Early on in her wedding planning journey, Jenna Johnson knew she'd be choreographing a very important first dance. Just not the one everyone expected.
Despite their having met on Dancing With the Stars, "All I wanted to do was slow dance with my husband," she explained to People of choosing to simply sway with fellow pro Val Chmerkovskiy at their April 13, 2019 vows. "I'm sure many people expected a produced dance, but we wanted to keep it genuine and real."
So she decided to save the theatrics for dad Curt Johnson.
The plan first sprang to mind not long after Val's June 2018 proposal. Back home in Utah showing off her new cushion-cut diamond, she was chatting with her father when his favorite song "Uptown Funk" came on. "I kind of looked at him and was like, 'Could you imagine if we did this?'" she recalled to Brides. "He laughed and brushed it off and didn't think it was a real thing."
Which is how the usually reserved father of five found himself transitioning mid-number from Frank Sinatra's "The Way You Look Tonight" to a sunglass-wearing, Mark Ronson- and Bruno Mars-powered, Jenna-choreographed, full-on routine that shocked and delighted the gathered 200 guests, including the groom himself.
"Everyone just started cheering and freaking out," Jenna shared of the moment that almost didn't happen, her father nearly backing out just minutes before the reception. "Val, like, stood up so confused. He had no idea what was going on. It was amazing!"
An apt word for the entire day, really.
Val having already pulled off the Venetian proposal he had dreamed about after he visited Italy at age 17 ("I promised myself then that the next time I would come back to Venice was to propose to the woman I'd want to spend the rest of my life with," he told People. "Fifteen years later I kept my word"), the couple decided to lean hard into romance for their actual wedding.
After walking down the petal-strewn island to the sounds of a string quartet in her long-sleeve Vera Wang, So You Think You Can Dance finalist Jenna, 29, wed her Brooks Brothers-clad groom, 37, under a chuppah covered in all manner of white blooms— tibet roses, ranunculus, lisianthus, garden roses, peonies—the Pacific Ocean serving as backdrop.
With the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palo Verdes, Calif., providing the views, the couple supplied the emotion, exchanging self-penned vows and matching rose gold Jacob & Co. wedding bands in a ceremony that, as Jenna put it, "incorporated a few meaningful traditions," from each of their families.
And, of course, both sides brought the moves.
Following a dinner of braised short rib and dill crusted salmon, wilted baby kale and parmesan mashed potatoes, the spouses delighted each other with their carefully crafted surprises—Jenna putting together that dance with her dad during a pre-wedding trip home to Utah and Val coming with his own unexpected performance.
Though the newlyweds' first dance to Michael Bublé's version of "La Vie en Rose" was, as they'd hoped, largely unscripted ("We wanted this to be in the moment, special for the two of us, and we just wanted to be real humans and not dancers," she explained to Brides), Val did add his own surprise interlude, breaking into a violin serenade mid-song.
"I hadn't ever heard him practice this or anything in the house so it was a shock to me," Jenna raved to Brides of her Ukranian-born groom. "That was really special and kind of made our first dance memorable forever for me."
With the floor officially open, Los Angeles-based Eli's Band launched into their live set of classic hits, hip-hop and salsa tunes hand-picked by the duo. Noted Jenna, who changed into a cap-sleeve dress designed by Tony Ward for Kleinfeld Bridal for the reception, "We kind of went through with them and told them our favorite styles of music and what we wanted the guests to enjoy."
And with a guest list heavy on Dancing With the Stars alum—naturally Val's older brother Maksim Chmerkovskiy served as best man while Jenna had former partner Adam Rippon and fellow pro Lindsay Arnold at her side—the crowd didn't disappoint.
The series' pros—Hayley Erbert, Witney Carson, Emma Slater, Sasha Farber, Mark Ballas, Cheryl Burke, Alan Bersten, Artem Chigvintsev and Brandon Armstrong—and the couple's former partners, including Joe Amabile, Normani Kordei, Laurie Hernandez and Ginger Zee, flooded the floor as did, to Jenna's delight, her entire crew.
Recalling one of the night's highlights, she told Brides, "All of a sudden, my arm was being pulled, and it was Val. He was like, 'You have to come see this.' My whole family—my parents, my siblings, their spouses—were all on the dance floor just jamming out. My brothers are not dancers, and it was amazing to see them out there really embracing the night and dancing the night away!"
Overall the evening was filled with memories as sweet as their five-tier Vanilla Bake Shop milk chocolate hazelnut cake, with Jenna telling Brides she wishes she "could relive that day over and over again."
Though of course, with the couple welcoming son Rome in January, more indelible moments lie ahead. "My life has changed because of [her,] and I find myself to be the best version of myself that I've ever been," Val raved to People of his bride. "She's awesome."