Mercedes + Davide | Traditional Mexican-Italian Baltimore Wedding

Mercedes and Davide, both first-generation Americans, incorporated many family traditions into their wedding day to create a unique celebration of culture and festivity. 

Their respect and love for the dignity of the marriage sacrament is evident in their story, as they learn to listen to God’s will and find harmony in their different temperaments. In the end, Mercedes reflects that they are not isolated in their vocation; they are surrounded by the love of family, friends, and the eternal communion of saints.

From the Groom: Mercedes and I met in June 2015 as we walked with our young adult group to a pub in downtown Baltimore. It was after evening Mass on a Sunday. Our first glance was filled with charm, and our first chat was intriguing, because an introspective and cautious introvert (me) was attracted to an outgoing, enthusiastic extrovert (Mercedes). 

On our first few dates, I learned we had both been brought up as first-generation Americans, and we shared a similar family structure. We both lived lives that spanned two cultures, and that helped us feel uniquely and mutually attracted.

I began to realize, however, that we communicated in very different ways. I started to feel the first fire of attraction die down within me, especially when I felt confused and unable to express myself adequately. But in empathy, true love, and hope, we listened to the voice of God and found ways to understand each other in communication. We came to appreciate each other's humanity and unique traits, and from the day we met, our appreciation and admiration of one another has steadily grown.

I tell Mercedes all the time that I was ready to marry her in October of 2017 when I was in search of a ring. Instead, I proposed in March of 2018 on the grounds of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Fallingwater, after five months of preparation and prayer. That day, we declared our love for each other and our willingness to pursue marriage.

We were overjoyed to call and notify family about our engagement, and they have certainly helped support our relationship. Yet our relationship with God, the author of marriage, was always very important. Through prayer and the sacraments, Gold keeps our marriage holy and stable. In addition, our love and empathy for each other provides fuel for us as we move forward in Christ.

Mercedes and I believe deeply in the sacramental institution of marriage. This was clear as we recited our vows during our nuptial Mass, which closely reflect the "three matrimonial goods" described by St. Thomas Aquinas: to be open to children and raising them in the Catholic Church, to be faithful and always act in the best interest of our spouse, and to create a new spiritual unity with each other through God's grace.

From the Bride: Dave showed me he was a thoughtful, patient, generous, and dedicated man from the moment we met. When I knew he was the one I wanted to marry, I also knew I would most likely have to move wherever he got a job. Along with two friends, we started to pray for the intercession of St. Joseph in our lives. We were all discerning marriage in addition to career changes in order to be closer to our future spouses. While things didn’t move terribly fast, we are all happily married now and in good jobs. 

Dave proposed on March 10, the day the novena to St. Joseph began (unbeknownst to him), and my women’s bible study hosted a surprise engagement party for us on his feast day. Even though we don’t have a special devotion to St Joseph in our marriage, I know he is a steadfast guide and counselor in our vocation, and I have a special place for him in my heart.

Living in Baltimore, we found community and spiritual nourishment at the local parish, Saints Philip and James Catholic Church, which is run by the Dominican friars. We were blessed to have attended multiple weddings for dear friends there, and knew that once we moved to Philadelphia, Baltimore would still be the place we wanted to get married. 

The lovely mosaics, tall stained glass windows, and high-arched ceilings made the church breathtakingly beautiful and helped make Mass the focal point of the day. Elizabeth, our photographer, captured some of my favorite elements, such as the large crucifix by the Marian shrine and the dome over the altar. It was special to share this church with so many friends and family who traveled for our wedding day.

Looking back, the nuptial Mass was my favorite part. It felt like it was just Dave, myself, and the priest for most of the ceremony, especially during the consecration, because we had kneelers facing the altar directly.

We recently attended another wedding at Saints Philip and James parish, and hearing them make the same vows on the same altar was a powerful reminder that our marriage is supported by the whole Church. We made our vows along with thousands of other Catholics striving for holiness in this vocation.

