Text by Demara White / As seen in the Fall/Winter 2016 Issue
When Nina arrived at Earl’s annual youth football camp, it seemed like a normal day. She chatted with other volunteers, as Earl, a safety for the Seattle Seahawks, gleamed in his football element, addressing the eager campers in his hometown of Orange, TX. But she didn’t quite anticipate the next play on Earl’s game-day roster. “I heard him say, ‘Where’s Nina?’” Shocked, I thought, “What’s going on?” says Nina. Anxious and puzzled, Nina began to approach him, praying that he wouldn’t ask her to speak. “I go up and he introduces me as his high school sweetheart. [Then,] he starts to go into this speech – which is all a blur now. I had no idea what was going on until he dropped to one knee,” shares Nina. Then came the tears and, undoubtedly, a reply of “yes” followed.
The longtime sweethearts originally connected during their first period Spanish class in their junior year. After getting acquainted in class, they ended up becoming friends, which Nina jokingly says is due to Earl being too scared to ask her on a date. But, months into the school year, Earl grew the courage to go in for the kill, by surprising her with a kiss as they casually hung out. From there, he asked her to be his girlfriend, and that’s when it all began.
Nina envisioned her wedding day in three words; fun, flirty and, most importantly, different. “I’m not afraid to push the envelope, and I really wanted to make sure to incorporate everything he wanted. [And] he kept saying he wanted it to be magical – so that was what I was going for and I think we nailed it!” says Nina.
The duo exchanged “I do’s” in a lavishly-luxe wedding at Houston’s posh Chateau Cocomar venue. In true royal fashion, the bride wore an opulent ball gown adorned in delicate flowers. While the groom, who made headlines for his wedding day regal wear, donned a diamond-encrusted crown and cape suited for a king. Fittingly, the Versailles-inspired venue also played host to a number of guests, including Ciara and now-husband, Russell Wilson, Earl’s Seahawks teammate, and other NFL stars.
Several special elements were also incorporated into the Thomas’ royal ceremony, beginning with their beautiful daughter, Kaleigh Rose as the day’s flower girl. Next, a second-line band was used to kick off the reception and pay homage to Nina’s NOLA roots. And as a way to posthumously include lost loved ones in their wedding, Nina surprised Earl with a short slideshow that included all the family members that the pair would’ve wanted present. Lastly, inspired by movies, other brides and Beyoncé’s “Formation”, Nina choreographed (with a little help from her girls) a surprise wedding dance for Earl with her bridesmaids.
On their wedding day, Nina’s love for Earl came full circle. “From kids, to adults with a child of our own, I enjoy seeing him in all his different lights. From the outside looking in, he’s a bit of an onion; you have to peel back his layers to get to know him. And I think I may be one of the only people that knows his core, and I love it,” says Nina.
Bride & Groom: Nina Baham-Heisser & Earl Thomas
Wedding Date: 4/16/16
Wedding location: Chateau Cocomar in Houston, TX
Favorite menu item: Chicken and waffles
Wedding cake flavors: Red Velvet, Salted Caramel, Strawberry
Mother/Son & Father/Daughter dance song: “I’ll Be There” by Jackson 5
Memories: One of the most special moments to me was sitting in the back waiting to walk (to the altar) and hearing the song my husband chose to walk to (“Ready For Love” by India Arie). It gave me chills knowing that he was ready for love waiting for me to meet him at the altar. Also, all of our guests were so surprised when Anthony Hamilton performed. He did an amazing job!
Help a Bride-to-be out: “My advice for all future brides is to have fun! This is going to be the most amazing journey of your life! Being in the moment and having fun was my saving grace. Don’t sweat the things you can’t control. Things will happen, but just keep an open mind and know that everything will work out; and at the end of it all, you will be joined as one with the man of your dreams. The whole planning process was so much fun to me, because I love a project and this was my most important project to date. I have to thank my amazing planner, who I had just as much fun with, and who made everything so effortless and gorgeous! So ladies don’t worry – BE HAPPY, you’re getting married!” – Nina
Bride’s dress: Ysa Makino
Bride’s shoes: Sergio Rossi
Bridesmaids dresses: Jim Hjelm
Cakes/desserts: Tiffany Cook & Jackson Catering (collaboration)
Catering: Jackson & Company
Ceremony & reception venue: Chateau Cocomar
Custom jerseys (for girls dance number): Diamond Duchess Leah Miller
Event decor/design: Tiffany Cook, Tiffany Cook Events
Entertainment: DJ Mr Rogers
Event planner: Tiffany Cook, Tiffany Cook Events
Florals: Tiffany Cook, Tiffany Cook Events
Hair: Shassity Stevenson, Middy Morrell, Leila Hayward, & Jerome Richard
Lighting: Tiffany Cook Events, Tiffany Cook Events
Linens: Tiffany Cook, Tiffany Cook Events
Makeup: Chelsey Baptiste, Saffire Cherry & JeTara
Photography: Unique Design Studios
Recording artist performance: Anthony Hamilton
Stationery: Sandi Spells
Videography: Prime Design Films