For model Paola Ruiz Adame—who is also a teacher and writer—photo shoots are just a part of the job. So, when she got into hair and makeup and headed out onto a Monterrey rooftop for a shoot on October 31, 2020, she had no reason to believe anything was amiss.
Little did she know, her boyfriend, Mario Enrique Gamez Hernandez, had arranged the whole thing. The couple had met seven years earlier at a club in Mexico. “We had a friend in common who set us up for shots,” Paola says. “I was not into drinking and my friend ‘left to the restroom’ to leave us alone—and Mario was left with three shots.” After their first official date at a sushi restaurant, she was sure he was the one. “Everything about him was a green flag for me,” shares the bride.
Fast forward to that photo shoot where “Mario had set up everything for me to think I was working,” Paola remembers. “I was modeling on a rooftop looking at the beautiful mountains of Monterrey. When the photographer asked me to turn around to shoot a portrait, there he was on his knees popping the most important question ever. There had been a huge sun reflector covering him, but I never even thought it was weird since every time I model in exterior sites photographers use sun reflectors.” (You can see a video of the whole adorable setup on her Instagram.) “We had a surprise party at my house later that night with tears and smiles.”
When it came to wedding planning, “we wanted a beach destination wedding and everything just changed so quickly,” Paola remembers. “With the pandemic, we had to learn to let go and value the presence of the people around us.” Instead, they stuck to their hometown Monterrey, in the Mexican state of Nuevo León. As for the guest list, one thing was for certain. “I always wanted a small wedding,” she says. Although, she admits the definition of “small” is relative. “Mexican weddings are usually 600 to 800 people. Ours was 320, and I really felt I had the opportunity to be with and thank everyone invited,” notes the bride.
The goal was a wedding that was “not at all typical,” Paola says, “but very elegant, modern, and with tons of personalized items for our guests.” Almost a year to the day after Mario’s romantic proposal—October 30, 2021—the duo said “I do” in a wedding that was exactly that.
Read on to explore all the details of their big day, planned by Tere Montemayor at Elemento Tres and photographed by Paulina Bichara of Pbichara Photo.
The day before her wedding, Paola hit the spa for a full-body massage, facial, and one extra-special treatment. “It’s a very famous treatment called velo de novia, which translates to bridal veil,” she says. “It is a mixture of different creams, leaves, collagen, and moisturizer that prepares your skin and leaves it completely radiant.”
Her vision for day-of beauty was “clean, elegant, and classy,” she says. “I almost never wear makeup so I wanted something very effortless and timeless.” Her one must-have? “My favorite Pat McGrath Labs matte lip gloss.”
Her hair, however, was a different story. Paola chose four different hairstyle looks to change throughout the day, she says, beginning with a chic twisted ponytail. “My hair and makeup team have been with me for six years,” adds the bride. “We hold a very close friendship as well.”
Paola’s father stopped by while she was getting ready, and it was a memorable part of the day. “My dad and brother had a custom-made T-shirt that stated ‘I loved her first’ on the back,” Paola says. “It was a very emotional moment, since I [wrote] a letter to him and my mom expressing my gratitude for so many years of adventures, laughs, and challenges.”
Paola wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the floral lace Galia Lahav gown she ended up choosing. “This was actually very special because my dad picked my wedding dress,” she says. “It was the first one he loved and I wasn’t so convinced; I had a whole different concept in mind.” But once she slipped it on, she knew right away. “When people tell you try on all different styles, really do so!”
“My earrings were my grandmother’s wedding gift,” she says. But, she admits that not every accessory was as thoughtfully considered. “My shoes did not arrive, so we had to improvise with some my mom had at home and lent to me!”
For her nails, “we made up the color at my nail salon!” Paola says. “It was very special and a very nude-pink color combination. My mother, sister-in-law, and sister all came to do their nails with me the Wednesday before the wedding.”
Paola worked with her dress designer, Galia Lahav, on a custom accessory to complete her look. “I had my cape custom made, and worked directly with the team to make it as perfect as possible,” she says. “They were super understanding of my requests and desires, and made a gorgeous masterpiece.”
The couple’s dog, Enzo, was the guest of honor.
Groom Mario cut his hair and prepped his skin with a green tea face mask and apricot scrub, shaved, and spritzed on a dose of Creed cologne before getting dressed. He wore a custom-made Gallo Azul suit that matched his father, father-in-law, and brother-in-law’s.
Mario’s parent’s gifted him a limited-edition Panerai watch the morning of the wedding, and he wore a special chain Paola had given him for their legal wedding two months prior.
Remember it is your journey, your day. Make the most out of it.
There were countless personalized elements of their day, from the lining of Mario’s suit jacket—and his initials stitched inside—to the letters written from bride and groom to each other. Personalization, in fact, was key for them.
“One thing I really hope I knew and actually applied was to never take things personally,” Paola says. “There are so many people involved in the wedding planning process and we often wear ourselves out trying to please others. Remember it is your journey, your day. Make the most out of it; it really happens in a blink.”