Dave and I chose to incorporate a variety of traditions into our wedding. In addition to wearing my mom’s wedding gown and veil, which my aunt helped modify, I wore jewelry that belonged to my grandmother and carried my great-grandmother’s rosary around my bouquet. My matron-of-honor carried this same rosary around her bouquet at her wedding as her “something borrowed”. 

During the wedding Mass, we were joined under a wedding lazo (lasso), a traditional practice in Mexico and many other Spanish-speaking countries. It symbolizes the unity of husband and wife under the protection of the Church and their joint responsibility in living out their vows. We were blessed to use the same lazo my parents had at their wedding almost thirty years ago.

At our reception, we served Italian confetti at the dessert table, which is sugar or chocolate-coated almonds with various flavors. On a recent trip to visit family in Italy, Dave and I picked out bomboniere (wedding favors) with his mother. We selected wooden trivets that looked like potted flowers which can be displayed on a small stand. There were so many that it almost filled an entire room in their basement! My aunt also brought traditional papel picado (decorative tissue paper) from Mexico, which she customized with our names and other expressions of love. Altogether, they made our reception venue beautiful.

Looking back, our entire wedding day was filled with the love and support of so many people. Many of our family members flew in from abroad, and we know our grandmothers who live abroad (two who are 93 and one who is 88) made the greatest effort to be present that day. My mother and mother-in-law dedicated themselves for many months to make the wedding beautiful and helped with every aspect of planning. My father gave a beautiful speech in three languages that made several guests cry! My cousins helped as day-of coordinators and brought fun accessories for the dance floor. 

Our group of Catholic friends from Baltimore curated a prayer calendar for us, which now hangs in our kitchen as a reminder that we have people praying for us. They offered us sage advice, joyful encouragement, and gladly partook in the ceremony as readers and ushers. Our florist, Emma, is a close family friend who owns an amazing floral design company in the city. She was able to source giant coral peonies for my bouquet, and the colorful bouquets and centerpieces were everything I dreamed they would be. Elizabeth, our photographer, was a connection through the Catholic community in Baltimore and has captured meaningful moments for many close friends. 

In some way or another, loved ones gave of their time and talent, and it moved us deeply. We had so many guests that we struggled to make our way to every table during the reception. Everywhere I turned, there was another face who was there not just for the wedding day, but to give us love and support for our future as a married couple. I ran around giving hugs and high-fives and dragging people to the dance floor, and I still feel the joy to this day.

I knew I could never marry someone who didn’t love the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” The main character, Toula, comes from a loud, crazy family that yells over each other, cooks big meals, and throws great parties. In many ways her Greek immigrant family resembled my Mexican family and the group of friends I grew up with. Additionally, Dave’s Italian family certainly knows how to feed large amounts of people and bring family together for big celebrations. 

Growing up, I loved this movie, and I always imagined my wedding day would be something like it: a dizzying day full of tradition, love, big families, and intense emotions. It is safe to say our wedding was very much like that. And even now, some nights before bed, I look at our wedding photos framed on the wall, turn to Dave, and quote one of the last lines Toula says in the movie: “Sometimes I’m afraid that it didn’t happen…but it did happen! It did!”

Likewise, the greatest takeaway from our wedding is that we did not enter into this sacrament in isolation. 

Just as we were able to incorporate family, cultural traditions, and heirlooms into our celebration, the nuptial Mass itself included readings and vows that are used by many other Catholic couples. We were blessed to enter into marriage surrounded by family and friends, and we are reminded through their love and support that we are supported by the universal Church and the community of saints, who desire fruitfulness and holiness in our marriage.

Photography: Elizabeth M. Photo | Church: SS. Philip an James Catholic Church, Baltimore MD | Reception Venue: The American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore MD | Flowers: Steelcut Flower Co. | Catering: Zeffert and Gold | Cake: Sugar Bakers Cakes | Stationary: Printed with Catprint | Hair and Makeup: Heather from Brushed Beauty LLC | Bridesmaids Dresses: Revelry | Necklace: The Little Catholic | Rings: Brilliant Earth and Robbin’s Diamonds  | Suit: Men’s Warehouse (Calvin Klein) | Ties and Pocket Squares: The Tie Bar | Bride's Dress: mother's dress