Justine Eales and Stephen Coniglio

Justine Eales and Stephen Coniglio
(Heidi Ryder Photography)

Keeping secrets can sometimes weigh a person down. Having to sneak and hide to conceal them can be draining. But   sometimes secrets can actually be fun, exciting and even a bit thrilling, as it was for Justine Eales and Stephen Coniglio of Irvine. The pair managed to keep a juicy secret from a host of folks for more than two years — their love for each other.

It all began while the pair worked for a company that frowned on romance in the workplace. And it was a love celebrated, finally, on May 21 when the couple exchanged wedding vows in front of 90 guests inside the Fleur de Lis Wedding Chapel in Upland.

"We were able to keep our relationship a secret from upper management for nearly two years," said Eales, 26, a makeup artist. "We had so much fun. It was neat seeing my forbidden love at work and pretending nothing was happening."

Eales and Coniglio, 32, met in 2007 while employed at an upscale department store chain. She worked in the makeup department and he was a security supervisor. They hit it off, but company policy prevented Coniglio from having romantic relationships with fellow employees.

But love has a way of bending and even ignoring rules. Taking vacations together was especially risky, Eales said. 

Eventually, upper management learned of their relationship and Coniglio lost his job. Soon after, he whisked Eales to Lake Tahoe where he proposed and gave her a ½-carat ring that was worn more than 50 years ago by his grandmother, and later by his mother.

 The loss of his job proved fateful — and fortunate.

"He was hired shortly after for another security management position that he enjoys more," said Eales.
Following their wedding ceremony — where Eales walked down the aisle wearing a mermaid-style gown covered in rhinestones, lace and organza — the couple and their guests headed to the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino for a 1940s-themed reception that included the couple taxiing up in a C-47 military aircraft. 

"Before we made our entrance, the doors opened and our guests walked out to the tarmac," Eales said. "The engine was roaring and we pulled up; they opened the plane doors, a red carpet was rolled out and we exited. It was amazing."

Kim Kabar, Custom Publishing Writer