At first, Nastia Liukin wanted to work with an on-site coordinator—after all, the venue provided the service—but she changed her mind after exchanging wedding tips with her former teammate and close friend Shawn Johnson.
“I wasn’t going to hire a planner or anything,” Liukin tells The Knot in an exclusive interview. “But she was like, ‘Let me just tell you. That’s the first thing you need.’”
The girls memorably captivated the country while competing together in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Johnson, of course, is well equipped with nuptial knowledge, after having recently planned her own wedding to Andrew East. She will also serve as a bridesmaid in Liukin’s upcoming wedding—and the girls are wearing custom Hayley Paige dresses.
“We’re doing different shades of pink in blush, and all the bridesmaids will be in different colors,” Liukin reveals. “They’re all long, but they’re going to have different tops. I wanted them to pick something that they liked and felt most comfortable in… I feel like everybody is so unique and everybody’s body types are different. I didn’t want everyone to show up and wear this pink dress in the same color and [cut]. I’m leaving it up to my bridesmaids to pick.”
Liukin also picked up another wedding tip from Johnson: She plans to have an unplugged ceremony. “I just want everybody to put their phones down and enjoy the moment,” the athlete expresses. “Shawn… did the same thing. [She and Andrew] said the same thing too. It just happens so fast. All of a sudden, the night’s over and you’re like, ‘Wait, I want to go back.’”
Liukin graduated from NYU last May, and most recently, moved into a new home in Boston with fiancé Matt Lombardi. Those two life milestones bookended a wild summer—for the first time ever, Liukin commented for NBC at the Rio Olympics, and she went on to complete a 40-city tour with USA Gymnastics. Naturally, hiring a planner to pick up the pieces was the right decision for the couple.
“With our current schedules, I won’t be back home until March 5. I don’t really have time to physically meet with the vendors,” Liukin explains at SIX:02‘s new store opening in Times Square, NYC. “[Our planner] is local to Boston too, so she’s been extremely helpful… We just had a meeting yesterday with [the team]. It’s coming together now and it’s exciting. We’ve been engaged for a while and now that it’s less than five months away, we’re almost there.”
Lombardi and Liukin first met at a mutual friend’s engagement party in New York City. “I liked him right away, but he’s super shy, so I thought he wasn’t into me or he had a girlfriend or something,” she tells The Knot. “At the end of the night, he didn’t ask for my number and he didn’t give me his number. But he was like, ‘If you’re ever around in Boston, let me know!’ And I was like, ‘Seriously? When am I ever going to be in Boston?’”
She ended up there the following weekend. “I Facebook-friended him the next morning, and our mutual friend gave him my number. We started texting, and we were back and forth until I graduated,” she recalls. In June 2015, Lombardi proposed with a gorgeous, custom-designed ring. The couple told The Knot last summer that they settled on Newport, Rhode Island, for their wedding destination.
“The water will be in the background, but it’s not on the beach. I love the beach, but I don’t want to be on the sand with my dress. I want to wear nice shoes,” she says. “We’re just trying to do personal touches here and there that are us.”
More than anything, she’s looking forward to marrying her best friend. “For so many years, 2008 was such a magical year of my life. Winning that gold medal at the Olympics… It was something I dreamed about for so many years and I was always wondering and curious, ‘Will I ever have another moment in my life that can match that or top that?’” she concludes to The Knot. “I think marrying him is going to be even greater than standing on that podium. That’s what’s exciting to me: to find somebody that motivates me and makes me happy, and that excites me. We’re excited to start a life together.”