Atop a cliff with panoramic views of the Pacific, dense fog obscured the aquatic landscape at the luxury oceanfront Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. On a clear day, it’s one of the rare places where one can witness the sun rise and set over the ocean from any vantage point. Even with Mother Nature’s shroud of haze obliterating the perfect bird’s eye view, Markus “Mookie” Lynn Betts and his wife-to-be Brianna Hammonds wouldn’t allow it to ruin their nuptials planned by Ashley Taylor-Tima and Patrice Horton of the firm Element 13, based out of Cleveland, Ohio, and the event designer Samia Zellner. The Los Angeles Dodgers' rightfielder and more than 200 guests waited patiently during the drying of the custom-made, mirrored-glass aisle, which had become dangerously slippery due to the inclement weather. Through all the troubleshooting Brianna’s mom Tracey Hammonds calmed her daughter’s spirit. Fortunately, Brianna was able to keep her eyes on the prize and simply pronounced: “I just want to hurry up and marry my man.”
Nearly 45-minutes later, the couple’s flower girl and 3-year-old daughter Kynlee Ivory set the mood for her mom’s grand entrance. “I hope she makes it down the aisle,” said Brianna. “She doesn’t do too well alone with crowds. Fortunately, Kynlee’s grandmother and Mookie’s mom Diana Collins accompanied her down the aisle to her favorite Pinkfong tune “Baby Shark.” During her stroll, Kynlee was greeted with a chorus of awwws. Indeed, the couple's mini-me was the quintessential prelude to her parents’ union.
Beyond the curtains, the father of the bride Claude Hammonds approached to escort his daughter as she cried a river. “My dad was always asking me when we were going to get married and I’ve never been the type of chick to pressure anyone,” said Brianna. “I believe the man should ask.” In January, the five-time, All-Star and two-time World Series winner (he’s also the only MLB player to ever achieve a double victory within a three-year), popped the question. He proposed to his teen love with a seven-carat, radiant-cut diamond at a faux awards dinner he staged with 40 close family and friends in Nashville, Tennessee.
Brianna entrusted the stylist Noelle Jamison with her wedding day looks. Bedazzled in a body-conscious, sweet-heart neckline, jewel-encrusted gown by Australian designer Pallis Couture with Rene Caovilla shoes and wearing Shay Jewelry, Brianna appeared to glide pass her six bridesmaids, (her older sister Brittany Hammonds served as her maid of honor) who wore one-shoulder, champagne gowns by Mia Couture with Steve Madden rhinestone blush-coloreds heels, to the mirrored-glass stage where her future hubby awaited. Styled by celebrity stylist Courtney D. Mays, Mookie donned a Frère hunter green tuxedo, white shirt and black tie by the designer Davidson Petit-Frère, Manolo Blahnik men's shoes and 1940s vintage diamond lapel pins from the personal archive of Mays. Flanked by his best man, personal security and older brother Mark Betts and five groomsmen dressed in Indochino hunter green velvet tuxes, the groom exuded immeasurable patience. “One of the things I love about him is his calmness because I’m more emotional,” said Brianna, a real estate investor who plans to launch a vegan restaurant. “He can talk me through anything step by step.”
THE VOWS: GOD’S GOT US
Once in a lifetime, a few are blessed enough to experience the purity and power of a faithful love like the one shared between Mookie and Brianna. Make no mistake that when a man loves a woman, he’ll shout it from the mountain top. Leave it to the Dodgers rightfielder to level up by professing his unwavering love from a cliff: “You taught me how to take a leap of faith and that not knowing the answer and not having control of the outcome is okay,” said the 29-year-old Nashville native. “You’ve always stressed the importance of letting God handle things and that strengthened my relationship with Him.” As Mookie summed up his love and admiration for his stunning bride in five simple words—family, faith, friend, support and love, Bishop Joseph Walker of Mount Zion, the couple’s Tennessee home church gave a nod of approval. Through tears Brianna reciprocated those feelings and even joked that Mookie's cleaning skills were subpar to his athletic prowess. “I love you for your big heart. I love you for your transparency. I love you for the arm that can throw someone out at home plate but can’t make his dirty clothes reach the hamper. I love you for being my best friend…and the man you are inside and out…I promise to Keep God first and let Him lead our marriage to eternity.”
THE TEEN LOVE AFFAIR: WE BELONG TOGETHER
After all patience is a virtue and this always-and-forever bond wasn’t sealed with a kiss but 15 years of blossoming love. In fact, what began as Hammond serving as her late BFF’s proxy to pursue a boy-crush eventually transcended middle-school halls into a budding virtual friendship via MySpace, the premier global social media network at that time. “One of my best friends who passed away thought [Mookie] was cute and I said, Girl go talk to him!’,” said Brianna. “She was too scared to talk to him, so I told him, My girlfriend likes you. Will you talk to her? …And he kept saying no.” Still, it would take the pubescent, middle-school then-basketball player several months to muster the courage to ask the former football-and-basketball team cheerleader to be his one and only. “I thought Brianna was cute but…I was into my video games and sports,” he explains. “When I finally asked her out, she said she didn’t hear me, but she heard me…So the next day I end up asking her again. I’m thinking, You get one shot. I only have but so much courage, I’m pacing in my room and thinking, I ain’t asking again. I don’t know what [made] me ask again. She said yes and my MySpace status changed.”
