Hello there

"Pizza cutter? Oven mitt? Who is this guy?" Ileana asked herself.

Then she called her aircraft-part manufacturing company's new engineer, freshly arrived from the U.S., to tell him his belongings had arrived. "You know, we do have pizza cutters in Mexico," she couldn't resist adding.

Daniel, who is from Cherry Hill, had no response for Ileana, who worked in logistics. He had been working in their company's Cleveland office when he was offered the position in Merida, a city on the Yucatan Peninsula, in fall 2011. "I just started throwing things I use a lot in boxes."

Later, a group of coworkers invited Daniel on a sightseeing trip to Mayan ruins in Uxmal, and lleana was among them. Daniel ended up driving one of the cars, and because he had not yet learned Spanish, and Ileana was the best English speaker in the group, she sat shotgun.

"I was looking for a place to rent, and so I asked her where to live in the city, and for help understanding how things work, like how do you pay the bills here?" said Daniel, who is now 31.

lleana, now 28, asked Daniel about his life back home. What city did he grow up in? Did he have siblings?

By the end of the trip, they were friends, and later spent a lot of time hanging out after work with coworkers.

"What I really liked was that both of us, despite being from very different places and completely different backgrounds, we had a lot of things in common," Ileana said. "The way we think, and the way we value our families and our friendships."

"Our sense of humor is also the same," Daniel said. "And we both love watching movies, and we love to travel."

A few months after she joked about his pizza cutter, Daniel asked her for a date. "I was excited, and said, 'Yeah, of course!' " Ileana remembered. "And then he told me he was leaving for the U.S. for Thanksgiving, and so our date would be in two weeks."

"It was only a week and half!" Daniel insists. Once he realized he had romantic feelings for Ileana, he couldn't wait to ask her out, he explained.

Eventually, they had dinner and drinks. By January, they were an official couple.

They'd been dating less than six months when Daniel took Ileana to a family friend's wedding and on her first trip to the U.S.

"I loved it," Ileana said. "I had my Philly cheesesteak, of course, and I ate the whole thing."

How does forever sound?

When Daniel's one-year contract was ending, he extended it to see how things would work out with Ileana. When the second year was about half over, serious talks about their future began.

"I knew pretty early on that I wanted to marry her, but I also knew I had to go back to the U.S.," Daniel said. His project was ending.

Ileana wanted to marry Daniel, too. And after making several more trips to the U.S. with him, she thought that she could be happy here.

Daniel accepted a position at his company's San Francisco office, selling the aircraft parts he used to engineer, and moved in December 2013.

Before he left, the couple returned to the Uxmal ruins.

"We walk in, and he started sweating. A lot. I said, 'It's not even that hot!' "

They climbed into one section of the ruins. "He unfolded a piece of paper, and started reading me this letter, with all of the reasons he loves me."

"At the end of the letter, I asked, will you marry me in Spanish- ¿te quieres casar conmigo?"

He took out the ring, his hands shaking.

"I just hugged him," Ileana said.

In January 2014, Ileana joined Daniel in San Francisco, where she works in the logistics department of an audiovisual company.

It was so them

The couple returned to Merida to marry, with about 35 members of Daniel's family and friends from the U.S. also making the trip.

Celebratory events were held for the better part of a week, culminating with a large dinner for the two families, and then, at 8:30 p.m., the wedding.

The ceremony was held on the large steps of a tiny church, and mixed her Catholic roots with his Jewish ones. The couple stood beneath a chuppah with their officiant - Ileana's uncle, Father Jorge.

Most of the ceremony was conducted in Spanish, but Daniel's parents said prayers in Hebrew. He broke a glass at the end of the ceremony.

Following an old Mexican custom, Daniel gave Ileana a handful of coins, symbolizing their shared finances. Their mothers together placed a large lasso around the couple, like a necklace for two, to represent their union.

The 200 guests walked to another spot at the hacienda for the outdoor reception and "nonstop dancing that didn't finish until 4:30 or 5 a.m.," Daniel said.

Somehow, everyone regrouped at 1 p.m. for brunch.

Awestruck

Daniel will never forget the feeling of love and support that came over him seeing his parents, grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins at their wedding. "It's a day's travel each way to get down there - a flight from Philadelphia to Cancun, and then sitting on a bus for four hours," he said. Knowing they would do that for him and Ileana felt fantastic.

The band played the horah, and Daniel's family lifted him on a chair. "All of my friends were so excited," Ileana said. "We had never seen anything like that, only in the movies. And then his family and friends, and my family and our friends were standing all around and clapping and happy, and Daniel looked so happy."

She had little time to relish his joy; the crowd had a chair for Ileana, too.

Discretionary spending

A bargain: Ileana purchased an inexpensive wedding dress in California, then had it altered into something fantastic in Mexico. Upon learning another couple was getting married at the hacienda the next day, Ileana contacted the other bride. Together they chose the flowers they both used and split the cost.

The splurge: Fireworks - the literal variety - began after the couple's first dance.

The getaway

The couple enjoyed the week of the wedding spent with family and friends but plan a honeymoon later this year.

Love: BEHIND THE SCENES

Officiant: Father Jorge Oscar Herrera Vargas, Guadalajara, Mexico.

Venue: Hacienda San Diego Tixcacal, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico.

Catering: Banquetes Camino Premium, Merida.

Photography: Pipe Gaber Fotografia, Merida.

Flowers: Floreria Acacia, Merida.

Dress: David's Bridal Collection, purchased in San Francisco, with alterations by Clara Tah in Merida.

Music: Grupo Collage, Merida.

Planner: Celestial, Merida.

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