When Shannon Bernsee was first introduced to Edgar Mata through a family friend, she knew that she had met her match. “It was as if everything I dreamed had gone into one person, and out of everyone and every place in this world, we somehow met,” confides the bride. The feeling was quite mutual, and Edgar decided to make it official with an intimate proposal at the couple’s home just before a family trip to Mexico. “We wanted to take the next step in our relationship,” shares the groom, “and I wanted my relatives in León, Guanajuato to meet my future wife.”

The guest list was quite generous at 350 of the couple’s nearest and dearest, and the bride desired an intimate church ceremony. An awe-inspiring house of worship was selected, replete with restored stained glass windows and intricate spires. “The chapel was breathtaking,” Shannon recalls. The couple opted for a classic black-and-white palette with minimal outside decoration, allowing the astonishing architecture of the church to set the stage for their vow exchange.

The bride was resplendent in a confection of snowy layers. Tiny fabric flowers embellished the bodice of her gown, while ruffled detailing on the skirt added volume and whimsy. A floor-length veil contributed just the right touch of drama. Shannon carried a jewel-dotted bouquet of white roses and blush peonies wrapped in “something old” – lace from the christening blanket used in the groom’s infancy. For “something borrowed,” wedding rings belonging to Shannon’s grandmother were intertwined in the bridal bouquet, as was a locket featuring photographs of both sets grandparents. Beautiful earrings from the bride’s mother served as “something blue,” and Shannon’s sparkling, red-soled shoes (in addition to her dress) were “something new.” The groom was regally attired in a classic black tuxedo, silver compass cufflinks adding an old-world touch. Bridesmaids wore sophisticated floor-length ebony gowns; their tresses were tied back in chic chignons, and in their hands they carried petite bouquets of alabaster blossoms. Groomsmen were clad in espresso tuxes, white buds dotting their lapels.

Says the bride of the ceremony: “I will never forget how blessed I felt to actually be having that moment in my life.” The service was also of utmost significance to the groom. He shares, “The selection of the readings and music during the mass were especially important to me.” It was also of great importance to the groom that the readings be translated into Spanish for his relatives who had traveled from Mexico for the big day. Mexican wedding traditions were also incorporated into the couple’s ceremony, including the lazo and the exchange of arras brought by the groom’s family from León. The lazo (or lasso) is a large loop of rosary beads placed around the couple in a figure eight, symbolizing unity and protection. The arras, a collection of 13 wedding coins, is presented to the bride from the groom, symbolizing his commitment to take care of her and share his worldly possessions.

Following the nuptial mass, guests headed to a five-star luxury hotel on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile where the reception was held. An elegant cocktail hour featured the wedding couple’s favorite drinks, including scarlet, sugar-rimmed cocktails, plus artfully presented Mexican hors d'oeuvres. Décor included a golden bar and a towering table arrangement of gilded branches laced with orchids and adorned with strands of crystal beads. A mariachi band added to the festivities.

While the ceremony and cocktail hour featured restrained palettes, the bride desired a colorful, glamorous surprise for the reception. Accordingly, as the doors to the ballroom opened, a room festooned in a dazzling array of reds, purples, and pinks greeted guests. Lucite chiavari chairs with plum cushions encircled mirror-topped tables swathed in eggplant linens, adding glamour and gleam. Translucent chargers were crowned with purple napkins, each dotted with a red rose and menu listing the proffered feast, which included filet mignon and truffled potatoes. Towering vases held lush compositions of brilliant red and purple blossoms, including roses and hydrangeas. “I had never been to a wedding that had such beautiful arrangements,” boasts Edgar of his bride’s stunning tabletop design. Candlelight provided a romantic glow.

A multi-tiered, all-white wedding cake was bedecked with sugar flowers. “The design was inspired by my dress; very detailed,” shares the bride. Guests also enjoyed a decadent chocolate bar, adding a playful touch to the sophisticated affair.

While the details of the event were stunning and the traditions meaningful, Shannon’s wisest advice to engaged couples beautifully illustrates the most important aspect of a wedding: “Remember that the love between you and your partner is what brought you to this moment; love will carry you through it; and your love will remain when the planning and celebrating is over.”