Paul Kruger and Jacqui Hoyle were running out of time. The 29-year-old Cleveland Browns linebacker and his 24-year-old fiancee knew they wanted to marry in Utah instead of Jacqui's native Chagrin Falls. Paul grew up in Orem, Utah, near Salt Lake City. And Jacqui had fallen in love with the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains while spending time at Paul's offseason area home after their February 2015 engagement.
"At first, we wanted to do an outside wedding," says Jacqui, who worked as a Cleveland-area territory manager for orthopedics provider DJO Global while she was dating Paul. "So I was like, •Utah would be perfect for that.'•"
Finding a venue for the July 18, 2015, wedding, however, proved a major challenge. Every ski resort and lodge they liked was booked, and they were too much in love to postpone their nuptials until after the 2015 football season. Moreover, Paul was beginning to rethink the idea of an outdoor ceremony and reception. "Jacqui coming out of a ski lodge in this Cinderella dress just [didn't] make sense," he explains.
He suggested the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, a Renaissance Revival masterpiece where he'd attended a dance as a teenager. He envisioned his bride walking down one of the twin staircases in the light-filled rotunda, under an ethereal sky-blue dome painted with clouds and seagulls. Jacqui initially dismissed the place as too big. But in May, after weeks of searching for a suitable alternative, she decided to look at the location again. This time, she experienced what Paul did. "You walk into that building, and you feel royal," she says. "It's really elegant. It was just us."
Fortunately, Jacqui began planning the wedding and reception long before she booked the venue. She actually selected her wedding dress a month before Paul popped the question, tipped off to the impending proposal by a trip to Chagrin Falls that Paul took to ask her father for her hand in marriage. Jacqui found her Allure Bridals strapless ivory ball gown with satin-lined tulle skirt during a trip to a Salt Lake City bridal boutique with Paul's two sisters and future mother-in-law Jennifer Kruger. Jacqui asked the seamstress to add crystals, seed pearls and sequins to the lace bodice, along with off-the-shoulder cap sleeves made of the same lace on the dress. The ingenious features could be pulled up as straps when she danced to keep the sweetheart neckline in place.
The excitement of trying on wedding gowns was tempered by the absence of Jacqui's mother. Personal trainer and yoga instructor Vera Hoyle simply couldn't get out to Utah in time to accompany her daughter on a shopping trip. "I had to get on FaceTime with her while I was trying on all my wedding dresses," Jacqui recalls. But Vera ended up getting in on the bridal shopping: She ordered her daughter's Giuseppe Zanotti opened-toed silver pumps from saks.com and picked up her crystal-embellished ivory satin clutch at Aldo in Beachwood Place.
Because the couple's attendants were scattered across the country, they chose their attire at major national chains. Paul's five groomsmen and best man picked up black Vera Wang tuxes at Men's Wearhouse, while Jacqui's four bridesmaids and maid-of honor got their flowing pale pink chiffon gowns — dresses with a strapless pleated bodice and forgiving A-line silhouette — from David's Bridal, the same retailer that supplied her lace-trimmed cathedral veil. Only the flower girl's pale pink, ankle length tulle sundress was a customized creation ordered on Etsy. Pink, Jacqui reveals, is her favorite color, one that figured prominently in her flowers and reception decor.
As a newcomer to the Salt Lake City area — and a part-time resident at that — Jacqui relied on bridal magazine research and reputation to hire a local photographer, videographer and wedding planner. Park City, Utah-based SoirÃ©e Productions in turn recommended a selection of DJs, rental companies, caterers, liveries, bakers and a florist. Jacqui's final choice, along with the venue, was an invitation by Ann Elizabeth Custom Graphic Design & Printing Studio of Salt Lake City. They chose a heavy white cardstock printed in black script and white RSVP postcard embellished with the Kruger family monogram, all tucked into a blush envelope. She describes the set as simple yet elegant. "We didn't want to spend a crazy amount on paper," Jacqui says.
Five short months of planning didn't leave the couple frazzled. "We went into the wedding weekend completely stress-free," Paul says. By the time they checked into The Grand America Hotel two days before the ceremony, everything was in the hands of their vendors and event planner. The only thing left on their to-do lists was to give their wedding gifts to one another. Paul arranged to fill Jacqui's hotel room with four-dozen red roses the night before the wedding. She sent him a selection of tasteful boudoir photographs the next morning. "No boudoir from me!" Paul jokes, then becomes more serious. "I should have started a trend. She probably would have started laughing, though."
At 5 p.m. on July 18, Jacqui walked down one of the staircases in the Utah State Capitol Rotunda on the arm of her father, Cleveland-based Business Aircraft Group owner Michael Hoyle, as a string quartet played Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major." It was just as Paul imagined. He admits to "free-styling" his vows. "I had a big, long thing prepared," he says. "But I just wanted to look her in the eye the whole time and just say it." He had a relatively small audience — the ceremony guest list was limited to 150 close friends and relatives.
"When we looked out while we were getting married, we wanted to recognize every face and know that they'd been a part of our lives somehow," Jacqui explains.
After they said "I do," Jacqui, Paul and their guests joined another 200 invitees for a reception on an adjoining outdoor plaza that provided breathtaking views of downtown Salt Lake City and the distant mountains. Jacqui opted to furnish the space with tables covered in white, light pink and hot pink satin cloths, surrounded by white wooden chairs. The back of every other seat was tied with a light pink satin bow. Orchid Dynasty of Salt Lake City arranged centerpieces using the same white, light pink and hot pink roses, light pink mini roses and white hydrangeas found in the ceremony flower stands and bouquets carried by the bride, bridesmaids and mothers-of-the-bride and -groom.
