After Carla and Cliff met briefly during a presentation at his school one night, a mutual friend, Kristina, began plotting a way to bring the two together again. It took a year, but Cliff finally hosted a housewarming party at his new apartment, and Kristina took that opportunity to bring Carla along for another meeting. “From the minute Carla walked into the party, we were basically inseparable,” Cliff says.
Being a “numbers nerd” by his own admission, Cliff noted this second meeting to fall on the auspicious 9/10/11, so it was only appropriate that he chose 10/11/12 to pop the question at Hawker Fare in Oakland, the same restaurant they enjoyed on their first date. Remembers Carla, “As dinner proceeded, Cliff became more and more quiet; for those who know him, this was very unusual.” And because there wasn’t talking, the couple ended up finishing dinner in less than an hour. After driving home and getting ready for bed, Cliff asked Carla if she was willing to let him test out a math literacy worksheet that he had created for his students. Though she begrudgingly accepted, it was immediately clear something was up as the questions were all about their relationship. When she came to the last question, Cliff told her to go to the dresser and pull out a little black box from behind her jewelry box. “I went over with her, took the box from her hand and proceeded to tell her how much I loved her, admired her and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.”
When planning the wedding, the couple wanted the main focus to be on the fact that they were building a life together, not just hosting a party. “It was very important to us that the people in attendance were a part of our community as a couple,” they say. “In the same vein, we wanted Kristina to officiate our wedding since she was so instrumental in bringing the two of us together.”
Initially, they hoped to incorporate both of their cultures into the day—Cliff is Chinese and Carla is Greek and Portuguese—but as they continued to plan, the task became more difficult. They instead decided to host a Chinese banquet for rehearsal dinner guests as a way to honor Cliff’s family and their traditions.
Carla asked both her parents to walk her down the aisle. “It was really important for me to honor them both,” she says.
“As the music started, I had this sense of calm come over me and all I wanted was to be standing with Cliff. I’ll never forget that feeling and how happy I was in the moment,” the bride remembers.
The couple both wrote their own ceremony and vows to ensure the day was truly reflective of them as a couple. “Cliff ended up changing his vows the day of, and they were just as or even more amazing than the ones he had already shared,” says Carla. “We each gave each other an envelope with our vows handwritten so that we could go back to them whenever we wanted.”
Barn doors opened to the reception with Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s “Crazy in Love” blasting, sweeping guests into an evening of love, dancing and fun. One of the most memorable moments from the reception was Cliff’s performance of Justin Timberlake’s “Until the End of Time” and Drake and Rihanna’s “Take Care” to Carla in front of everybody. Remembers the bride, “All of our guests loved watching Cliff and were so impressed with his skills.”