A Rustic Italian Garden Inspired Wedding at Fairmont Grand Del Mar

Mariana Alston and Shea Theodore first met in 2015, when Shea’s best friend happened to be the boyfriend of Mariana’s university roommate. Since Mariana was newly single at the time, her roommate’s boyfriend suggested that Shea reach out; so he broke the ice by sending her a message on Instagram.

With Mariana being from Calgary and Shea being from Vancouver, they chatted for a few months but didn’t get around to meeting in person. Eventually, things went quiet between them for a period of time. Fast forward to November, after Shea had moved to San Diego for hockey. He and Mariana started communicating again, and he invited her to come down for a visit. By the time she left, Mariana was officially his girlfriend.

“That showed me we were really meant to be,” she recalls, “I thought he was so cute, so authentically himself, and so sweet and kind.”

“I never felt more sure about Shea being my person, than during the days leading up to the wedding.”

The Forever Home

A couple years ago, Shea and Mariana purchased a lot to build a house in Las Vegas, which Mariana shares, “is just everything we wanted – we want that to be our forever home.” Shea also decided it would be the perfect spot to plan a surprise proposal.

The day of their engagement, Shea asked Mariana to go to dinner on the Strip, which they do all the time. He also arranged for their architects to send an email saying that they had to meet onsite regarding a couple measurements, which was also nothing out of the ordinary. Before going to meet the architects, Shea asked Mariana if she could have her hair and makeup done beforehand, as she admittedly takes a long time to get ready – another normal situation for the couple.

After getting glammed up and putting on some sweats, Mariana and Shea headed to the lot of their forever home, where they were walking around with their two dogs when Shea popped the question.

Wedding Planning with Exquisite Events

The couple’s wedding planning process involved working with Madiha Khan of Exquisite Events.

“That was the best decision I could have made in regards to our wedding,” Mariana shares. “I didn’t feel any stress. She just knew my vision and I knew I could trust her. She has great taste, she’s really ‘on it,’ and she makes sure everything is on time.”

The couple’s wedding was to take place at Fairmont Grand Del Mar in San Diego, and they envisioned an Italian garden with rustic vibes.

“That location is incredible,” says Mariana. “I showed Madiha the flowers I liked, and she just nailed it. It was Black Tie, and I made the dress code so everyone had to wear black. I’m so happy I did that because it looked so nice in the photos.”

With Shea being a current Stanley Cup winner with the Vegas Golden Knights, being in the hockey world also means having to attend a constant stream of weddings together – something that worked to Mariana’s advantage. After noticing the subtle nuances of what works and what doesn’t for a wide range of people and ages, she and Shea had a solid “laundry list” of what they wanted so they could offer their guests the best

“I never felt more sure about Shea being my person, than during the days leading up to the wedding,” Mariana adds. “I was expecting some stress. But every day that got closer, I was more and more certain that he’s my person. That’s something special.”

An Italian Garden Inspired Wedding at Fairmont Grand Del Mar

Before the ceremony, the bride was relatively “chill and zen,” minus a few nerves.

“Our aisle was pretty long, and I’m pretty clumsy,” she laughs, “so I was nervous to walk. I was definitely nervous for the ceremony because we did our vows out loud and I hate public speaking. But I thought it was important. After going to a lot of weddings myself, I couldn’t believe it was my own wedding. It was surreal the entire time.” 

The ceremony featured floral arrangements of white roses and baby’s breath created by Butterfly Floral, perfectly representing the couple’s vision of an Italian garden inspired wedding. To kick things off on a high note, their two dogs – Bruce and Max – made their way down the aisle wearing tuxedos and completely succeeded at their sole job of looking adorable.

Despite any trepidations about her own walk down the aisle, Mariana made a gorgeous entrance wearing her dream wedding gown by Galia Lahav. She actually screen shot that exact dress three years before Shea proposed, and had loved it ever since. When she was wedding dress shopping, she tried on countless dresses and made sure to save the Galia gown for last. As soon as she put it on, she knew that was it.

“I think our vows were definitely one of my favorite moments,” says the bride. “My sister also officiated the wedding, and it was so incredible having her up there with us.”

The ceremony was followed by a cocktail hour, reception, and afterparty that lasted until 2 a.m. From the food to the father-daughter dance, the bride could hardly keep track of all the special details and moments that were unfolding. The couple later received several messages from guests about how epic their wedding celebration was.

“Shea and I both love food, so food was hugely important for us,” Mariana notes. “We had a nacho bar and slider bar for late night snacks, and a Fireball toast before the afterparty. I really like to party, and my side of the family is Latino – so they also know how to party. At one point, Shea and I got launched into the air on the dance floor. I just wanted guests to have the best time ever. Every bride is right when they say it goes by way too fast. We got our wedding video back, and that was really special because we really got to see the whole day.”

For their honeymoon, the newlyweds originally planned to go to Maui. Of course, with the recent Lahaina fires, they felt like it wasn’t appropriate to visit the island at the time; so they changed their flights at the last minute and headed off to Los Cabos for a luxurious stay at the Four Seasons. Since their wedding was in August, they couldn’t jet off for a lengthy vacation due to Shea’s upcoming training schedule. However, they’re planning to enjoy a longer getaway in the future.

>Written By: Lauren Malamala


Location: Fairmont Grand Del Mar, San Diego, CA; Planning & Event Design: Madiha Khan, Exquisite Events; Florist: Butterfly Floral; Rentals: MTB Event Rentals; Lighting: Amber Event Production; Wedding Dress: Galia Lahav; Custom Aisle: Abbey Rents; Cigar Lounge: VB Cigars; Band: Jukebox San Diego; Ceremony Strings: Eliana Strings; Videographer: Symboll; Photographer: John and Joseph