After returning from studying abroad in Spain, Jillian Patterson had just landed her first job as an insurance agent. One day, her coworker was telling her about an annoying customer, Dennis Garcés, who always had a million questions. Later that day, Dennis came in to speak to someone about his account, and while seated with Jillian’s coworker, began asking in Spanish who the pretty new American girl was at the primarily Hispanic agency.Knowing he was unaware this “pretty American” spoke Spanish, Jillian waited for just the right moment to tell her coworker in her second language that she had a call on line one. When he heard Jillian, Dennis’ eyes got very wide. “I was embarrassed, honestly,” he laughs. But he quickly got up from his seat, walked over to Jillian and slid his business card across her desk.“I politely declined and told him he needed to be more professional,” says Jillian. But the two were fated to meet again. Two months later, Dennis returned to the agency to discuss a claim from a motorcycle accident. While reviewing his paperwork, Jillian noticed he lived in the same apartment complex as her. As he was leaving the office, she yelled, “Hey, neighbor! Can I get your number?”“You know how I was going to respond? ‘You need to be a bit more professional,’” Dennis jokes. “But I gave her the number.”Two more months went by, and Dennis and Jillian still hadn’t taken things further than exchanging numbers. Then, one night after taking a run around the block, Jillian stopped at her mailbox to check the mail just minutes before Dennis arrived to do the same – and she noticed his box was directly above hers! Taking it as a final sign to make something happen, she invited him to hang out. Hanging out turned into hanging out often, and the couple officially began dating in December of 2005. Two years later, Dennis realized he wanted to propose, but due to cultural differences, he didn’t realize he needed a diamond to do it! After a quick reality check from his mother, Dennis secured the stone from Diamonds Direct and planned to propose during a trip to his home country of Ecuador in 2007. The trip, unfortunately, got canceled, but another opportunity arose later during a family trip to the Bahamas. After nearly a week of trying to get Jillian alone long enough to pop the question, the moment finally arrived poolside when Dennis asked Jillian if she wanted to be his wife one day, just before adding, “What about now?”Jillian and Dennis wanted nothing more than to keep everyone entertained at their wedding and keep the evening moving smoothly. Guests – including Dennis’ childhood best friend who made a surprise appearance from Ecuador – were shuttled from their hotel to CenterStage@NoDa for the ceremony and reception, where they were offered sparkling water and Prosecco and listened to a Spanish guitarist as they awaited the ceremony. After, everyone mingled at a cocktail hour with passed empanadas and ceviche from Best Impressions before a curtain was pulled back to reveal the reception area with food stations, cake, dance floor and DJ.Kristyn Oborne of Tommy McCart Photography captured it all as the party kicked up their heels – Jillian’s chosen “something blue” from Mecklenburg Bridal – to a mix of salsa and hip-hop. Jillian and Dennis then provided a charter bus for the guests back to the hotel, where the evening extended long into the night at an after-party uptown. “It’s been a tough couple years,” says Jillian, whose relationship with Dennis had endured job losses and her recent diagnosis with multiple sclerosis. “It just felt so good to get married. It was more a celebration of the next couple of years.”“A new beginning,” says Dennis.
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Kristyn Oborne with Tommy McCart Photography
Continue reading real wedding stories! Up next: ‘Cultural compromise’