Jacqui notes that liquor was not permitted on the Capitol grounds. Instead, guests helped themselves to bars set up in the limos shuttling them to and from The Grand America Hotel and sipped fresh-squeezed lemonade and soft drinks while they nibbled passed hors d'oeuvres and sampled a cheese-and-fruit spread. Then they lined up at a buffet of smoked beef brisket, chicken in a creamy wine sauce, mashed and au gratin potatoes, garden and spinach salads, chocolate-cream cheesecake, peanut butter mousse shots and banana shooters prepared by Marvellous Catering of Provo, Utah.
The main dessert attraction, however, was the five-tier wedding cake. Carrie Biggers-Burnett of Carrie's Cakes in Sandy, just outside of Salt Lake City, alternated champagne and chocolate cakes — each filled with white-chocolate buttercream, enrobed in homemade white fondant, and decorated with white fondant swags and royal-icing lattices — and layers of pink and white roses on an embossed silver plateau. Workers stationed the towering confection on a hot pink satin-covered round table in a large open "tent" Jacqui designed, inspired by her childhood canopy bed. The white-frame structure, outlined in tiny white lights, draped in white fabric and hung with a single crystal chandelier, was built by Diamond Rental, the same company that supplied the tables, chairs and linens.
The tent also defined the dance floor. After dinner Jacqui and Paul danced for the first time as a married couple to the Aerosmith power ballad "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." "Whenever that song comes on [the radio], we just always sing it," Jacqui says. "We love it."
The likes of Cleveland Browns Craig Robertson and Scott Solomon, along with their wives or significant others, followed them onto the dance floor, moving to a selection of tunes provided by a disc jockey.
"When the sun started going down, it lit up the clouds orange and pink and red," Paul marvels. "It was just a gorgeous night."
Kentucky Derby luck. Paul Kruger's brother Joe introduced him to Jacqui Hoyle at a Maxim magazine party in Louisville, Kentucky, the night before the 2014 Kentucky Derby. Paul recalls that he talked to Jacqui, then a territory manager for a Lexington, Kentucky, medical oxygen provider, for about 20 minutes without exchanging addresses or phone numbers. They ran into each other at Churchill Downs the next day but, once again, failed to get each other's contact information. It didn't matter. Jacqui spotted Paul at Beachwood Place the next Saturday, during a Mother's Day weekend trip to her parents' Chagrin Falls home, and approached him as he ordered coffee at the Nordstrom cafe. "I was like, •Why are you here?'•" Paul remembers. "She's like, •I'm actually from here.'•"
First date. Paul and Jacqui dined at The Cheesecake Factory's Crocker Park location in Westlake the very next night. "He wanted to know about my family — he wanted to know things that actually really mattered," Jacqui shares. Paul discovered that "she was genuine, soft-spoken, humble, smart" as well as incredibly beautiful.
Man of mystery. Whenever Jacqui asked Paul what he did for a living, he'd reply, "I just work." She didn't realize that he was a Cleveland Browns player until he asked her to drop him off at work three or four weeks after they started dating. "Before I met Paul, I was never really a football fan," she admits.
A magical proposal. Paul asked Jacqui to marry him during a snowy Sunday drive in the mountains. He parked the truck, and the couple got out of the cab. Paul then lifted Jacqui onto the hood and dropped to one knee. "It was really eerie, almost," he says of the sudden change in weather. "The clouds opened, the sun was shining. It was calm. We were outside for a second. And then as soon as we were done and driving away, the storm came back."
He has a future as a jewelry designer. Paul designed Jacqui's stunning engagement/wedding ring: a 14-karat-gold cathedral band flanked by twin eternity counterparts and set with a 4-carat round diamond. His goal: to create a piece that wowed from every angle, even when Jacqui's hand was palm-up.
"Will you be my bridesmaid?" Jacqui posed that question on the top of boxes she mailed to her five bridesmaids. Each package contained pink candy, nail polish, lip gloss, a short bio on each woman, a fabric swatch from their dress and a gold Alex and Ani "journey bracelet" she picked up at Nordstrom at Beachwood Place. "I wrote a note that said, •This bracelet represents our journey together. I want you to stand by my side as I start a new journey in my life,'•" Jacqui says. The day of the wedding, she gave each woman a pale pink satin robe to wear while they got their hair and makeup done, crystal hoop earrings from Charming Charlie's RSVP line and a small hot pink leather tote from a Cleveland-area Target store to carry to the ceremony and reception.
Something old, something new. Jacqui walked down the aisle wearing two antique diamond rings she and Paul bought during a trip to Alaska and underwear with the word "Wifey" highlighted in blue sequins on the backside. In addition, her entire bridal ensemble was new. "But I didn't really borrow anything," she says.
More bling than the bride. Paul owns three wedding rings, not counting the rubber band he wears on the field: the thin gold original; a thicker gold counterpart the couple purchased shortly after the wedding at Avalon Jewelers in Cleveland to completely cover his ring-finger tattoo of Jacqui's initials ("It looks cleaner when he gets dressed up," she explains); and a bold size 16 tungsten band he found on Amazon for $20. The last is Paul's favorite, in part because it's easier to get over his injured knuckle. "It's heavy," he adds. "You can't scratch it. And it looks awesome."
No honeymoon — yet. "We were married so close to the [football] season that it just didn't make any sense to go," Paul says. "What we're planning on is a Mediterranean cruise in May, June."