Real Wedding: Ciera and Mario at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino

December 17, 2015

When Mario, a native of Puerto Rico, and Ciera, a half-Puertorican Milwaukeean, met while working at Discovery World, they clicked instantly. When the time came for wedding bells, the couple had originally planned a destination wedding. Because he knew Ciera’s family wouldn’t be able to make the trip, Mario planned a proposal that included the whole gang on Thanksgiving Day. “My mom said she had a gift for Mario and I, and that we had to wait outside while they brought it in from the garage,” Ciera says. “I had no clue what was really going on. My mom came out with two blindfolds. When she led me to the living room and took off the blindfold, the room was filled with balloons and pictures of Mario and me. A slide show started playing, and Mario came up behind me and proposed.”

Though Mario and Ciera didn’t have their destination wedding, they did host a fabulous ceremony and reception at a Milwaukee destination: Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. “We lucked out with Potawatomi being almost entirely a one-stop-shop. We got ready in wonderful rooms, and the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception were all right there — even brunch the next day. They handled the food, made the cake, and let us take their shuttle to our photo location. The staff was amazing and accommodating. The facility is beautiful and new with floor-to-ceiling windows. Our guests had the best time.”

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Ciera found her dress at Amelishan, where she had a lovely experience: “They have awesome pedestals and a seating area that make you feel like their only priority. I love love love my gown!” Mario’s formal wear came from Mens Wearhouse where, he says, “the tailoring and quality are definitely worth it.” On the day of the wedding, the couple took all of their photos before the ceremony. “We had a first look, which was a very special, private moment that I highly recommend,” Ciera says. “We did our photos before the ceremony so we weren’t rushed and were able start each event one after another without breaks. David, our photographer from George Street Photography, showed up early and was great! He worked well with all of us and got the shots I really wanted.”

Mario and Ciera wanted a timeless feel without any particular theme. “Instead we made it ‘us’ in the details,” Ciera says. “I wrote the ceremony, we wrote our own vows, and we had a friend marry us. We didn’t want to conform to a normal wedding — we just wanted to do what we felt made sense for us.” Mario has two children, so the couple included them in the ceremony as well. “We said a few words to them, exchanged bracelets with our last name and the date we become a family, and made a promise to each other.” The short ceremony ended with a champagne toast (guests picked up a flute of champagne on their way in), and friends of the bride and groom provided music. “One of my favorite parts was walking up the aisle, a married lady, listening to our friends sing one of our songs — ‘I Choose You.’ by Sara Bareilles.”

Mario and Ciera had a beautiful night for their reception, with their guests moving in and out of the adjoining patio. Like they said before, Potawatomi was a one-stop-shop, including all of their catering needs: For appetizers, there were hand-passed crab cakes, shaved beef tenderloin, and chicken satay. Dinner consisted of a mixed-green salad followed by roasted bone-in chicken or pork chops with cherry balsamic glaze. There were three options for cake: Vanilla bean chiffon with raspberries, double chocolate buttermilk cake with chocolate and hazelnut mousse, or cheesecake with vanilla buttercream and strawberries. “We couldn’t afford an open bar,” the couple says, “but we hosted our favorite beer, Spotted Cow, plus Miller Lite and non-alcoholic drinks.”

To really make the day their own, Ciera and Mario included lots of DIY projects and special touches. With her previous floral experience, Ciera even did the flower arrangements herself! “It’s worth the savings,” she says, “but I wouldn’t recommend doing it if you don’t have experience.” Ciera and her mom collaborated on the save the dates — Ciera’s “favorite by far.” Her mom is a talented baker and made cookies with the date for the bridal shower, the wedding, and an M and C. “We took a photo for the save-the-date card, had them printed, put each in a bakery box with the cookies, and hand delivered each one to announce our engagement. I made sure each and every experience that came with our wedding was a great one.”

At the reception, the special touches continued. Ciera says: “Mario loves basketball, so we did a starting lineup for our grand march, which was super fun and full of energy. Instead of a bouquet and garter toss, we had a generation dance and I gave my bouquet to the longest-married couple. Instead of a one-sided head table, we had our party sit on both sides so it wasn’t awkward. The DJs from Music in Motion played a mix of oldies, current, and Spanish for an array of dancing that was super fun and included everyone. We had a photo booth from ShutterBooth, and our guests had so much fun with it — there was a line the whole night! I love the photo book they give you at the end of the night with everyone’s photos.”

Looking back on the day, Ciera and Mario say that all of these good memories will stay with them more than any hiccups. “Despite things like a bridesmaid’s zipper not working and having to sew her into the dress, having to hot glue a shoe, and last minute changes, the day was perfect.” Ciera’s advice to future brides: “Stick with your vision and try not to add or do everything. Don’t feel pressured to plan what you think a wedding is supposed to be, but rather plan what YOU think a wedding should be. Don’t worry if some things don’t go according to plan — that’s when the best things and funniest stories happen.”

Bachelor/Bachelorette Party~Rented cabin in Wisconsin Dells
Invitations~Handmade by Bride and Groom
Wedding Location~Potawatomi Hotel & Casino
Music/Entertainment~Muzic in Motion
Transportation~Potawatomi Hotel Shuttle
Photographer~George Street Photography
Dress Designer~Morilee from Amelishan Bridal
Formal Wear~Men’s Wearhouse
Rings~Shaws/Kays Jeweler
Photo Booth~ShutterBooth
Makeup~Hnubhli Designs
Honeymoon~The Grand Melia in Rio Grande Puerto Rico

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