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A Puerto Vallarta Wedding That Ended with Oceanside Fireworks

By Alexandra Macon | Photography by 

Car & Mel Photography

Mark Nelson, the director of global marketing for Khiels, and Luis Perez León, a technology project manager, hit it off after being introduced by a mutual friend. “It was brief, but it was long enough to spark an interest and a few text messages,” says Mark. A few months later over Memorial Day, the two saw each other once again and spent a fun weekend together, which led to a spontaneous decision on the last day to take a trip to Puerto Rico, Luis’s hometown, just the two of them. “We spent four days traveling the island and from then on, we have only spent a handful of weekends apart,” Mark adds. That year Mark moved back to New York and nine months later Luis proposed in Paris.

The engagement was a complete surprise for Mark, who was in France for a work trip. Luis and his mother had joined him in Paris, and since it was his mother’s first time in the City of Light, the couple booked a riverboat cruise down the Seine. “We were at the top of the boat to sightsee and right when it was going by the Eiffel Tower, at the top of the hour when the light show starts, Luis proposed,” Mark remembers.

On the flight back home to New York, Luis and Mark were looking for a place to stay for an upcoming New Year’s vacation in Puerto Vallarta. They came across Villa Mandarinas, and within a month, they booked it for their wedding, too. “We both wanted a destination wedding on the water,” Mark explains. We booked the entire Villa for four days so all of our family and friends could stay there. We wanted to bring them together so that they would develop a relationship.” To help plan the event, they enlisted the help of wedding planner Kelley Kahrhoff. “She was amazing!”

As for their own wedding looks, the two grooms wanted to wear different color suits (both from Indochino) that matched their personalities: Luis went with dark blue, while Mark chose light gray. Their names and wedding date were embroidered on the inside pocket.

On October 27, 2017, Mark’s mother walked him down the aisle, followed by Luis and his parents. For their entry, the couple chose the traditional “Canon in D Major” but played by the Cinematic Film Band. “It was a beautiful day. The sun was setting, blue skies and ocean. The waves were crashing against the sea wall.” Mark recalls. “My father did an amazing job officiating the wedding—perfection. We had one reading by Luis’ best man, Terry. And when the ceremony ended, we walked out to ‘Love Will Never Do’ by Janet Jackson.”

After the ceremony wrapped, the newlyweds and their guests headed for a cocktail hour accompanied by a guitar and vocalist by a pool overlooking the ocean. From there, they walked one flight up to an al fresco dinner, where a long table which sat all 65 guests awaited. There were toasts by Mark, his best men, and Luis’s best man, and after dinner Mark and Luis had their first dance to “How Would You Feel” by Ed Sheeran. The two then danced with each of their moms, and in a sweet moment, half way through “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, the two switched moms. “It all ended with a firework display!” he says.

Of course, cake cutting and late night dancing followed, and the next day, the couple rented a party boat called the Chica Locca that took everyone out to the sea for a day of snorkeling, kayaking, and drinks. But their favorite moment remains that first dance as a married couple. “The first dance with my husband surrounded by friend and fireworks lighting up the sky was special,” Luis says. “We imagined and planned this weekend together. It was a product of our love and we were able to share that with our family and closest friends.”