Kalianna Carpenter and Erick Jan “EJ” Casillan are high-school sweethearts. They first met in 2011 after EJ moved to Maine from the Philippines. “Erick was not yet comfortable speaking much English, so he was a pretty quiet guy,” Kalianna remembers. “But, something about him really intrigued me and I couldn’t get him out of my head! We started dating and the rest is history.” They got engaged at a Fourth of July party in 2017. “It was a magical and unexpected moment.”
Together, the Houston-based duo lives life out loud, to say the least. (Kalianna is a digital content creator known for her rainbow ensembles and vibrant personality to match.) So, it only makes sense that they would do things their own way when it came to wedding planning.
“We wanted something that really represented our love,” Kalianna says. “Something fun, spontaneous, and under the Las Vegas glittering lights. Vegas was our home [at one time] and we knew we wanted to get married the Vegas way! We didn’t want anything too complicated or extravagant—just our close friends and family in the city we love.”
They planned quickly and left wiggle room for day-of changes. In fact, they didn’t officially book any vendors. “We went to Vegas with two different ‘venues’ in mind for the ceremony and figured we would just see once we got there. It was a very ‘fly by the seat of our pants’ wedding, and that was the best way to go for us!”
Read on to see how their elopement went down on February 23, 2022, as planned by the couple and photographed by Kennedy Johnson of Freerelief.
Kalianna and EJ got married in an unlikely locale: the top of Binion’s casino’s parking garage on Fremont Street. “The parking garage has a great view of the Vegas lights,” Kalianna says. “When Erick and I lived in Las Vegas, we would frequently drive to the top of the Binion’s garage and talk and look at the lights. It seemed like it would be the perfect full-circle moment to get married there, overlooking Fremont Street.”
Of course, that’s not officially allowed. “We had a very quick ceremony in order to evade security at the top of the parking garage,” Kalianna admits. “So, we didn’t really have anyone walk me down the aisle. We just had our family gather around us right at the beginning.” A close friend served as officiant. “We decided not to read our vows in front of the group and keep them as a special moment for ourselves. After being together for so long, it was sweet to be able to reminisce together on all the memories we have made leading up to getting married.”
There were 14 total guests, each as important as the last. “Instead of doing best people, we invited our closest friends and family and had everyone involved,” Kalianna says. “We didn’t want the pressure of big speeches and responsibilities.” They did, however, give guests one assignment: “I told everyone in the wedding group to wear something Vegas-themed. I insisted that everyone wore at least one thing that was colorful so we could have our rainbow wedding. It was so fun to see what everyone came up with! My dad was excited to be able to wear a funky fedora.”
True to her everyday style, Kalianna’s own attire was a amalgamation of all the colors. She found a hand-made layered tulle dress with a stacked rainbow design and open back from Etsy creator Inna Kalinina of Dreams Dresses. “I knew I didn’t want a traditional wedding and was stressing about what to wear, because the traditional white wedding dress just didn’t really feel like me,” she says. “My wedding dress needed to reflect my love of color and be unique to me.” She wasn’t even gown shopping when she stumbled upon the rainbow dress. “It seemed like fate that I found the dress of my dreams by accident. But, as soon as I saw it, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I knew I wanted to get married in the magical rainbow dress.”
Kalianna kept her accessories simple and “very authentic to me,” including a spoon bracelet her dad made for her years ago and a smile ring from her late stepmother, June. “It was really important to me that I had a little piece of her with me on the wedding day,” Kalianna says. “She saw Erick and I grow up together and was always such a big supporter of him and I being together.”
Tazia Pualani, who does makeup for the Las Vegas Raiderettes, created a beauty look to match Kalianna’s vibe. “I told her I wanted something that still looked like me, but had a subtle ‘Euphoria’-inspired element. We kept everything pretty subtle but [made] a statement with colored jewels around my eyes—they looked great when they caught the light!” Mermaid waves completed the look.
It has always been a dream of mine to run around Fremont Street in my wedding dress.
“After our ceremony, we all went down to Fremont Street to run around and take our wedding photos,” Kalianna says. “It has always been a dream of mine to run around Fremont Street in my wedding dress. Vegas holds such a special place in our hearts that we really wanted it to be the focus of our wedding.” Fittingly, she wore Nikes under her long gown.
“Everything about our wedding day was a perfect reflection of us as a couple; the spontaneous feel and the focus on fun really felt like us,” the bride says. “Because our families all live in different states, we don’t get many chances to get everyone together. Being able to show our friends and family the ins and outs of Vegas for the first time is something I will always cherish.”
“My mom got us a slice of rainbow cake from Carlo’s Bakery inside The Venetian, to at least have some cake if we weren’t doing a traditional [one],” Kalianna says. Then, they refueled at their favorite all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant, Oyshi.
Rather than a traditional reception, they ended the day with something as unique as their love: a zombie burlesque show. “We ended up getting called onto the stage and had to answer some very embarrassing questions in front of both of our families,” Kalianna remembers. “Erick was so set against going on stage, but our families would not let him get away. It was definitely embarrassing but also such a funny memory to end the wedding with!”