“[Marriage] is not easy. We’re going to have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you! I want all of you, forever, every day. You and Me, Everyday!” Every woman swooned over that declaration of love in the Notebook. Just like every couple—or at least every bride—dreams of having the perfect wedding. But no wedding is ever truly perfect. Mishaps and miscalculations are inevitable, and bloopers and blunders never fail. Linette Santiago and Fernando Mondragon had done all the planning they could, and it was a perfect day in Indian Wells, CA on November 20th, 2016. Yet, on the horizon, there seemed to be rain of a different sort. And when it rains, it pours.
Perhaps we could have seen the forecast. When a large Filipino family and a large Hispanic family come together, there’s bound to be a lot of moving parts, but it is all happy chaos. Linette Santiago is one of 12 children and has three children of her own; Kyanda, Adrian, and Jayden, ages 17, 14, and 8. (To see her, you’d think “There’s no way that girl has a 17-year-old daughter!”). Fernando, too, is no stranger to large families. He has embraced Linette’s kids as his own, and they’ve lived together as a family for several years.
The two of them met working in the restaurant at the Hyatt Regency, Indian Wells. Fernando was Linette’s supervisor when she first started, and they both still work at the resort. We met them a couple of years ago photographing the wedding of their friend and coworker, Alicia Donati, and it was wonderful to see Alicia again as well! It wasn’t long after they met that the spark of love ignited, which no amount of rain—figurative or otherwise—could extinguish. It was fitting that the beautiful resort where their flame was lit also served as the setting on the day when it would reach full blaze.
The “rain” started a few days before the wedding, when their day-of coordinator had to cancel last minute. Then, when the big morning came, a makeup mix-up delayed Linette’s arrival by over an hour. I (Luke) had plenty of time to hang out with Fernando and the guys, but Jen quickly photographed some getting-ready time with the girls. We were left with 20 minutes to photograph their first look, couples’ portraits, and wedding party! We got this! Fernando was astonishingly cool the whole time. No one would blame Linette for having a little bit of nerves at that point, but to top it off, she and Fernando had not seen each other for a week (they decided to part for a time to heighten their anticipation). So it’s no wonder the waterworks started when they finally saw each other for their first look. It was a much needed moment of solace in the eye of the storm (and a perfect example of why we recommend a first look).
Almost as soon as the first look was over, they were all shuttled off to the ceremony while Jen and I ran behind. The peaceful eye of the storm gave way to a new flurry. We weren’t expecting the entire ceremony to be in Spanish! It’s still unclear to us whether the entire bridal party were meant to take their seats, or if that’s something the minister just came up with on the spot. Even with some confusion, we managed to capture many beautiful moments from what turned out to be a truly beautiful ceremony. The gazebo and lake backdrop at the Hyatt Regency always makes for an elegant setting.
The elegance continued as we headed to the reception. But so did the mishaps. In one of my favorite moments from the day, Fernando sat his bride in a big comfy chair and got down on one knee to change her shoes for her. As he was slipping off her heels, and sliding on her flats, one of the sandal straps broke. Fernando scrambled yet again to make sure his wife was cared for, and even though the moment wasn’t perfect, it couldn’t have been a more beautiful picture of marriage.
Finally, as the reception began to take shape, the storm of mishaps seemed to break. They entered the ballroom to thunderous applause with lightning smiles so bright you’d never know anything unfortunate had happened. After their romantic first dance, Fernando’s mom took the microphone and sang to her son as they danced their mother-son dance together. This was a surprise to Fernando, and it made for a beautifully tender moment. With every eye sufficiently tear-filled, it was time to have some fun and laughter. They played a game in which friends and family had to maneuver an Oreo cookie from their foreheads to their mouths without using their hands. And instead of a money dance, Fernando and Lynette had a race across the dance floor holding buckets, not allowed to move until money was dropped in. Jayden, their son, served as Fernando’s designated bucket-carrier, but Linette won the race (we think Fernando can claim sabotage).
Finally, both bride and groom had moments to reflect at the end of the evening. Fernando’s favorite moment came after he had been saying some goodbyes, and returned to the ballroom to find his parents dancing together for the first time in years. He had been—and always is—more concerned with caring for everyone else, but the vision of them dancing together filled him with a sense of peace and the freedom to relax himself. Lynette’s favorite moment? Midnight tacos with a few close coworkers after everyone else had left.
The mishaps and miscalculations, bloopers and blunders sprinkled down, but they also dissipated. Linette and Fernando handled them in stride, remembering that accidents are temporary, but devotion is lasting. The fun, the comfort, the romance, and the elegance are what will be remembered. A wedding doesn’t have to be flawless to be beautiful, and a family doesn’t have to be perfect to be full of love.
A lasting marriage requires faith. “Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.” – C.S. Lewis
Ceremony and Reception Venue: Hyatt Regency Indian Wells
Catering: Hyatt Regency Indian Wells
Cake: Exquisite Desserts
Florist: Ralph’s and a Family member
DJ: DJ Franco
Wedding Dress | Bridesmaid’s Dresses | Groomsmen Attire: LA Fashion District
Hair Stylist: Hyatt Regency Indian Wells
Makeup Stylist: Friend