Six-Inch Heels and Custom Cappuccinos: Soccer Star Julie Johnston on Her Wedding with NFL Player Zach Ertz
"We wanted pops of just us, not just a typical wedding," the bride, now known as Julie Ertz, tells PEOPLE
So along with her father walking her down the aisle, dining and dancing, the day included a flower girl and ring bearer decked out in the couple’s sports jerseys, a cake topper and cappuccinos embossed with footballs and soccer balls and an after-party stocked with the pair’s favorite candy, Justin’s peanut butter cups.
“We wanted pops of just us, not just a typical wedding,” the bride, who now goes by Julie Ertz, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview.
The couple tied the knot at an outdoor ceremony on March 26 at the Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara, California.
“It was definitely a dream come true,” says Ertz, squeezing in time for a phone call from her honeymoon in Hawaii. “It was beautiful, perfect.”
Well, almost perfect. As the wedding party was getting ready, all the hair dryers, curling irons and other hair tools plugged in at the same time blew a fuse, rendering the room powerless. But things were quickly back on track and the rest of the day went off without a hitch, she says.
Ertz, who turns 25 on April 6, wore a backless lace gown with a sweetheart neckline by Katie May. She accentuated her long blonde hair, styled in beachy waves, with a veil custom-made by Zach’s godmother that extended past the gown’s train during the ceremony before switching to a shorter version afterward.
Ertz, at 5-foot-7, finished off the look with 6-inch heels to reach her 6-foot-6 groom, a tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles. “I didn’t want to go completely on my toes for our first kiss,” she said.
Her sister Melanie was her maid of honor. Two friends each from elementary school, middle school and college served as bridesmaids. The groomsmen for Zach, 26, were his three brothers, two middle school buddies, his high school strength coach Dave Spitz and Eagles Tight End Trey Burton.
Other Eagles players attended the nuptials as well, as did several of Julie’s Chicago Red Stars and National Women’s Soccer League teammates Christen Press, Alyssa Naeher, Sofia Huerta and Jen Hoy.
Guests dined on crabcakes, filet mignon and sea bass then dug into a 5-tier wedding cake with layers of chocolate, vanilla, raspberry and edible confetti. The newlyweds’ first dance was to an acoustic version of Sam Smith’s “Latch,” which she says is the first song she sent to Ertz when they began dating.
Ertz says she was nervous a week before the big day but that turned to excitement on the big day, and she made a concerted effort to slow down and soak in the whole experience. “I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss a moment,” she says. “It just felt so right.”
After their honeymoon in Kauai and the Big Island—the pro athletes are working out daily in between snorkeling and luaus—the couple are getting back to work with Julie returning for a match and Zach suiting up for training and practices.
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“Putting on the new jersey will be a really special moment,” she says of her new uniform which now will have “Ertz” on the back. She’s also looking to make a repeat appearance at the Olympics with the national team after suffering a “devastating” loss to Sweden at the 2016 Rio Games.
“It didn’t go as planned, but I learned so much from it,” Ertz says. “Those are the moments that help you grow.”
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