A Mother's Guiding Hand, From Afar


Heaven knows that Florentina Cuevas approved of her daughter's wedding. Though she lost her fight with breast cancer two years ago, the wedding was everything she dreamed it would be. And then some.

Raised in Sahuayo, a small town in Michoacan, Mexico, which many consider the region's wedding capital, Flor, of Laguna Niguel, longed for weddings--her daughters' in particular. Never mind that neither of her daughters had a suitor, their weddings would be nothing short of grand.

To assure this, six months before she died, Flor Cuevas took her daughter Anjelica to Sahuayo, where they shopped for wedding dresses, dreamed and planned. But not even in her most optimistic fantasy did she envision her daughter marrying her best friend's son, which is what happened May 30 at the Mission Church in San Juan Capistrano.

"It must be like a dream for her because it's a dream for me," said Amelia Lua, the groom's mother and Flor's best friend. "The thought crossed our minds, but we never dared to hope that one day our children would marry." Especially given that when Anjelica first met Albert Lua, at her 14th birthday party, there wasn't exactly chemistry. Albert came with his twin brother, Alex (who would later date Anjelica's sister, Esmeralda), and the two didn't even show up on the girls' radar screens. The boys thought the girls were stuck up. From then on, every time their mothers suggested a get-together, the reply from both sides was, "Forget it."

Fast-forward six years, past the gawkiness of puberty. Anjelica and Albert attended the wedding of mutual friends. They didn't recognize each other. They exchanged admiring glances. She was particularly taken with his black cowboy hat. He asked her to dance. Then asked her again. Then brought her to meet his mother, who nodded approvingly and told him who Anjelica was.

Her? Him? A soft choke on pride followed. He took her number, but when he finally called after three days, the freeze of rejection he felt years earlier caused him to do what every young man has done at least once when calling the woman of his dreams. He hung up before she answered. Star 69 to the rescue. (Imagine the love stories that could have changed.) Anjelica punched it to call back her caller and found herself with a sheepish but not displeased Albert on the hook, so to speak, asking for a date.

One year later, Anjelica and Albert, both 22, got engaged. Esmeralda and Alex--maid of honor and best man--flanked their siblings at the afternoon wedding, where vows were exchanged in Spanish in the beam light filtering down from the cupola.

"If I couldn't be married in her hometown, mother's second choice was the mission in San Juan," said Anjelica. Her gown, though purchased here, was what her mother would have liked: long train, empire waist, off the shoulder with a long veil.

The priest conducted the ceremony and Mass before a bridal party of 21 attendants, 200 elaborately dressed friends and relatives, and mariachis who waited in the wings for the right moment to trumpet in the matrimonio.

They played again at the groom's family's house in Laguna Hills, where 60 or so family members gathered in a pre-reception party, and again at the reception, at the Laguna Hills Holiday Inn. Other musical high notes were a Latin band playing folk and salsa, and a surprise visit from recording artist Nydia Rojas, who arrived late in the reception to sing "Solo Con Tigo" (Only With You) and "Mi Mejor Amiga" (My Best Friend), a song Rojas sings about her mother. Other tributes to Anjelica's mother included the golden angel centerpieces, the small candleholder favors from Sahuayo and the moment of silence the best man asked for on Florentina Cuevas' behalf.

After settling into their rented townhome in Laguna Hills, the bride will resume her work in the accounting department at RAND Technology in Irvine, and Albert will pursue his studies at Cal State Fullerton and his job as a mechanic for Costco in Laguna Niguel.

"Everything," said the bride, "the way we met and all the details of the wedding, has just fallen into place. It's as if someone else's hand was in it."


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