Infielder Rob Refsynder made his debut for the New York Yankees on July 11, 2015, but that day was topped almost exactly five months to the day later, when he married his college sweetheart. He met Monica Drake at University of Arizona through mutual friends. “[I] was not very nice to Rob at first,” the bride admits. But the two college athletes – Monica on the swim team, Rob naturally on the baseball team – managed to move past those first impressions and build a loving relationship together.

Years passed, and Rob joined Monica’s family on a Thanksgiving vacation to Riviera Maya, Mexico. “We were getting professional family photos done on the beach when it was time for ‘couple’s photos,’” explains Monica. As Rob and Monica took their photos, he whispered that he loved her and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. That’s when he got down on one knee and popped the question.

The bride grew up in Illinois, so the couple elected to host their nuptials in Chicago. The "Windy City" also made for a convenient halfway point, as Monica and Rob have friends and family on both coasts. Though the hotel chosen as their wedding venue bore no relation to the bride, the name was serendipitous. “The Drake Hotel is beautiful and [perfect for my] last celebration as Monica Drake,” muses the bride. When planning the color scheme, there were only two things that Monica was positive about: “All I really knew was that I wanted black bridesmaid dresses… And to stay away from red, so it wouldn’t feel like a ‘Christmas wedding,’” notes the bride of her mid-December wedding.

To soften their ebony gowns, the bridesmaids carried bouquets composed of roses in rich pink and creamy ivory shades. The bride chose a traditional look and held a bouquet of vanilla roses. Her stunning gown was a lace v-neck with beaded detailing and a thin belt. For the ceremony, she wore a lace top overlay with long sleeves. The cathedral veil with lace trim was the star of the bridal look, creating a dramatic entrance as Monica walked down the aisle with her father. She and Rob stood at a white curtain altar lined with roses as they exchanged vows. “Our best man’s father married us,” shares the bride. “That was really special for us and he did an amazing job.”

For the first dance, Monica and Rob showed off their moves instead of simply swaying to “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne. The bride and her father followed this up with a touching dance to Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl.” Guests then enjoyed a filling surf-and-turf dinner, with the truffle mashed potatoes proving to be popular. Centerpieces alternated between tables: some featured displays similar to the bridesmaids’ bouquets with added hydrangeas, while others had opulent arrangements with roses, hydrangeas, and purple orchids in clear, tall vases. The table numbers glittered with gold to match the gilt linens and chairs. The cake appeared minimalist at first glance, but the bottom tier was a dense display of frosted roses. The monogram cake topper sparkled to match the table numbers, and revelers enjoyed the delicious layers of red velvet, carrot, and white cake with chocolate frosting.

Monica advises future brides to “focus on your style, budget, and taste. Don’t let anyone else influence your decisions.” The bride followed her own advice, which contributed to a dream day that she wouldn’t change for the world.