For their October 26th, 2013, wedding, Mary Santos and David Padilla, both 29, pulled off something you don't see every day: a surprise wedding! "We joked about eloping," says Mary, "but didn't want to miss out on getting to celebrate with our friends, so this was the best of both worlds."
The couple, who met at the Men's Health Urbanathlon in 2009 ("at the beer tent!" says Mary) and got engaged on a training run as they prepared for the 2012 Louisiana Marathon, incorporated their love of long-distance races into the laid-back theme, choosing a Chicago brewery as the venue. "Beer brought us together, so it was fitting," says the bride. They tapped their sisters to help organize their cover story, and Angela Renée was there to document as the sneaky duo pulled a fast one on their friends.
"I always knew I'd wear a mermaid-cut gown," says Mary of her Alvina Valenta gown. It was a little over-budget, but after she caved and tried it on, she fell in love. "Every dress after couldn't compare!"
A favorite detail was the gown's low back and lace straps. As a nod to David's alma mater (Michigan State University), as well as the couple's shared favorite color, Mary wore green Kate Spade earrings and satin Kelly green shoes.
For even more green, Mary carried a bouquet of succulents, hydrangeas, spider mums, and light green roses. "David sent me a replica of the bouquet for our first married Valentine's Day," says the bride.
The bridesmaids' bouquets featured white roses and hydrangeas to pop against their green dresses. "I had them pick their own knee-length dresses," says Mary. "I wanted them to be comfortable, and to have something they'd wear again!"
David wore a green knit tie and cufflinks to brighten up his navy blue suit. The groomsmen wore suits of their own choosing in black and gray, and donned green ties (and sunglasses!).
David's boutonniere featured a succulent and hypernicum berries, matching Mary's bouquet.
In order to pull of their surprise wedding, David and Mary's sisters invited guests to what they thought was a surprise engagement party for the couple. Then, a friend turned on the TV and played a video where the couple revealed that the surprise was, in fact, for their guests.
Joint invitations/programs gave all the details, telling guests where to go to see their friends say "I do." The "swim, bike, run, love" theme was a nod to the couple's love of triathlons.
"The ceremony was the first time we saw all of our guests after they found out it was our wedding day," says Mary. "It made the ceremony so much more powerful. Everyone was so excited—including David and me!"
Mary walked halfway down the aisle alone, where David met her and escorted her to the altar for the Catholic ceremony. David's brother played the guitar during the processional. "I chose 'Angels' by The XX for David and my walk down the aisle. He had no idea, and he definitely teared up a little bit," says Mary.
"I'd heard through the grapevine before the ceremony that the surprise went off without a hitch," says the bride. What a relief!
Having a surprise wedding meant Mary and David had to be extra-organized in order to keep everything a secret. "Thankfully, that made the process more fun than stressful," she says.
When they first got engaged, Mary had fallen in love with Revolution Brewing, but the venue wasn't big enough for their original guest list. "When we changed our plans to have a surprise wedding, we were able to cut down the guest list and fit in to the space. It was everything we wanted," says Mary.
Guests were greeted with an escort card display featuring their race-themed table assignments. Instead of regular numbers, the couple used distances from races, like table 26.2 (a marathon) or table 140.6 (an Ironman).
The green-and-orange color scheme paired perfectly with the venue's dark wood. Beer bottles replaced the vases, and were filled with tulips, roses, hydrangeas, and dahlias.
The couple's guest book was a bicycle heart print.
Mary's favorite part of the reception? Seeing the home-brewed beer she and David made displayed on the stage. "It was called IPAdilla," says Mary, "IPA plus Padilla, my new last name!"
On bookshelves along the wall, Mary and David made a "Meet the Maids" and "Meet the Men" display, where they framed photos and write-ups about each member of the wedding party. "Our guests loved being able to get to know everyone," she says.
The couple's cake was topped with textured chocolate frosting and a cartoon topper designed to look like the bride and groom. They're even holding tiny beers! The other favorite dessert was Revolution Brewing's beer pudding. "Because it's made with beer!" says Mary.
Guests danced late into the night, dining on beer-can chicken at dinner, then fueling the party with bacon fat popcorn. Perfect with a cold beer!
Mary and David honeymooned in Thailand before returning home to start training for their first Ironman as a couple. "Remember to do this for you, and not for anyone else," says Mary. "By changing our plans, we ended up with the wedding of our dreams."
Ceremony Venue: St. Hyacinth Basilica Chicago || Reception Venue: Revolution Brewing || Bride's Wedding Dress: Alvina Valenta, from Bella Bianca || Shoes: Nina Shoes || Jewelry: Kate Spade || Hair & Makeup: Antonette White || Florist: Ashland Addison Florist Co. || Paper Goods: Lauren Okura || Music: Ceremony - The groom's brother, Reception - Style Matters DJs || Catering & Cake: Revolution Brewing || Videography: Orange Wedding Films || Photography: Angela Renée