On Nov. 5, 2011, Puerto Rico-based couple Melissa Viso and José Andrés del Cueto invited 250 guests to a glamorous destination wedding in New York City. The reception, held at the legendary Plaza Hotel, was preceded by a Catholic ceremony at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
Melissa wore a strapless Marchesa wedding dress with a pearl-embroidered bodice and a tulle overlay skirt that created the effect of a long, flowing train. "My Marchesa gown was the only dress I tried on. It made me feel like a bride, but still like myself," she says. She accessorized with a Marchesa clutch and her mother's diamond-and-emerald earrings, and she carried a lily-of-the-valley bouquet inspired by the one Grace Kelly carried to wed Prince Rainier III of Monaco. The groom wore a tuxedo by Ermenegildo Zegna, and accessorized with a rosebud-and-stephanotis boutonniere.
Melissa and José Andrés wed in sight of two towering arrangements of French tulips, garden roses, and camellia branches. "The church is so magnificent, we only put flowers on the altar and the door," says the bride. "It was important for us, as a couple, to find a Catholic church. St. Vincent Ferrer was not only close to the Plaza, but impressive in its unique architecture and its spiritual atmosphere."
Instead of a large wedding party, the couple had just two attendants: a best man and a maid of honor, who carried a bouquet of peonies, antique garden roses, orchids, and sweet peas down the aisle. Eight-year-old Marco, one of the bride's nephews, played the role of ring bearer, while five-year-old Matteo—another nephew—carried the traditional unity coins. The daughter of a dear family friend, seven-year-old Lia, was the flower girl. "The kids took their role very seriously and executed it flawlessly," says the bride.
Melissa was escorted down the aisle by her father. The groom's family priest, Father José Juan Cardona, officiated the ceremony. The couple recited the Catholic wedding liturgical vows.
After "I do," the guests departed the ceremony venue in private transportation to the nearby Plaza Hotel, which the couple chose for its timeless glamor. "I love Manhattan—my family has an apartment there," says Melissa of her decision to get married in the city. "And no place is more New York than the Plaza Hotel. We had to have our reception there." And though the New York City Marathon happened to fall on the same weekend, "no matter how hectic the city got, our planners and the staff at the Plaza kept everything running smoothly," the bride adds.
Van Wyck & Van Wyck transformed the Plaza's Grand Ballroom into a fantastical forest. "Our color scheme was '50 Shades of Green!'" jokes Melissa. The ballroom entrance, decorated with moss and grapevine, "felt like a secret passageway," she says. Inside, boxwood hedges lined the perimeter, faux grass carpeted the floor, and the stage curtain was hand-painted to resemble Monet's garden. "I love weeping willows, so my wedding planners, Mimi and Bronson van Wyck, turned the Plaza's ballroom into an enchanted forest—complete with a manzanilla, orchid, and creeping wild smilex 'weeping willow' installation above the head table," says the bride. Hidden inside the foliage was a gold disco ball, which dropped at midnight to signal the start of the dance party. "We wanted the wedding to feel elegant and sophisticated—but still unexpected," says the bride.
Speaking of an unexpected touch: "I couldn't bring my two dogs to the wedding, so my florists surprised me by making sculpted topiary that looked just like them," she says.
Mix-and-match tables and chairs made a big impact on the overall décor—especially the bright red bride-and-groom chairs, which Melissa says were a wonderful surprise. "Each table looked different," says Melissa. "The mix of trinkets made it look as if we'd borrowed antiques from someone's collection." A julep cup filled with blooms was placed at every seat.
When it came time for the toast, the newlyweds raised flutes of Taittinger Nocturne Sec champagne, which the bride's father chose especially for the wedding. "One of our priorities was offering an amazing wine and champagne selection," the bride says.
The dinner napkins were embroidered with the couple's monogram. "I kept them all," says Melissa. "Now I just need to throw a big party so we can use them." The meal was a three-course sit-down dinner, catered by the Plaza. For entrées, the guests could choose between lobster with citrus risotto, grilled filet mignon, and lemon branzino, "but the cheese course was my favorite part of the meal—my brother-in-law, who's French, helped select it," says the bride.
Superstar cake designer Sylvia Weinstock created a romantic buttercream wedding cake, which was covered in sugar appliqués modeled after the reception flowers. "For fun, we asked Sylvia to make the cake toppers a dancing toy ballerina and toy soldier" that look like the couple, says the bride.
As guests danced the night away to merengue, salsa, and hip-hop tunes, late-night snacks (sliders, truffle mac-and-cheese, and more) started making their way around the dance floor at 2 a.m. "Our families love to dance, so music was a big deal to us," says Melissa. "We secretly hired Grammy-winning singer Juan Luis Guerra to perform at the reception. For our first dance, he started singing a cappella offstage—then the curtain opened. Everyone rushed to the dance floor and stayed there all night!" Following a Cristal-fueled after-party, the newlyweds headed to Thailand for their two-week honeymoon.
Ceremony venue: The Church of St. Vincent Ferrer || Reception venue: The Plaza Hotel || Environmental designer and event producer (New York City): Van Wyck & Van Wyck || Planner (Puerto Rico): Special Events Concept || Stationery: Ellen Weldon Design || Cake designer: Sylvia Weinstock Cakes || Reception music: Juan Luis Guerra, followed by DJ Wolf || Bridal gown: Marchesa || Bridal salon: Mark Ingram Atelier || Hair: Garren New York || Makeup: Maysoon Faraj and Andrew Sotomayor || Groom's tuxedo: Ermenegildo Zegna || Transportation: US Coachways || Photography: Christian Oth Studio || Videography: Films by Francesco