The couple's celebration was so filled with love that not even a tropical storm couldn't stop it.
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Scandal actor Cornelius Smith Jr. and producer Stephanie Lilly met at a mutual friend's film screening in 2013, and the pair say they immediately connected. By the time they'd finished the post-screening group dinner, he had already asked her to join him on a date. Three weeks later, they took a road trip to Oakland and stopped for a visit at Paradise Ridge Winery—a spot so special to their relationship that, just over three years later, Cornelius planned a return trip when he was ready to pop the question. Outside of an atrium structure adorned with red ribbons, the couple stopped: "Other people had written their intentions and prayers on the ribbons and tied them to the structure," says Cornelius. "We followed suit…after we wrote our intentions and tied them to the structure, that's when the conversation shifted and the proposal took place. Tears, laughter, and joy soon followed!"
Though the couple looked at wedding venues in Los Angeles and Detroit, they settled on a destination wedding for 150 guests at the Dreams Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort. "The theme was elegance and spiritual connectivity," says Stephanie of their May 25, 2018, nuptials. "The color palette was based on our favorite colors—orange and 'Prince' purple—so we just went for tropical complements to those, and voilá!"
Though they planned a lineup of events that included a welcome party and a catamaran excursion, they couldn't plan the weather: A tropical storm hit on the day of the wedding, which pushed the start time back and forced the ceremony inside. "I learned that the right frame of mind and heart helps [you] to see things that would normally be stressful as an opportunity to show love and solve a problem," says Cornelius. Stephanie agrees: "Even with the storms and power outages and a delayed start to the ceremony, it was as if nothing could dampen the mood," she says. "It was perfect."
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Though Stephanie's Inbal Dror wedding dress was one of the first ones she tried on, she considered nearly a dozen more before returning to a Beverly Hills bridal shop for a second look at the trumpet V-neck number with a plunging back. "When I went back to Panache to try my top three favorites again, I couldn't take the dress off," she says. "I knew it was the one." The gown's intricate details—including re-embroidered lace, satin shoulder bows, a chapel length train, and pockets—made it a clear winner.
The bride completed her wedding look with a sparkling Marianna Harutunian headpiece, Tamara Mellon shoes, and an array of jewels, including Sunni Blake earrings picked out by her friends. "My glam squad surprised me! I didn't see any of my wedding jewelry before the big day." She also enlisted the help of Scandal wardrobe designer Lyn Paolo, who added rhinestones to her gown and perfected the fit.
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From Stephanie, with Love
Before the ceremony, Cornelius took a quiet moment to read a letter from Stephanie. "The note was absolutely touching," he says. "But even more touching—Stephanie got a star named after my mother, Pamela Lynn Perchman Smith, who passed away in 2014. I lost it after that!"
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The groom and his attendants sported matching flamingo socks, perfect for the tropical locale.
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Nearest and Dearest
Stephanie and Cornelius chose a bridal party of both friends and family. The bride's attendants stunned in magenta gowns from Symphony Fashion; her bridesman wore a matching suit. The bride's sister served her maid of honor, while the groom's brother took on the role of best man. Cornelius's young cousins were the adorable flower girls and ring bearer.
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Cancun's first tropical storm of the season coincided with the couple's wedding. Power and water outages forced last-minute adjustments to the entire day, but they couldn't put a damper on the bride and groom's happiness. "It was special because the love, joy, and laughter were palpable," says Stephanie. "It was so much fun! Part of what makes an experience special is not only what happens but who is there—our tribe made the experience very special."
The storm forced the ceremony inside, but the event team quickly rearranged the wedding's layout, moving the floral backdrop—"It was supposed to be elevated on a white circled platform over the ocean," says Stephanie—from the resort's central garden to a room draped in white fabric and filled with clear chairs. Arrangements of roses, peonies, and lilies from Alquimia Events lined the aisle.
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At the Altar
Stephanie's father walked her to the altar to join Cornelius. "The room was bursting with love and energy," says Stephanie. "Guests were singing like a thunderous choir as they waited for the wedding to begin!" The couple planned a spiritual ceremony officiated by Pastors Touré and Sarah Roberts, and Cornelius's sister, Patricia, read a poem in memory of their mother.
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Along with the traditional wedding vows, the bride and groom exchanged their own personalized promises.
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Cornelius and Stephanie shared a kiss as they left the ceremony as husband and wife, then met guests for cocktails in the hotel's lobby. Though they'd hoped for an outdoor cocktail hour, the combination of purple lighting, white leather seating, and colorful floral arrangements on top of modern acrylic pillars created a fun, tropical ambiance. Tray-passed glasses of Champagne helped encourage a celebratory mood. "The move inside was actually perfect," says Stephanie. "Made it feel much more intimate."
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Despite the storm, the newlyweds found a few dry minutes to sneak outside for photos under the stunning cloud formations at dusk.
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Cornelius greeted Scandal costars Bellamy Young and Pedro Segundo—two of the seven castmates who traveled to celebrate with the newlyweds—after the ceremony.
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Young and Segundo made sure to arrive at the wedding in their tropical best. She wore a floral printed gown while he wore a light-hued suit.
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Inside the reception space, tables were topped with mirrored glass that reflected the room's purple lighting by Weddings by Encore. Centerpieces filled with red and purple roses added vibrant accents atop tall acrylic vases. The evening's menu included scallops, risotto, and lasagna—plus an array of desserts including peach cobbler and mini churros.
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The couple opened the reception with their first dance as husband and wife, choosing a medley of songs by Anita Baker: "Angel," "Caught Up in the Rapture," and "Sweet Love." (The sparklers were a surprise for the bride and groom from their event planners.) A custom graphic used throughout the event adorned both the dance floor and the backdrop of the photo booth.
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DJ B-Hen spun tracks that kept the couple's family and friends—including fellow Scandal alum Scott Foley—moving all night. Stephanie and Cornelius used their own trick to keep the party going: "Instead of the traditional clinking of glasses to get the bride and groom to kiss, our guests were asked to get up and perform a song!"
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A Photo Finish
The wedding marked the first time the couple's Scandal friends had seen each other since a wrap party a few months earlier. Tony Goldwyn, Kerry Washington, George Newbern, Katie Lowes, Linda Lowy, and Adam Shapiro got up close and personal with the newlyweds in the photo booth at the reception.
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Cornelius and his groomsmen performed "Can You Stand the Rain" (complete with choreographed dance moves) for Stephanie at the welcome party before the wedding, and took the stage once again at the reception for another personalized performance: An a cappella version of Boyz II Men's "I Do."
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A Round of Applause
Cornelius's performance had guests—including Goldwyn—on their feet.
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The five-tier marble cake with caramel sauce and vanilla fondant from Lluvia de Azucar was displayed on a swing surrounded by flowers—a dazzling presentation that the wedding planners came up to meet one of the couple's requests. "We were looking for something that was not being done," says Stephanie.
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Photography, Jerry Willis and Daniel Sauer, The Willis Collection
Location and Catering, Dreams Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort
Event planning, Edwina Dei-Davis, A Dei Event
Flowers and Rentals, Alquimia Events
Videography, New Ground Media
Officiant, Pastors Touré and Sarah Roberts, The Potters House at ONE LA & Denver
Cake, Lluvia de Azucar
DJ, DJ B-Hen
Bride's gown, Inbal Dror
Bridal Hair and Men's Grooming, Chris Gees
Makeup, Equan Bridges
Bridesmaids' dresses, Symphony Fashion Inc
Groom's suit, Corneliani
Menswear, Men's Wearhouse
Lighting, Weddings by Encore
Transportation, ADE DMC Cancun
Graphics, Monique L. Clarke