Music has been central to Kendra Ellis and Diallobe Johnson’s relationship from the get-go. She’s the VP of marketing for Atlantic Records and he’s a music executive and talent manager; it’s what brought them together in the first place.
“Diallobe and I met in October 2015,” Kendra remembers. “I was working at a record label and he had an artist signed to the label. I was responsible for the artist's marketing, so Diallobe and I started talking all day, every day about business.” Their conversations evolved to the personal and, eventually, a relationship formed.
“We got engaged in Palm Springs in November 2020,” Kendra continues. “We were at a huge Airbnb with our closest friends for the week. One night when we were all hanging out by the pool, Diallobe got down on one knee and proposed!”
Since they’re both in the industry, music had to be reflected in their big day. “We wanted our wedding guests to feel like they were attending a party for the Grammys or the BET Awards,” Kendra shares. “It was very important to us that our party was not only tastefully done, but had a lot of cool surprise elements as well.”
The duo decided to say “I do” not far from where they got engaged, in Palm Desert, California, and “diversity was very important to Diallobe and I as we were planning.” They pegged vendors with diverse backgrounds and prioritized working with small and female-owned businesses.
“The planning process was a lot of fun, however, very stressful at times,” Kendra admits. “I have a very demanding job, so I would work all day then go home at night and start what I would call my ‘other full-time job': wedding planning!” Luckily, she had the help of planner Candace Hernandez at Fawn Event Design Co to make her wedding dreams into a reality.
Read on to see all the chic details of the musical duo’s big day, planned by Fawn Event Design Co. and photographed by Matoli Keely Photography.
For their January 15, 2022, date, the aesthetic vibe was “winter desert chic,” says Kendra. They leaned into a color palette of creamy whites, neutrals, dusty peach and rose, and muted rust tones, with subtle pops of pale blue and gold accents. An earthy invitation suite set the vibe.
“Diallobe and I were looking for a venue where we could have all of our events in one location: the welcome reception, ceremony, reception, and brunch on Sunday,” Kendra says. “Kempa Villa checked all the boxes—and a huge bonus was that it was able to accommodate all of our family for lodging all weekend.”
Six months before the big day, Kendra’s dermatologist started her on a skincare regimen to prep her skin. “It included a weekly at-home facial peel that really worked wonders,” the bride says. “I got a facial from my esthetician Ile Baily of Ile Esthetic before I got to the desert. She used microdermabrasion so my skin would really glow.”
For day-of makeup, “I wanted to look like myself, just a little bit more glam,” Kendra says. Her makeup artist gave her a dewy glow and incorporated two wow factors: really long lashes and a bold red lip (she used Ruby Woo by MAC).
The bride’s hair was the first of many wedding nods to music. “I knew I wanted my hair to have some volume; I wanted toned-down Diana Ross hair,” Kendra says.
My wedding dress was the very first dress I tried on—I couldn’t believe that happened!
“My wedding dress was the very first dress I tried on—I couldn’t believe that happened!” Kendra says. When she came out of the dressing room at Kleinfeld in the Italian stretch Mikado Sareh Nouri gown, “other families started cheering and telling me it was the one!” She remembers. “It was such a fun moment; no other dress came close after that.”
She found rhinestone earrings and a comb at Kleinfeld, and a veil at Kinsley James in L.A. for her accessories. A pair of Manolo Blahnik heels peeked out from beneath the slit ballgown skirt as her “something blue.”
“I didn’t want to have a traditional bridal party where all of my friends wore the exact same dress,” Kendra says. “They are all so unique, so I asked them to wear any dress that made them feel confident in the gold or copper color family. They looked like a metallic rainbow!”
Diallobe also prepped his skin with a facial from Ile Esthetic the week of the wedding, and got ready day of with a manicure, shower, and haircut. He opted for a silver linen blend tuxedo by John Varvatos and a couple of meaningful accessories. “His lapel pin had my father's picture on it who passed away,” Kendra says. “And, he wore Brooks Brothers mother of pearl and onyx reversible stud cufflinks from two of the most important women in my life.”
For the finishing touch, the groom chose Cuir Cuba Intense as his wedding scent. “I got it on a trip we took to Paris,” Diallobe recalls. “We went to a bunch of perfume boutiques, and this was the one Kendra liked the most.”
For the ceremony, “we wanted a statement piece that would help our florals pop, frame us out, and create an even more intimate setting,” Kendra says. She turned to The Joy Haven to custom build a ceremony arch that would do all of the above—and later repurposed the piece as a backdrop for the sweetheart table.
