Tamara Lozano and Eric Stachura
December 16, 2017, in Madrid; May 26, 2018, in Chicago
Tamara left Madrid for a study-abroad year at Temple University. An engineering student, she became friends with a group of mathematics students from Italy and joined them for campus food court coffee one fall day in 2011. They had also invited an American working on his doctorate in math: Eric.
Tamara had a U.S.A. bucket list and mentioned her hope to see Chicago, Eric's home city. "Eric was bragging about Chicago, and how he was going to take me there," she said. That launched a long conversation. She liked how patient he was when she didn't know the right word in English — she would explain the thing she meant, and he would tell her the right word.
By the end of the night, Eric wanted to see her again and was confident Tamara wanted to see him, too. Until he tried to make it happen.
"I wrote her a few times on Facebook. She didn't answer," he said.
Tamara had a broken computer and her parents, Julio and Coral, were in town. Facebook was temporarily off her radar.
Around Thanksgiving, Tamara learned Eric had been bitten by a dog. She added him on Facebook so she could see how he was doing. He liked all of her pictures. That December, their friend group went to an Old City bar, then back to Tamara's for cookies. Long after everyone else had fallen asleep, Eric and Tamara were still talking. A few hours later, he drove her to the airport for her Christmas trip home.
They talked every day she was in Spain, and when Tamara landed at PHL in January 2012, Eric was waiting with flowers.
That spring, Tamara had to return to the Complutense Universidad de Madrid to finish her degree. Eric spent a summer week with her and came back that winter for six months of study in Madrid. They got an apartment together, and after she graduated, returned to Philadelphia and a place in Center City.
In fall 2013, Tamara began her doctorate in chemical engineering at Villanova University, which she recently finished. Eric, who has also completed his doctorate, is a visiting assistant professor of mathematics at Haverford College. In 2016, the couple, both 29, moved to Wynnewood.
"I like that she makes me more social and gets me out of my shell and makes me interact with people more," Eric said. Before Tamara, Eric wasn't much for the nightlife. "Now we go dancing."
"When I first met him, I liked his confidence," Tamara said. "He's also a smart person, and we can have advanced science conversations. So our relationship is comfortable but challenging at the same time."
In fall 2015, the couple flew to Spain for a wedding. While Tamara was getting her hair done, Eric spoke to her parents. "Her dad speaks perfect English, but I did not know that," he said. So in his still-not-that-great Spanish, he asked them both for their blessing to propose to their daughter. They gave it, with a suggestion: Her brother Sergio should come to the proposal.
Eric began a group chat so he could plan with about 30 people. A month later, Tamara's girlfriends planned a mani/pedi/brunch girls' day out. This was not something the group typically did, but Tamara went with it. They were walking around Rittenhouse Square when Eric and some of his friends showed up. One of them asked her to ignore his video camera — it was new, he said, and he wanted to practice. Eric was squeezing Tamara's hand abnormally tight and was talking in circles. Their friends disappeared. Tamara thought it was all quite weird. And then Eric dropped to one knee.
"I said yes, and all of our friends who were with us before and many more started coming out of the woodwork, clapping," Tamara said. So unexpected was the guy in a hat and sunglasses that it took her a second to recognize her own brother. Everyone went to La Viola for dinner, then to the couple's apartment for champagne and desserts.
Knowing there was no way to have one wedding that both sets of families and friends could attend, the couple opted for two: A civil ceremony and Spanish-style reception near Madrid and a Catholic ceremony and American-style reception in Chicago.
The Spanish ceremony was led by a secular officiant. Tamara's brother and Eric's sister did readings. Eric's grandma, who traveled from Chicago to Spain for the wedding, read a poem. "In Spain, we do something called the exchange of coins to symbolize that the couple will share finances," Tamara said. "We used my parents' coins for that." Everything, including the vows, was said in both Spanish and English.
The cocktail portion of the reception for 103 included lots of food the couple didn't get to eat because, following another Spanish tradition, they spent the entire time posing for portraits with every guest. Then came dinner. And then the dancing. It wasn't over until 5 a.m.
The Chicago ceremony, also bilingual, was held in a small chapel on the grounds of an elementary school and officiated by a friend of Eric's family, a church deacon.
Eric wore the same suit with a different tie. Tamara wore the same dress, but in a totally different way. In Spain, she left her arms bare and wore a red sash around her waist. In Chicago, she removed the sash and added a lace overlay.
The reception for 100 took place at a golf course. There were cocktails, dinner, and dancing — but only until 11 p.m.
The two events were purposely very different in both substance and style. "Our photographer, Dan, even said before the Chicago ceremony started, 'You're not just doing this a second time, you're not redoing what you did. This is a new thing with new people. It's just as special and just as important,' " Eric said.
The couple filled the Chicago church and reception venue with flowers. They wed on Memorial Day weekend and on Monday took the flowers to a local cemetery and placed them on veterans' graves.
"The moment I saw her coming down the aisle with her dad, at both weddings, was overwhelming," Eric said. "All the stress was finally gone. We had been worried about all of these small, minute details, but that moment she was there, and we could just be together."
In Spain, the bride got ready early, and got more and more nervous as others took longer and longer. "When I got to the ceremony, I was trying to look for Eric's eyes, but the bridesmaids are all taller than me and so I couldn't see him. I didn't see him until I was already up there with him," she said. But when she did, her nervousness dissolved.
To Tamara, the vows said in the Chicago church felt like the real deal.
A bargain: A single dress that, thanks to the styling suggestions of a bridal store consultant, looked like two.
The splurge: The couple went way over their original photography budget by paying for Philadelphian Dan and another photographer to travel to Chicago and Madrid, and then doing an extra full day of photography in both cities. They love Dan's work and working with him. "It was one of the best decisions we made," Eric said.
In August, Eric will begin a new job as an assistant professor of mathematics at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. The couple took an Atlanta mini-moon to figure out where to live.
Officiant: Ceremonias con Alma, Madrid and Toledo.
Venue, food, and music: La Quinta de Illescas, Finca Las Lunas, Illescas, Toledo.
Photography: Dan Moyer Photography, Philadelphia.
Flowers: Floristeria Martin Madrigal, Illescas, Toledo.
Dress: Vertize Gala, Toledo.
Hair: Paqui, Peluqueria Brisas, Madrid.
Makeup: Analia Makeup, Toledo.
Officiant: Deacon Mike Martini, St. Paul the Apostle in Greensboro, N.C.; and Father Mike, St. Andrew the Apostle, Romeoville, Ill.
Ceremony: St. Andrew the Apostle.
Reception and food: Mistwood Golf Club, Romeoville, Ill.
Music: Admit One DJs, Chicago.