“I knew she was 'The One' when I watched her love our daughter Kynlee she showed me that unconditional love is real,” said Mookie. For Brianna, absence made the heart grow fonder. “We’ve been together a long time and gone through different chapters in our relationship as we’ve grown as individuals. Marriage is sacred, it’s one shot and that’s it. I’ve always known that I loved and adored him, but I knew I wanted to be his wife when it felt weird to go a day without seeing him or talking to him.”
THE RECEPTION AND AFTER-PARTY: EAT, DRINK AND BE MARRIED
Inside the Terranea Resort’s 18,00-square foot, the Palos Verdes Grand Ballroom was ethereal. A myriad of white flowers including orchids (the bride’s favorite) and hydrangeas provided by the florist Butterfly Floral Design, surrounded by white candles and a white dance floor created a slice of heaven-on-earth for the newlyweds. The reception was a reunion for the Betts’ family and friends who attended “The Welcome to LA at Dodger Stadium,” a non-traditional rehearsal dinner three days prior, where they dined and wined on Ciroc and Skye's Gourmet tacos, Shake Shack, churros. They even had a skating rink with Christmas lights strewn throughout the stadium. Besides loved ones, the Betts’ union was celebrated by the MVP player’s dad Willie Betts, Sr., Los Angeles Dodgers co-owners Billy Jean King and wife Ilana Kross, team manager Dave Roberts, teammates Justin Turner, Joe Kelly, Chris Taylor, rapper Nelly, actors Sally Richardson and Diondré T. Whitfield, SWV’s Tamara “Taj” Johnson-George and NFL legend Eddie George, as well as and former MLB pitcher C.C. Sabathia and his CAA baseball-agent wife Amber. At the bride’s request, attendees were assembled in seats arranged in a “circle of love,” so that everyone could face-off and see one another.
As guests entered, many hit the dance floor before making it to their seats as the wedding band Four Piece Special, led by drummer Tiffany Walker, played classics from Earth, Wind and Fire, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Anita Baker and more. Now that everyone was warmed up it was time to focus on the Betts. All eyes were on the newlyweds who took center stage to enjoy their first dance to Usher’s 2004 ballad “Superstar,” a spur-of-the-moment change made by the groom only 30 minutes prior to inviting his missus to the monogrammed dance floor emblazoned with the couple’s initials B&M in gold . Afterwards, Mrs. Bett’s and her dad danced for a minute and a half to Luther Vandross’ 2003 tribute “Dance With My Father” before the evening’s spin master, DJ LoKey, changed the pace with the 2001 mid-tempo anthem “Where the Party At?” by Jagged Edge featuring Nelly. Now it was time for the groom and his mom to groove and soon after his wife and father-in-law joined the mix. Before long it became a 50-family-member-flash mob joining their choreographed routine. “Mookie loves to dance,” shared the bride. “He will randomly start dancing wherever and he has more rhythm than I do!”
In the middle of it all guests were treated to a surprise performance by rapper Nelly, a former semi-pro baseball player and friend of Mookie’s, who informed the groom that he’d be hosting his wedding or doing whatever he needed him to do upon learning of his January engagement. The St. Louis lyricist performed his verse while busting moves down the Soul Train line. Finally, Nelly paid a special tribute to the bride telling her: “I know what your favorite song is!” before delivering his eight bars from his 2002 chart topper “Dilemma” featuring Kelly Rowland. Without hesitation, Mrs. Betts seized the mic and serenaded her hubby with the endearing hook “I love you/and I need you/And it’s more than you’ll ever know/Boy, it’s for sure/You can always count on my love forever more.”
As one door closed, the groom opened another. Since the night was still young the celebration continued as the wedding party was transported in four, 50-passenger buses to Elevate Lounge in downtown Los Angeles. As the happy couple enjoyed the sounds of DJ Steph Floss (who's also the Cleveland Cavaliers deejay) and DJ Meel (who's NBA legend Lebron James’ favored deejay), his friend Lil Wayne joined them at the after-party since he was unable to attend the ceremony. To complement the ambiance of the sleek penthouse nightclub and its open-air dance floor and skyline views, the newlyweds sported a second fit for the night. Mookie sported another Frère hunter green suit with a yellow floral design, a Keith James hat with custom bands, jewelry by XIV Karats and a pine-green-and-white Air Jordan Ones; while his wife kept it simple with an Alex Perry white, spaghetti-strapped dress, Rene Caovilla shoes and Shay Jewelry. After their Big Day soiree, the newly married couple headed to a no-phone-zone honeymoon in Los Cabos, Mexico.