Spoiler alert: Skydivers were involved.
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Kayla Sortor and Vernon Davis met at a bar in Washington, D.C. "He was a gentleman with a kind spirit and beautiful smile," remembers Kayla, a government conference planner. "I thought Kayla was everything I ever dreamed of," Vernon adds. "Smart, beautiful, athletic, and extremely benevolent." A week after that initial meeting, Vernon (who plays football for the Washington Redskins) texted Kayla to ask her to dinner, where he ended up ordering nearly everything on the menu and told her to try everything they had to offer. She was impressed that she'd found someone that enjoyed food as much as she did. It helped that the conversation flowed, too. Things moved fast after that: They were in a relationship, said "I love you" after two months, and were checking out engagement rings within a year.
In April of 2018, Vernon started hinting that Kayla could no longer go without a manicure—further supporting Kayla's hunch that a proposal was not far off. The truth is, he'd been scheming something since that February. On their last trip during the football offseason, they went to Ocean City, Maryland. Vernon was pretty stern about timing that July day, which is odd for a guy who is often late. But they'd been "invited" to Vernon's former teammate's white party fundraiser on the beach, and he insisted they head out at a particular time.
Vernon's weird behavior continued when he asked the Uber driver to stop two blocks from the event, saying he wanted to walk on the beach the rest of the way. A confused Kayla just went with it—and that's when the surprises really began. An intricately-planned proposal on the beach was phase one. Then back at the hotel, Vernon once again shocked his now-fiancée with a glam squad and a dress to change into for what she thought was an impromptu dinner with her parents. But the final bombshell of the day was when 27 guests joined the couple just hours after Vernon put a ring on Kayla's finger. They'd been invited to a party—only knowing that it was a surprise for Kayla, that they should wear white, and that they'd be shuttled to an undisclosed location for the festivities. At the engagement party everyone dined on Kayla's favorite foods, watched a video of the proposal, and enjoyed the company of one another at Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel.
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From the Sky
Even though Vernon had insisted on being prompt to the party, he kept coming up with ways to slow them down—taking photos of Kayla, cooling his feet in the water, and asking her to snap pictures of him. "I got annoyed and began to ask questions on what the hotel looked like so we could get there," she says. "I then heard helicopter sounds, which I initially thought were from the advertising planes." But then she saw the crowd look up and point to the sky, and Vernon directed her to follow suit. "I saw the planes and kept walking in attempt to get us to the event on time. And then came the pink smoke."
Stopped in her tracks, Kayla gave in to watching what was unfolding before her and the fellow beachgoers: skydivers. She had no clue what was happening until they finished their 4,000-foot descent and landed in front of her and reality set in.
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Five skydivers from Mission Volant ran up to Kayla and Vernon and stripped their jackets off to reveal shirts that, when lined up, read, "Kayla will you marry me?" She was at a loss for words and only managed to giggle nervously. And Vernon loved watching Kayla's face as she began to process it all.
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On Bended Knee
With the setup from the quintet of skydivers the rest was up to Vernon.
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After considering several different types of engagement rings, Vernon and Kayla agreed on a cut and band setting. From there, Vernon did extensive research on diamonds to figure out the carat and clarity of the stone he'd select. It took him seven months to find the ring that he wanted that he knew was right for Kayla, but the end result was stunning.
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After Vernon proposed, he pointed towards the hotel area, and Kayla's dog and parents ran out to join in the excitement.
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The elated couple paused for portraits on the beach. "I wanted to make sure I documented everything, so we could look back and rejoice on the moment," Vernon says of having a photographer and videographer on hand.
The photos and footage also captured all of Vernon's hard work. "There were so many moving parts and the worst part was keeping a secret from Kayla," he says of planning it all. "There were instances where I wanted to explain to her what was going on, but I couldn't. If someone wants to do something similar, my advice is to be very discreet along the way and make sure to continue to talk about getting engaged as you have in the past. The moment you stop talking about it is the moment you give yourself up."