Paola’s custom cape could be worn multiple ways, including as off-the-shoulder sleeves or around her neck like a dramatic scarf. “I created it to be multipurpose because I liked the idea of three dresses in one,” she says. “I started playing around with it at home; I tried it on every week at least once!” Her mom, RosaLaura, and sister, Pamela, looked equally fashionable on the big day.
As a model, Paola has worked with countless photographers—so when it came to choosing one for her wedding day, “I looked for candid moments,” she says. “I wanted everything to flow naturally without being so posed. Modeling is amazing and I try to give it my personal touch always, but for my wedding I wanted timeless and elegant pictures.” She adds: “It was definitely hard not to pose; I was used to bridal shoots but when it is YOUR day, everything changes.”
She ultimately selected Paulina Bichara of Pbichara Photo and couldn’t have been happier with the results, including a stunning portrait with her cape blowing in the wind. “The shot was Pau’s idea—I loved it.”
For her ride to the church ceremony, the bride found a sleek vintage 1938 Packard. “But 10 minutes before I had to go to the ceremony, the car decided not to work and we were unable to turn it on,” she says. “You can imagine the nervous break down we all had. My dad is so into cars and he saved the day by moving and fixing it. Thankfully, he didn’t get dirty!”
I wouldn’t change the nerves of seeing him, so handsome, standing in the altar.
“I saw my husband the traditional way, walking down the aisle,” Paola says—though if she could do it all over, she might opt for a first look. “I do believe we needed more time for our pictures. In Mexico, people [typically] see each other before at the bride’s house and then do the family portraits. We ‘lost’ that time and had to speed it up at the reception.” She adds: “Although I wouldn’t change the nerves of seeing him, so handsome, standing in the altar.”
The couple exchanged personal vows during the otherwise traditional ceremony. “Mario is a pilot, so I made a very special analogy about our journey and how he was the pilot of our new life together,” Paola says. “I mentioned certain guests that got ahead of us and are now joyfully resting in the skies. I also mentioned a very special passenger, our dog Enzo. It was a very emotional moment.”
Rather than a color scheme, the tone for their big day was set by florals, specifically lilacs, hydrangeas, and labyrinths. Paola’s stunning bouquet made a star showing in some of the newlyweds’ epic portraits.
Paola found the planning process to be “amazing,” she says. “You need lots of clear communication; trust the experts in the process and be open to ideas.” But ultimately, “do whatever suits YOU best.”
Granted, it was a bit of a balancing act. “There are very expensive things, particularly flowers, and we always want the best,” she says. “So, we were learning to balance what was essential for the day, and what could be replaced.”
Their venue, El Patio Central, is part of Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey, a liberal arts school for music and dance and a national monument. They loved that it was full of possibility. “It is a very new spot in Monterrey, which means there were plenty of things to do that had not yet been seen decor-wise,” Paola says. “Everyone was in love with the place.”
Their unique cake had multiple floating tiers and was heavily adorned in rich florals. The flavors were just as rich: delicious vanilla with pistachios and caramel inside.
Place settings were informed by the color of their florals and featured speckled blue plates that complemented the bunches of hydrangeas, knotted napkins, and colored glass goblets. Individual cups of charcuterie adorned each plate as guests were seated.
Paola and Mario didn’t just have one or two signature cocktails. “We had 15, all named after our friends and family member groups,” the bride says. There was even one for their pup: Enzo the Mule, which featured vodka, ginger beer, and lemon.
“We are huge foodies and we had several food tastings for the menu,” Paola says. “We personally adore French fries, so we had them included; and we had a variety of desserts.”
The music was an evolving experience. There were strings at cocktail hour, live musicians during dinner, a DJ for dancing, and a saxophonist at the afterparty.
“No Hay Nadie Más” by Colombian singer Sebastián Yatra—the title translates to “There is No One Else”—served as the newlyweds’ first dance song, and then Mario and his stylish mom swung to “Conexión” by Fonseca.
For the father-daughter dance, Paola and her dad danced to an apt mashup of Heartland’s “I Loved Her First” and Mexican musician Aleks Syntek’s “Bendito Tu Corazón.”
A butterfly meant my new beginning, our transformation into a married couple.
“In the couples’ waltz in Mexico there are usually fireworks or regular pieces of white paper that are thrown at the guests,” Paola says. “I wanted something different.” They decided on confetti cut in the shape of butterflies. “For me, a butterfly meant my new beginning, our transformation into a married couple. We went through thick and thin moments, but at the end, persevered and transformed. Eight years later we are married!”
“My friends made a dance with banners of my favorite things—chips, my dog, myself modeling in a magazine, and a pencil and apple to represent my students and teaching,” Paola says.
One final dip was the cap on their dreamy, confetti-filled celebration. The couple left shortly after the wedding for a whirlwind honeymoon that had a bittersweet beginning. “My grandfather passed away three days after my wedding,” Paola says. “He was very sick and made a promise six years ago to never miss my wedding day—and he definitely kept the promise. It meant a lot and was a very emotional beginning to my honeymoon.”
Luckily, she was with her most beloved, traveling the world. They began with stops in nearby Texas—South Padre Island and The Woodlands—then headed overseas, hitting Dubai, Maldives, Masai Mara National Reserve in Africa, Seychelles, Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid.