remembers. Then, the football pro dropped to one knee and asked his love to be with him forever.
The future Mr. and Mrs. Evans decided on a wedding at the Corinthian in Houston, Texas, a location that was both central to their two families and could accommodate their 500 person guest list. "We loved that it was an old bank renovated into an event hall," the bride says. "The Corinthian is gorgeous with huge pillars, high ceilings, and marble floors." With the locale locked in, the pair tapped Todd Events to help bring their vision of a timeless Texas wedding to life. Read on to see every photo of their February 13, 2015, wedding, as captured by Unique Design Studios and shared exclusively with BRIDES.
Ashli and Mike's invitation suite balanced formality with fun, a nod to what they wanted their wedding day to feel like. "We envisioned something elegant but laid-back and definitely not stuffy," the bride says. "We wanted everyone to enjoy themselves and let their hair down. We are both 22 and many of our guests were around our age." So in addition to a photo save-the-date with sleek gold typography, the bride and groom chose a classic wedding invite with a fun metallic envelope.
Picking their wedding party — all 26 members! — was the easiest planning task Ashli and Mike tackled. On the morning of the wedding, the bride and her 'maids got ready together wearing monogrammed robes. The most adorable member of the bridal party stood out in lavender. Mike's three-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, took on the role of flower girl for her parent's big day.
It didn't take Ashli long to find her Alon Livné wedding dress — in fact, it was the very first gown she tried on! Despite how much she loved the stunning figure-hugging lace silhouette, Ashli tried a few more styles before going with her gut. "That day everyone kept asking me, 'What would you change about this dress?' and the Alon Livne was the only one that I loved exactly the way it was," the bride says. "The other I tried on always had at least one thing I didn't like."
She accessorized with a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes, a long veil, and the traditional something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue, but tactfully chose a meaningful item that covered the bulk of the list. Diamond earrings and a diamond drop necklace gifted to her by Mike on the wedding day served as her something new while Ashli's grandmother's priceless heirloom white gold ring with a diamond and blue sapphire was tied to her bouquet of garden roses, ranunculus, hydrangeas, and lilies as her something old, borrowed, and blue.
Mike and his groomsmen all wore custom black tuxedos made by Joseph Abboud at Men's Wearhouse. "We chose the silhouette, fabric, and lining, and each groomsmen personalized their tuxedo with their name inside of the jacket," Ashli says. "With 13 groomsmen, each with different builds, heights, and sizes, custom was definitely the way to go to make sure each outfit was impeccably tailored to their body and their personal preferences." Black ties, classic cufflinks, and patent leather shoes finished out their wedding day looks.
The team at Todd Events dreamed up a dramatic and romantic ceremony space that played off the style of the couple's historic wedding venue. Chiavari chairs were lined up across the length of the grand room and tall Lucite columns were placed at intervals and decorated with lush floral arrangements. Mixes of hydrangeas, roses, and greenery appeared as if floating throughout the ornate room. As a finishing touch, Venetian chandeliers were decorated with a ring of flowers and crystal strands and hung above the long aisle.
Instead of creating an altar, the couple and their planners decided to use the raised staircase at the end of the room as a natural pedestal. There, bridesmaids and groomsmen could stand on the staircase behind the couple as they exchanged vows.
Although Mike's young daughter was supposed to make her way down the aisle alone, there was an adorable last minute change to the processional. "Mackenzie got stage fright before walking down the aisle," Ashli remembers. "She froze in place when our guests gave a loud 'Awe.' Mike walked back down to go get her so that he could help her down the aisle." The doting dad then helped Mackenzie make her way to the front of the ceremony.
For Mike, his bride's entrance was one of the best moments of the day. "Watching Ashli walk down the aisle was my favorite part of our wedding day," he says. It was a particularly poignant moment for Ashli, too. "Having my grandfather walk me down the aisle is one of the most special moments from the wedding," she says. The bride and groom chose to exchange classic vows but personalized their ceremony by finishing the proceedings with a Unity Cross ceremony.
During cocktail hour, the ceremony space was "flipped" for the reception. The large vases that decorated the couple's ceremony were repurposed for centerpieces on round tables and the floral arrangements used at their altar became the backdrop for the wedding cake.
For dinner, guests enjoyed food stations with offerings like roast beef tenderloin, sweet potatoes, cheese farfalle pasta, creole shrimp, and garlic cheese grits.
Ashli and Mike's wedding cake was designed to be reminiscent of the lace on the bride's wedding dress. Layers of vanilla and cinnamon cake were filled with hazelnut ganache and topped with quilted fondant.
As a special surprise for Mike, Ashli worked with their cake baker, Who Made The Cake, to design a confection specifically for her groom: The Harry Potter-themed cake featured a tier for each of the beloved book's four Hogwarts houses and was topped with a sugar birdcage and owl. Inside he found layers of red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and chocolate cake with chocolate filling.
After the newlyweds shared their first dance to Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud," the bride and her grandfather took a spin to Heartland's "I Loved Her First." But those weren't the only meaningful dances of the night. Mike and his mother hit the dance floor for R. Kelly's "Sadie" before he brought Mackenzie out for a dance to "My Girl" by the Temptations.
Guests spent the night on the dance floor, posing for caricatures, or making faces for the photo booth. The bride and groom served up tasty late night snacks from Whataburger, including honey butter chicken biscuits and egg and cheese taquitos.
Following their beautiful wedding, the new husband and wife enjoyed a honeymoon in Bora Bora and Moorea. "Find an event planner and photographer that 'gets it' and listen to their input," Ashli advises future brides. "Our photographers gave us great ideas and the team at Todd Events understood exactly what we wanted."
Ceremony & Reception Venue: The Corinthian || Wedding Desinger, Flowers & Rentals: Todd Events || Bride's Wedding Dress: Alon Livne || Makeup: Alaina at Color Du Jour || Hair: Blush and Co || Groom's & Groomsmen's Attire: Joseph Abboud at Men's Wearhouse || Flower Girl Dress: Melissa Jane Boutique || Invitations & Paper Goods: Wedding Paper Divas || Music: Trace Kennedey; DJ Steve Nice; Divisi Strings || Caricature Artists: Best Entertainers || Photo Booth: Divisi Strings || Catering: Jackson and Company || Cakes: Who Made The Cake! || Favors: Rescue Flats; Whataburger || Accommodations: JW Marriott Houston Downtown || Videographer: Sculpting With Time Productions || Photographer: Unique Design Studios
Can't get enough of this adorable couple? Then check out their romantic wedding video below!