For some, Vegas means getting married by an Elvis impersonator to a stranger, only to have it annulled 12 hours later. But not for Marylou Manalo and Nick Rivera—to them, Vegas means finding true love.
The now-couple each moved to Las Vegas while still single, thinking they’d only be out there a brief time. “Our families and friends thought we were both crazy to move there,” says Marylou, originally from Los Angeles.
But when they finally met, each had lived there for a few years. Despite what people think when the two tell their story, they didn’t meet in one of the many casinos or clubs the city is known for. The foodies and arts-and-culture lovers actually met at a food festival downtown, where a mutual friend introduced them. “It was love at first sight,” says Marylou.
Despite the initial sparks, she says she still couldn’t pin Nick down. She found the Northern Virginia native mysterious, and thought it was unusual that he moved from the Washington area to Vegas looking for an adventure. “Couldn’t he have just done that in Arlington?,” she jokes.
As for Nick, he thought Marylou was the belle of the festival — funny, popular, and with an infectious laugh. “It seemed like everyone at the festival knew who she was,” he says.
Over a portobello mushroom burger, they got to talking, and that was it—the deal was sealed. Shortly after, the couple shared a kiss on their first date while on the top floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel overlooking the Vegas Strip.
They’ve “been inseparable ever since,” says Marylou, and she eventually followed Nick back to Northern Virginia, where they now live in Alexandria.
If that sounds dreamy, wait till you hear about the proposal: After dating three-and-a-half years, Nick flew Marylou out to London for a surprise New Year’s Eve trip. Their second night, they had dinner at a French restaurant overlooking the city and Hyde Park. After dinner, Marylou tried to hail a cab, but a black Mercedes pulled up instead.
Nick had hired the car to take them around sights like Buckingham Palace and the London Eye at night while they sipped champagne. Before they could head back to their hotel, the driver stopped at the Tower Bridge.
The two got out to take in the views, and when they reached the middle, Nick got down on one knee. “I knew right there, underneath the stars in one of my favorite cities, I would spend the rest of my life with the love of my life,” says Marylou.
A year-and-a-half later, the couple sealed the deal at a quintessentially DC wedding. While exchanging vows at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, the bride wore a gown passed down to her by her mother, and the groom wore a classic Hugo Boss suit.
Despite the May rain forcing the wedding party to change venues for their pictures, the day was magical, says Marylou (and the photos at the back-up spot, Union Station, ended up being her favorites of the day, she says).
The festivities continued at a romantic and classic reception at the Key Bridge Marriott with views of the city. Throughout the space, custom centerpieces of white roses, peonies, and baby’s breathe had been lovingly assembled by the bride’s mother and fit the theme of soft elegance.
Upon arrival, guests received a deck of cards wrapped in gold with a ribbon and their name and table numbers (a nod to Las Vegas). After a first dance to “La Vie en Rose,” it was time for a dinner of prime rib and rosemary roasted chicken before guests took to the dance floor while a DJ spun tunes.
But Marylou’s favorite detail came toward the end of the night, she says: the salted caramel-and-red velvet cake, which fit the DC theme with cherry blossoms coming down the tiers.
After such a Washington-centric celebration, it was time to get out of town, and the couple honeymooned via a safari in Nairobi, Kenya.