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Dressed to Party
After the proposal, Kayla was whisked away to the hotel and thought she was changing outfits for dinner with her folks. "I got to the room and there was a white dress with pink accents, and a hairstylist and makeup artist waiting there to doll me up," she says. "I still thought we were doing all this as a sunset dinner at a local restaurant with my parents and maybe his parents." But she followed right along, slipping into the dress her mother had picked out for her. Vernon changed into a head-to-toe white ensemble, and then they got on a shuttle bus.
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A Secretive Invitation
Artisan Matchmaker designed an invitation, which informed guests (in a whimsical rhyming format) that they were invited to a fabulous party and that Kayla didn't know about it. They primed guests to wear all white, take the shuttle provided to the unknown destination, and get ready for a possible surprise. But upon realizing the danger in having paper stationery lying about in the homes of the bride-to-be's loved ones, the invite was printed as a keepsake for the couple and guests were invited via phone calls.
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Upon arrival at the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel, the couple was greeted by their planner before being escorted to an area where two dozen close friends and family members awaited. "I immediately began to cry happy tears," Kayla remembers of the shock. As for not thinking something was up when she saw her planner, she attributes that to the adrenaline rushing through her body.
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A Fresh-Cut Video
Skipper Films created a same-day video edit of the scene from just hours earlier. As guests did not know the reason why they were shuttled to Ocean City, the footage revealed the happy news to guests. At the conclusion, the couple walked into the reception space and there was not a single dry eye around.
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To keep everyone together, one long table was set. Family and friends caught up while celebrating the couple's engagement.
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Pretty and Pink
Natalie Seng of Designed Perfectly Events worked with Vernon and Kayla's mother, BJ, to design tables that featured décor elements that the bride-to-be would love. "This was the first time I designed an event for someone who didn't have a say in anything we did," Natalie says. "It was stressful but very rewarding afterwards. We envisioned a very romantic and intimate feel yet also fun, playful, and clean. Pink is Kayla's favorite color, so we worked with J.Morris Flowers who used flowers ranging from soft blush tones to hot pinks with a lot of white and greenery." White Glove Rentals delivered the tables and chairs, plus rose gold flatware. "The chairs are actually called 'Davis' chairs which was beyond perfect for this occasion," Natalie adds of the connection to the groom's last name.
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Cards at each seat were topped with guests' names and a poem that Vernon wrote for Kayla. Guests dined on Mexican food—the bride's favorite.
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A Poetic Backdrop
A boxwood wall was decorated with fresh flowers and cut-out letters that spelled, "Let this be everlasting, Love that never dissolves," which is a line from the poem Vernon penned for his bride-to-be.
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A Photo Opp
In addition to serving as a backdrop for the party, several guests snapped photos in front of it.
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A red velvet cake (Kayla's favorite) was covered in marbled fondant and finished off with a custom topper by Artisan Matchmaker that read, "She said yes!"
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From Near and Far
Many of the guests live within a couple of hours of the party, but Vernon's brother and wife flew in all the way from Miami.
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Time to Dance
A jazz trio performed during the party, and guests enjoyed post-dinner dancing. Since Kayla's a big Mariah Carey fan, a few of the songstress's hits were played.
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Kayla was touched by all the effort and energy put into making the day special for her. From the location (Ocean City was her favorite place growing up) to having all of her loved ones (including her dog!) there to celebrate, it was memorable at every turn. "Watching the video footage from the proposal and Vernon's voiceover at the table with everyone is a moment I'll never forget," she says.
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Photography, Emily Alyssa Photography
Location and Catering, Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel
Event planning and design, Natalie Seng of Designed Perfectly Events
Flowers, J.Morris Flowers
Videography, Skipper Films
Stationery and Cake topper, Artisan Matchmaker
Cake, Cake Art
Music, JJ&T Entertainment
Hair and Makeup, Creative Day Spa
Lighting, Draping, and Boxwood wall, A2Z Music Factory
Transportation, A la carte Limo
Skydivers, Mission Volant