“As guests entered into our ceremony space, they were greeted with Champagne and live music. We had the honor of working with Jeremy Green, a talented violinist local to the Los Angeles area," notes Kendra.
The violinist took up Etta James’ “At Last” as the bride entered. “My father passed away a few years ago, so my two nephews walked me down the aisle,” Kendra shares. “It was a very special moment for me.”
It was also the first glimpse Diallobe got of his bride. “Both of our favorite moments were when I walked down the aisle,” Kendra says. “I loved the look on his face when he saw me for the first time, and he loved seeing me walk down the aisle.”
Kendra’s best friend, De’Ara Balenger, officiated the ceremony. “She has been such a big part of our entire journey, we really wanted her to be a part of our day,” the bride says. “And her look was iconic! She wore a Taller Marmo dress.” The couple recited traditional vows, and De’Ara included a Maya Angelou quote.
The newlyweds recessed out in celebration to “Love on Top” by Beyonce.
I wanted to make sure that we hired a Black photographer who was skilled in capturing and editing darker skin tones.
“As a Black woman, I wanted to make sure that we hired a Black photographer who was highly skilled in capturing and editing darker skin tones,” Kendra says. “From the moment our planner recommended Matoli, I knew she was the one!”
Guests hit the bar for a trio of signature cocktails, “all named after special things in our lives,” Kendra says. “We had the E&J named after our mothers; The Silver Spring because I grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland; and the Oakland Punch as Diallobe is from Oakland.” Waiters served passed appetizers like mini grilled cheese, fried chicken skewers, and crispy cauliflower bites.
“Angelica and her team at Velvet Fox Designs worked with our planner, Candace, to design the most epic seating chart,” Kendra says. “Since music is a huge part of our lives, the seating chart was set up like a huge boombox and the guest cards were cassette tapes with their names on them.” As the 125 guests found their seats, they snapped candid photos with disposable cameras left on each table for the couple to develop later and relive memories.
“Kempa Villa is a blank canvas that allows you to bring in and create any design,” Kendra says. “We worked with Brilliant Event Lighting to create a huge twinkle light installation, and hanging floral installations throughout the space brought the eye up.” A custom wrapped dance floor featured a sepia-toned leaf print and the couple’s last name.
“Rachel from Joy of Bloom nailed it with our floral design,” Kendra says. “We wanted to incorporate subtle pops of dusty blue to represent my late father, and she added the perfect amount!”
“Diallobe and I were introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson at the reception to Luther Vandross’ ‘Never Too Much.’ We danced together for the first part of the song, then had all of our guests join us on the dance floor for the second half,” shares Kendra. It was one of the bride’s favorite moments of the day.
Dinner was brined chicken, steak, arugula salad, fingerling potatoes, and roasted cauliflower. Custom cocktails featured a floating image of the couple and their monogram—“a definite standout!” says Kendra.
“Stevie Auble of Hey There, Cupcake! is a true artist—that girl handcrafted the most jaw-dropping, breathtaking cake for us,” Kendra says. “The design was a spin on the wedding color scheme and overall design. We had dusty mauve textured tiers with flowing ruffles in white and neutral, and edible orchids.”
Kendra changed into a a sparkly white Retrofête wrap dress and Chanel booties to dance the night away. But there was one more crowd-pleaser in store. “One of my favorite moments was when the In-N-Out truck pulled up at the end and surprised all of our guests!” Kendra says. Now, the happy newlyweds are planning an epic honeymoon to the Maldives and Singapore.
Venue Kempa Villa
Wedding Planner Fawn Event Design Co.
Bridal Designer Sareh Nouri
Bridal Salon Kleinfeld
Veil Kinsley James
Bride’s Jewelry Kleinfeld
Bride’s Shoes Manolo Blahnik
Bride’s Hair and Makeup Saisha Beecham
Groom’s Attire John Varvatos
Rings Saint Jewels
Floral Design Joy of Bloom
Invitations and Signage Velvet Fox Designs
Music Ceremony: Jeremy Green; Reception: Mad Skillz
Catering Whoa Nelly Catering
Linens BBJ La Tavola
Cake Hey There, Cupcake!
Rentals Bright Event Rentals; Catalog Atelier; Folklore
Audio Visual The Index Room
Lighting Brilliant Event Lighting
Custom Builds The Joy Haven
Dance Floor HCD Portable Dancefloors
Photo Booth Classic Photo Booths
Videography The Authentic Storytellers
Photography Matoli Keely Photography