Connect with us


Washington Commanders’ Austin Ekeler Marries Dancer Melanie Wilking in Las Vegas Wedding! (Exclusive)



NFL star Austin Ekeler is married!

The Washington Commanders running back, 28, wed dancer and TikToker Melanie Wilking on Saturday, May 25, at the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa, surrounded by 138 loved ones including a number of Ekeler’s NFL friends.

Wilking tells PEOPLE the pair chose Las Vegas because it’s their “home base” and would make for a fun, vacation-y destination for their friends and family traveling from various other states for the wedding. Their venue, she says, was “unlike any other venue we toured” during the planning process.

“The Hilton has a beautiful garden and stunning view of the lake. A lake and garden in the desert are hard to come by, so we knew this was the venue,” she notes.

The goal, Wilking says, was to throw “a fun party” and share their special day with all of their loved ones gathered together. “Living far away from our families is not always easy, so having everyone in one place was really all we wanted,” she adds.

Austin Ekeler and Melanie Wilking at their Las Vegas wedding.

Bethany Paige Photography

The couple — who worked with planner Brittany Griffor of Symphony Weddings & Events — requested that their guests wear all black. “I saw a video online of all the guests in black at a wedding and fell in love with the concept. I knew I wanted that for our big day,” Wilking explains.

“We wanted the evening to feel sophisticated and classic,” she adds of the dress code, designed to complement the wedding’s color palette which featured all-white florals and black-and-white decor.

During their ceremony, which was officiated by Bill Ekeler, Austin’s cousin and business partner, the couple recited traditional vows. They also privately exchanged vows the night before their wedding. Wilking’s wedding band ring was especially meaningful to the bride since it once belonged to her great-great-grandmother and was passed down to her by her mother.

Austin Ekeler and Melanie Wilking at their Las Vegas wedding.

Bethany Paige Photography

The bride walked down the aisle in a strapless Rivini by Rita Vinieris dress, featuring a classic A-line silhouette. “As soon as I put it on, I knew it was the one. I had my parents and grandmother with me, and seeing their faces when I walked out of the dressing room sealed the deal,” she recalls.

She and Austin opted for a very small wedding party, with the bride’s two best friends serving as flower girls. Another friend of Wilking’s, electric violinist Spags, performed during the ceremony.

In a sweet touch, the couple designated seats and placed photos on them to honor loved ones who are no longer with them — including three of Wilking’s grandparents and Austin’s late agent and best friend Cameron Weiss, who died in September. “We wanted to make sure they were all with us on our big day,” Wilking notes.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer​​, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Austin Ekeler and Melanie Wilking at their Las Vegas wedding.

Bethany Paige Photography

Following the ceremony, the newlyweds and their guests enjoyed a plated meal with a menu featuring a summer strawberry salad, orange glazed chicken, vegetables and mashed potatoes.

For dessert the couple chose a vintage-style, three-tier wedding cake with layers of vanilla and strawberry filling, chocolate with cookies-and-cream filling, and almond. “We couldn’t decide on just one,” Wilking jokes of the array of flavors.

Once the dancing kicked off, Austin and Wilking shared their first dance as husband and wife to “Take My Name” by Parmalee.

Austin Ekeler and Melanie Wilking at their Las Vegas wedding.

Bethany Paige Photography

Looking back on their wedding, Wilking says it was a perfect day: “It was everything we have ever wanted and more. To have all of our family members travel to Las Vegas to celebrate our love is something I could have only dreamed about. We are so thankful.”

The pair, who met on Instagram — Austin made the first move by sending Wilking a DM — got engaged on Aug. 24, 2023. “It was definitely the best surprise ever,” she recalls of the proposal, which took place on the top of a bluff by the ocean in Laguna Beach, California, with both of their families present to celebrate the moment with them.

The PEOPLE Puzzler crossword is here! How quickly can you solve it? Play now!

Now that they are married, the couple is looking forward to an end to their long-distance relationship after spending the past several years traveling back and forth to see each other between California, Las Vegas and — since Austin signed with the Commanders in March — Virginia.

Austin Ekeler and Melanie Wilking at their Las Vegas wedding.

Bethany Paige Photography

“This will finally be the chapter where we are doing it all together. Of course we will both have to travel in the future, but we will now call the same place home — Virginia during the season and Vegas during the off-season,” Wilking says.

They are excited to step into this new chapter of their lives together, which they hope to fill with lots of new adventures and experiences.

“Marriage to me means a partner who will always be there for you through thick and thin. It’s getting to go through life with your best friend right by your side, creating experiences and a family together,” Wilking tells PEOPLE.

Adds Austin, “It means being with a forever partner to grow and explore the adventure of life together.”

Continue Reading