For a college student, there may be no greater act of devotion than signing up for an 8 a.m. class on a Monday morning just to meet a girl. Attending tiny St. Mary’s College of California, Joel Staples thought he had met every eligible female on campus until some of his teammates began talking about a dark-haired beauty in their early morning accounting class.
Dragging himself out of bed, Joel decided to see this “mystery girl” for himself; instantly smitten by Alicia Townsend, he added the class to his schedule the next day.
“THE FACT THAT I WAS ABOUT TO SAY MY VOWS AND SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE WITH THE PERSON I LOVE HIT ME LIKE A TON OF BRICKS.”
That was only the first step, however. Joel still had to work up the nerve to talk to Alicia, something he didn’t do for several weeks. In fact, it took a sports injury—Joel’s dislocated shoulder—to break the ice, and even then it was Alicia who initiated the conversation. Friendship blossomed into romance in a study group, and the relationship thrived even when Joel’s minor-league baseball career took him to Alaska and other far-flung destinations. “I don’t like talking on the phone, but for whatever reason I could talk to her for hours,” says Joel, who knew within months of meeting Alicia that this was the woman he wanted to marry.
Still, the separation abetted by Joel’s stints with various minor-league baseball teams meant that the couple dated for five years. A sad mile stone in Joel’s life—the end of his dream to play professional baseball—had a happy upside, allowing him to settle down with Alicia and start planning the rest of their lives together. Joel proposed, nervously proffering a ring in their apartment while Alicia’s family waited outside to celebrate what they were sure would be a positive reply. “Quitting baseball was tough, but while I was mourning the loss of one love I had another to take its place,” says Joel, who is now pursuing a law career.
Now there was the matter of planning a wedding—nothing new for Alicia, a wedding and event planner at Details Details in Irvine, California. The challenge for the prospective bride with a “been-there, done-that” outlook was to create something unique and memorable. Fortunately, Alicia’s aunt and uncle own an 11,000-acre almond farm in Orange County, a setting full of childhood memories and the perfect setting for a family focused wedding celebration.
“I had grown up having every Thanksgiving at this house,” says Alicia, recalling games of cornhole and an annual Olympic-style competition among her 30-odd cousins. “It felt like home.” The fact that Joel felt the same way reflects the degree to which Alicia’s family had accepted him as one of their own, even prior to their nuptials.
Alicia and Joel’s ceremony was held in an almond grove, and as she approached the altar, even the self-described jaded wedding planner was overcome. “The first time I was able to see Joel’s face was one of the most intense moments of my life,” she says. “The fact that I was about to say my vows and spend the rest of my life with the person I love hit me like a ton of bricks.” Joel had a similar experience. “When she walked down the aisle I had a hard time holding in my emotions,” he says. “I was completely floored at how she looked and that she was going to be my wife in a few minutes.”
After the couple exchanged vows, a hay barn on the farm was transformed for the cocktail hour, where guests sipped on a signature spritzer of St. Germain, champagne and club soda. A tented reception for 200 guests, lit by elegant chandeliers, followed in the family’s riding arena.
At midnight, the party moved to a “man cave”—Alicia’s special wedding-day gift to Joel—decorated with leather couches and baseball memorabilia, where guests indulged in a Scotch tasting and nibbled sliders and mini pizzas. The dancing went on until 4 a.m. and likely would have continued till dawn if guests’ hotel shuttles had not arrived for their last run.
Alicia and Joel continued their celebration with a weeklong honeymoon at the Viceroy resort in Anguilla. “It was the first trip we had gone on just the two of us,” says Alicia. With Joel now hitting the law books rather than the base paths, the couple is happy to be sharing their lives and chasing the same dreams together.
Caterer: Good Gracious! Events, Los Angeles, CA; Event Planner: Details Details, Irvine, CA; Floral and Event Design: White Lilac Inc., Costa Mesa, CA; Linen: La Tavola, Napa, CA; Cake: Heslington Cakes, Corona del Mar, CA; Rentals and Lighting: Walker Lewis, Fresno, CA; Tuxedo: Friar Tux, Anaheim, CA; Wedding Gown: Vera Wang at Vera Wang on Melrose, Los Angeles, CA; Photography: Ira Lippke and Jane Lee for Ira Lippke Studios, New York, NY