While visiting her college friend in Chicago one Thanksgiving Weekend, Maria Bracho felt drawn to his high school pal, Gregory Beck. Meeting during a group evening out, “I felt compelled to be a good host to her,” recounts Greg. They made plans to go to coffee just the two of them the following day. “We talked about everything from hobbies to our career goals to our mutual love of Golden Retrievers,” Maria muses. Deciding that they had too much chemistry not to pursue a relationship, the pair elected to date long distance; however, they were finally able to come together after eight months when they graduated from their respective programs and Maria moved to Chicago.

Three and a half years later on a trip to Venezuela to see her beloved family, Greg asked for their blessing to marry Maria. He decided to propose while the two were out walking their dog, George. Maria felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to see her sweetheart on one knee. “We went back to our house right after he popped the question and Greg surprised me again with a scrapbook he’d been making the last few years of our memories together,” she gushes. “It ended with a picture of the ring and the proposal date!”

Eight months of planning felt like a breeze to the bride. “There were a lot of moving parts because we decided to hold the reception at Greg’s parents’ house,” she notes. “So, I was surprised by how easy and organized everything was!” One sunny June day, the doors of the church swung open to reveal two columns of white pews adorned with clusters of lush verdure surrounding blush, yellow, and ivory blossoms. “A red runner down the aisle is commonly used in Venezuela, so that was something I really wanted,” explains the bride of the bold-hued fabric leading to the altar.

As attendees gathered in the chapel, Maria and Greg had their “first look.” The bride showed off her drop-waist, A-line gown with illusion details and floral embellishments to her handsome groom, who wore a deep blue suit. “Those few minutes when it was just him and me felt wonderful!” exclaims Maria.

Following their religious ceremony, the newlyweds exited the building behind the bridesmaids and groomsmen – all clad in coordinating navy ensembles – to take photos under the stunning bespoke floral arch that featured blossoms in shades of pink, yellow, periwinkle, and alabaster. During the wedding party’s photo session, guests made the short trip to the Beck family home for the reception.

The clear-tented backyard was filled with round tables showcasing crisp linens and centerpieces brimming with the same colorful arrangement of flowers used in the floral structure at the church. “Our vision was timeless, simple, and clean – not too much, not too little,” reveals Maria. Wooden elements could be found in the chairs, tent frame, and even the dance floor itself. “Our live band was perfect,” says the groom. “They played throughout dinner – there was even dancing between dishes!”

To satisfy any cravings for something sweet, Maria and Greg offered a four-tier cake featuring alternating layers of chocolate and vanilla with meringue, buttercream, vanilla bean, and strawberry cream fillings. Maria’s advice for engaged couples is to be direct: “During planning, make sure to mention all the ideas in your head – even if they don’t seem feasible. From there, narrow them down and pick your top priorities.”