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Una boda bella

By Christina Darnell | Photography by Chuck Eaton Photographers

Posted: Friday, Oct. 07, 2011

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When Paraguayan native Lorena Gimenez came to the United States as an au pair in April 2009, she planned to stay for a year. She had no idea Michael Lee would give her reason to stay forever.

Lorena had spent many years dreaming about the States – walking through Times Square and sitting on the beaches of Miami – so when she was accepted into an au pair program at 23, she didn’t hesitate. She lived with a friendly host family, worked as a nanny, and was thrilled to experience the fresh excitement offered by the South.

Almost a year after arriving, she joined her friends for a birthday party at Luna Lounge in uptown Charlotte. That night she met Michael, a kind, shy man with Southern charm. The high-decibel environment made it difficult to converse, so he invited her outside. They talked the rest of the evening, surprised by how much they enjoyed each other’s company. Though nervous, Michael asked for Lorena’s number – and a first date. That date led to many more, and though his consulting job involved traveling during the week, the couple saw each other on weekends.

Michael secretly started his hunt for the perfect ring and found it at Diamonds Direct. “After several hours there they brought one out, and I instantly thought, ‘That’s Lorena’s ring.’” His attempts at secrecy were almost successful, but Lorena could sense something was in the works. “He was acting kind of weird,” she says, smiling. “More than usual.”

He planned an extravagant date at a South Carolina winery, but his proposal plans were ruined when a stomach virus hit him unexpectedly and they were forced to stay home. “The way Lorena took care of me at that time was more than I imagined,” he says. “It proved that love, unlike infatuation, shows more strength when times are rough, rather than being limited to when times are good.”

He recovered the next day, and Lorena remembers sitting together on the couch, holding hands as they each worked on their respective laptops. She told him how much she loved sharing moments like this. He realized that although his extravagant plans fell through, this was the perfect time to ask Lorena to marry him. “Hold that thought,” he said as he jumped up to grab the ring. He returned, got down on his knee and proposed. Lorena quickly exclaimed, “Of course I will!”

With Lorena’s family in Paraguay, Michael’s mother worked hard to help with the wedding details. The couple wanted the event to be a family affair. “We did everything for the wedding,” Michael says. “The only thing we farmed out to professionals was the photography.” And Chuck Eaton proved to be a worthy investment. Lorena loves the shots he captured that special day. “He promised to take care of us,” she says, “and he did.”

Friends and family told Lorena they would take care of everything so she could enjoy time with her parents, who arrived a week before the wedding. Michael’s aunt drove 12 hours from St. Louis, her rented car full of supplies, to cater and decorate for the event. His many cousins jumped in to help also. One designed and printed the wedding programs, one sang in the ceremony and another volunteered as DJ at the reception.

The morning of the wedding, Lorena remembers walking into a room where everyone was working. “My bridesmaids, my parents, people I just met the night before, were helping with everything,” she says. “That was really precious to me.” Moved by their generosity, she walked around and thanked each person individually. “I made everybody cry.”

That evening, Lorena’s dad walked her down the aisle as tears gathered in her eyes. She remembers him pulling out a blue tissue for her – her favorite color. After the couple’s good friend and officiating pastor led them in their vows, everyone gathered at The Magnolia Room in Rock Hill to celebrate.

“Getting people on the dance floor is tough,” Michael says. “But an open bar, a good DJ and plenty of South Americans who like to dance ... I mean, it was a crowded dance floor.”

Featured vendors:

Engagement and wedding rings
Diamonds Direct SouthPark
704-532-9041
www.diamondsdirectsouthpark.com

Photography
Chuck Eaton Photographers
704-844-2993
www.chuckeaton.net

Reception location
The Magnolia Room
803-366-8226
www.magnoliaroom.com

Continue reading real wedding stories! Up next: ’Close call’

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