Gratitude: That's the first word David Cordúa and Sara Padua Cordúa use to describe how they feel about their marriage. The second is beautiful.
"It's magical how lucky we were," says Sara.
In a year of pandemic and uncertainty, magic was more than welcome. The couple married in an intimate ceremony at the Cuernavaca Cathedral in Cuernavaca, Mexico on November 21. The Catholic wedding Mass was part of a weekend filled with family and faith, and ceremonies spiritual and symbolic.
The reception took place at the Hacienda de Cortés, the former home of Hernan Cortez, dating to the 1500s. The couple loved the soul of the old hacienda, its grounds overgrown and beautiful, and anchored by Amate trees.
"You can truly feel that someone lived here," David says, describing the site.
That soulful feeling mattered very much to the couple, both because of their shared faith and also because of their shared Hispanic roots. Sara, a lawyer with Padua Law Firm, was born in Mexico City; David's family is originally from Nicaragua.
David, a chef, recently launched David + Michael Cordúa Events with his fellow chef and father, Michael. (Houstonians will recognize Michael as the talented restaurateur and pioneer who brought Latin American staples such as Churrascos, Américas, and Artista to the city.)
A nod to past and present
The couple's wedding and reception venues allowed them to pay homage to their pasts, even as they build their dream future together. Following the religious ceremony at the cathedral, they held a spiritual circle and cacao ceremony, inspired by Aztec and Mesoamerican traditions.
"We wrote the spiritual vows ourselves," says Sara. "And the symbolism of the ceremony was important to us."
"We exchanged cocoa with each other by candlelight," David elaborates. "There was a poetry reading. It was beautiful."
The wedding might be just as beautiful as their love story, which is a classic tale of old acquaintances discovering they're really soulmates.
"We've known each other since high school," recalls Sara, a graduate of Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart. "I overlapped with his sister for one year. And David and my brother Tony were close friends at Strake [Jesuit]. They hung out a lot and our parents knew each other, too."
"I spent a lot of time at her house in high school," David says. "It's like we grew up in each other's houses."
David graduated from Strake in 2000 and went on to Santa Clara University and Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Sara graduated from Duchesne and later from Harvard, going on to earn her J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in 2011. The pair wouldn't see each other again until a party in 2010.
It would take another six years before they'd do more than see each other at the occasional event or party thrown by mutual friends.
"Tony brought me to the Hola Houston launch party at the Hotel Zaza," Sara recalls. "And David's mom [Lucia] was there and she remembered me and my nickname. 'Saralita, David is single,' she told me."
"She has no filter," David laughs. "I can totally see her saying that."
Lucia Cordúa's nudge aside, David was taken with Sara's intelligence and beauty. Their courtship was a three-and-a-half year affair that included dates to jazz clubs and sharing stories. David proposed last year at the couple's home, right before a party the included both of their families.
"It was only fitting to have everyone there when I proposed," David says. "Only, I was so nervous when I asked her to marry me, I dropped the ring. From the fourth-floor balcony. My eight-year-old niece found it."
"We made her the ring bearer," Sara says fondly.
The couple originally planned for a March 28, 2020 ceremony, a grand gala with more than 200 guests joining them and their families in Cuernavaca. Obviously, the pandemic put their plans on pause.
"It was such a tough decision," says Sara. "At the time, there were only three or four reported COVID cases in Mexico, so we wondered, maybe we can still do it. But there was just no way."
An intimate affair
So, they waited. And Sara, who joked that she was patient during their three and a half years of courtship, proved herself not only patient but resilient. The couple decided on the November date, culled the guest list to around 60 people, and had custom masks made.
"It made for a much more intimate experience, but it really turned up the volume on the emotion," says David.
Their wedding was live streamed for those who couldn't be there, and Sara notes they received "a lot of virtual love."
"We have that as additional memories," she says.
And, for their first dance, they chose a song with multiple layers of meaning, “Si Nos Dejan" by Luis Miguel.
"It means 'if they let us,'" says David. "And I like that it's a little bit of forbidden love. Both in that here's this younger sister of my friend, but also, so much was forbidden in 2020, so it's like asking if the year would let us do this."
Lights out, wings up
The pair agrees that their favorite part of their wedding was when the lights went out at the cathedral.
"Cuernavaca is the City of Eternal Spring," Sara says. "And it almost never rains. But right in the middle of our ceremony, [during a reading from the Song of Solomon] at the line that says, 'deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away,' there was this crash of thunder and pounding rain and there were, in the dark. But it was beautiful."
They honeymooned in French Polynesia, with stops in Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Morea, spending weeks relaxing on beaches, taking in fabulous cuisine and practicing their French together.
"Sara's parents honeymooned in Tahiti, and we had never been," says David. "So it felt like one more homage to family. And it is really impressive how deeply rooted French culture is there."
Back in Houston, Sara and David celebrated their first Christmas as a married couple and now, two months into their journey as husband and wife, are still aglow with what they know was a profound experience. They are both healthy, as are their families. They have a new home they're settling into. And they are buoyed by the love they feel surrounds them.
"We had so much support from family and friends," Sara says.
"That's going to continue to feed us forever," David agrees.
"It's in our love tank," Sara continues. "The love tank is full."
Bride's Gown: Sareh Nouri
Bride's flowers: Lya Studio
Groom's tuxedo: Joseph Aboud
Maid of Honor: Leone Price
Maid of Honor's dress: Badgley Mischka
Bridesmaids: Megan Padua, Katie Padua, Kaylee Scanlin, Michelle Cordua, Elisa Cordua Tavera, Cristina Cordua Yanez, Ariana Nizza, Rebecca Kramer
Best Man: Michael Cordúa
Best Man's tux: Lucho
Groomsmen: Francisco Padua Jr., Alejandro Padua, Antonio Padua, Max Cordua, James McConn, Antonio Chalita, Gonzalo Navarro, William Mirshak, Alex Tavera, Mitch Yanez
Religious ceremony venue: Catedral de Cuernavaca
Celebrant: The Reverend John Walsh, L.C.
Reception venue: Hacienda de Cortes
Band/DJ: SOU Jazz, DJ Cesar Musik Station
First dance song: “Si Nos Dejan" Luis Miguel
Dance Teacher: Lisa Joubert LOVEDANCEHtx
Dance floor: hand-painted by Misael Luna
Guests: Justin Garcia, Paris Woods, Nick Scurfield, Chef Dom Lee, Roberto Mejia, Brad Basker
Honeymoon resorts: The SLS, The London West HollyWood, St. Regis Bora Bora, Sofitel Moorea, the Bardessono in Yountville
Wedding planner: Yuri Torres
Masks: Floral wedding masks handmade by Lucia Cordua, Acuwellness, and LED masks
Rehearsal venue: Posada del Tepozteco in Tepoztlan, Mexico.
Know of a Houston wedding that should be considered for publication? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.