by Lisa Dukart
Photography by Rebecca Yale Photography
When Wilmington, Delaware, native and Olympic gold medalist Elena Delle Donne began her WNBA career in 2013 with the Chicago Sky, finding love probably wasn’t high on her list of priorities. But her best friend, who was then working as her assistant, soon pushed love to the forefront and, with a little help, introduced her to Amanda Clifton.
The pair hit it off quickly, first having a casual dinner with the friends who introduced them, and then having a second date at a nearby dog beach. “We both have a dog and we for sure hit it off on that date,” says Elena, a University of Delaware and Ursuline Academy alum, who currently plays for the Washington Mystics. “From there, it kind of took off.”
Their dogs—and that dog beach—would prove significant for the couple. Three years after first meeting, both knew they wanted to get engaged and each wanted a proposal. Determined to surprise Elena, Amanda popped the question first. On June 2, 2016, she asked Elena if she wanted to take their dogs, Rasta and Wrigley, to the dog beach. Planned for the middle of the day, the beach was fairly empty.
“We went to the place where we had our first date and she found a way to get the ring around Wrigley’s collar and somehow got me to look at the collar,” says Elena. “I was completely shocked.”
That was exactly what Amanda was going for. “I wanted to make sure it was a secret and a huge surprise,” she says. Keeping it secret—and ensuring the ring didn’t get lost in the process—proved a bit nerve-wracking. Amanda waited until the dogs had run around a bit before slipping the ring on Wrigley’s collar. “Everything just unfolded so perfectly,” Amanda recalls.
On July 6, 2016, Elena reciprocated the surprise, proposing to Amanda at their Chicago home. “I knew it wasn’t going to be as big of a surprise because we were already engaged,” says Elena, who still wanted to make it equally special. “I prepared an eight-course dinner that incorporated all our favorite foods from our relationship and made collages of different experiences throughout our relationship. For dessert, I dressed up her dog, Rasta, in a wedding gown, and I made a sign that said, ‘Marry me.’”
The surprises didn’t end there, though. In February 2017, they were named the Knot’s Dream Wedding Couple. “We were excited,” says Elena. “It was a great opportunity to have the best planning company to plan our dream wedding.” Every element of their Nov. 3, 2017 wedding was curated to perfection. “We’re fortunate to be offered the opportunity and to be the [Knot Dreaming Wedding Couple’s] first same-sex couple,” adds Amanda. “It’s an honor.”
The brides worked with Brooklyn, N.Y.-based event planning company Jove Meyer Events. Though they didn’t have a theme in mind, Elena and Amanda had a style and vibe they wanted to emulate. “We wanted it to be elegant and classy, lots of white with flowers,” says Elena.
That’s exactly what they got. The pair said their vows in an outdoor ceremony at Hempstead House at Sands Point Preserve on Long Island, with 200 friends, family members and teammates present. The brides were surrounded by seven bridesmaids each, including Lizzy, Elena’s older sister. Both the aisle and the arch they were married under gave off an ethereal vibe, ensconced in hundreds of white flowers and greenery.
The reception followed inside Hempstead House where Elena and Amanda swapped their ceremony gowns for chic separates, all the easier to dance in. “We wanted it to be an awesome party,” says Elena, who wanted the focus to be on great music and food.
“Intertwining her friends and family with mine, and being together in one room, and having a fun party with good people, music and food, and just enjoying the night,” were among the best parts, says Amanda.
The couple skipped a first dance in place of a dual father-daughter dance to Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be In My Heart,” and later cut into a massive 11-tiered cake, which stood nearly as tall as Elena, at over 6 feet.
The last surprise of the night was when the Knot revealed the destination of Elena and Amanda’s honeymoon, which had them packing their bags for Tahiti, fulfilling Elena’s hope that it would be somewhere warm.
CEREMONY AND RECEPTION: Hempstead House
PLANNER: Jove Meyer Events
ELENA’S DRESSES: Ceremony, Matthew Christopher; Reception, BHLDN
AMANDA’S DRESSES: Ceremony, Pronovias; Reception, BHLDN
MAKEUP: Kristina Ruggerio Cosmetics
FLOWERS: Mimosa Floral
BRIDESMAIDS’ DRESSES: BHLDN
BRIDESMAIDS’ HAIR AND MAKEUP: Beautini
CATERER: Philip Stone Caterers
CAKE: Nine Cakes
VIDEOGRAPHY: McKenzie Miller Films
CEREMONY ENTERTAINMENT: Vitamin String Quartet
RECEPTION ENTERTAINMENT: Element Music