Almost nothing about Kayla Picciuto and Andrew Elia’s relationship has been traditional or expected.
The two spent more time casually peering at each other at a local coffee shop than they did actually dating, and they started an event entertainment business, Party Proper Productions, together at the same time they became girlfriend and boyfriend. Then they set out to become parents. As for a wedding, that really wasn’t part of the conversation.
When Ms. Picciuto, 29, and Mr. Elia, 33, married on July 17 in Santa Barbara, Calif., it was after much introspection on what a wedding means to them. Part of that discussion came from pandemic-related changes to their original plan, which included a raging dance party.
“It has been this time of deepening connection and reflecting on what really matters,” said Ms. Picciuto, who was eight months pregnant at the time of wedding. “This is amplified by this life shift that we are about to go through, so it all manifests in our wedding.”
The couple first met in 2014 at a Santa Barbara coffee shop, then called the French Press and now named Dune Coffee. At the time, Mr. Elia had a recording studio in the basement of the shop for his work as a music producer and DJ. He would often read the newspaper over coffee before heading downstairs. Ms. Picciuto was pursuing a master’s degree in global studies, with a focus on spiritual tourism, from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and regularly used the coffee shop as a place to study.
She noticed that Mr. Elia was always sitting at the corner table in the back, and one day, asked him about a book he was reading. From there, they began what became a ritual of meeting there for small talk before moving on to their respective projects. For two and half years, they were simply cappuccino buddies.
“So much of our friendship was just showing up in the morning,” Mr. Elia said.
In the next six months, their relationship began to change. Ms. Picciuto would find reasons to hang out with Mr. Elia outside the coffee shop. One trick, she said, was to order a bottle of wine at a local wine bar, then text Mr. Elia to join her since she “couldn’t drink it all.” Mr. Elia started to feel jealous when Ms. Picciuto talked about dates with other men or how she joined Bumble, the dating app. Their friends noticed that they would grocery shop together but claim they weren’t interested in dating. Ms. Picciuto even told a friend that she wanted Mr. Elia to be her future “co-parent.”
“There is no one way to do life, and we make a good team,” she said of wanting to have children with him. “I just felt like he could be the one to be my co-parent.”
Mr. Elia made the first serious move on July 7, 2017, a date they now refer to as when “he spoke the unspeakable.” Ms. Picciuto was set to travel to the Indonesian island of Bali for three months for a project related to her master’s program. Mr. Elia, who by then had strong romantic feelings, said he needed to know about them as a couple so he could make plans for the future; he was debating whether to move to Los Angeles. Ms. Picciuto admits she was terrified as she valued the intimacy and closeness of their friendship, and she wanted him as a co-parent. Would romance ruin all that? The two decided to go for it.
Ms. Picciuto did go to Bali, which resulted in three months of long-distance communication and a long flight for Mr. Elia; he flew to Tokyo to meet his new girlfriend for a two-week adventure in Japan after her program. It was there where the couple planned their future, including children. While spending the days rifling through vinyl at record stores and seeking out local coffee shops, Mr. Elia and Ms. Picciuto meditated on the values and aspects of life that mattered the most to them. A big one is togetherness. They love to bring people together. They determined that togetherness would be a driving factor in their life decisions, be that as romantic partners, business partners, or parents.
They laid out plans for their current business, Party Proper Productions, that features Mr. Elia’s DJ personality, Persian House Cat, and now, four other DJs on the roster. Ms. Picciuto paused her studies to take on the account management and marketing for the business, and when they returned to Santa Barbara, they started booking weddings and other events in January 2018.
“People are coming together to celebrate love and we can facilitate that,” Ms. Picciuto said. “Meanwhile, we are journeying together in our partnership. It was all just so exciting.”
On the trip, they also had decided they would have a baby. They found Cafe Kitsune Aoyama to be their favorite coffee shop in Tokyo. Since kitsune means “little fox” in Japanese, they joked that by 2020, they would have their own kitsune.
Ms. Picciuto said that everything seemed to fall into place. Santa Barbara saw devastating mudslides in early 2018, and the company started hosting free parties at Samba Samba, a restaurant, to bring locals together and embrace positive vibes.
The couple continued to focus on the business and putting together the house where they lived together. But on Christmas Eve 2019, Ms. Picciuto learned she was pregnant. Mr. Elia proposed on Valentine’s Day.
“There was not a ton of urgency to be married before this, but it made us say, ‘Let’s just dive in and make all the dreams happen,’” Ms. Picciuto said.
But as the couple’s invitations were mailed for a May wedding, the number of coronavirus cases skyrocketed in California, and the state went under shelter-in-place orders. It became clear, Ms. Picciuto said, that their wedding would not be happening. Disappointed but trying to think positively, the couple decided to postpone the wedding until after their baby, due in late August.
But as the crib and stroller arrived at their door, Mr. Elia and Ms. Picciuto realized that they did want to commit to one another as a couple before committing to one another as parents. In a matter of weeks, they put a deposit on two venues, one for the ceremony and the other for the reception, for a celebration with 18 guests.
“So many of our wedding ideas were centered around the party aspect but this forced us to ask, ‘What is the substance of this marriage?’” Mr. Elia said.
On July 17, in the courtyard of Hotel Californian in Santa Barbara, Ms. Picciuto walked down the aisle, a month shy of her due date, in a white dress with a rose gold duster and flower crown, alongside her father, in a blue suit and sneakers, to meet Mr. Elia. The pair’s close friend, Drew Cuddy, a Universal Life minister, officiated the laughter-filled ceremony, which was streamed on their Instagram handle for friends to watch. Three of Mr. Elia’s family members, Luke Jurow, Cyrus Elia, Scott Elia, performed as a jazz trio, with another, Ester Elia, as the vocalist. They set up a video stream to Instagram TV for friends to watch live on the social media platform.
The couple exchanged vows, filled with jokes like always stopping by the coffee shop, and sweet nods to their being “soul friends.” They also committed to their child with joint vows written for their son, Enso Wonder Picciuto Elia, a name derived from their time in Japan and Stevie Wonder, one of their favorite musicians.
From there the group walked to a patio next to the Lark, a local restaurant where Mr. Elia still performs regularly, for dinner and drinks. Restrictions meant there was no dancing, but there were speeches in front of a giant balloon installation.
“We got to define it ourselves, which is both a beautiful opportunity and terrifying because you do not have guardrails telling you these are the rules,” Ms. Picciuto said. “We are literally writing it for ourselves.”
On This Day
When July 17, 2020
Where Hotel Californian in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Name Changes Mr. Elia and Ms. Picciuto changed their legal last names to include both surnames. They will go by Picciuto Elia. “We wanted to be united as a family,” she said. Their son will also take both last names.
Togetherness “It created new ways to think about and experiment with the idea of togetherness,” Mr. Elia said of planning a wedding during the pandemic. One was to seat their families together at long tables since they hadn’t spent much time together; another was to hire videographers to share clips after the wedding.