Ever After: Jennifer Nelson & Maceij Sarota-Raczek

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By Lisa Arnett / Weddings / February 14, 2019

Jennifer Nelson, 35, adores animals and Christmas is her favorite time of year, so she felt the stars had aligned when she discovered an opening at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Café Brauer on the first night of Zoo Lights, November 24.

She knew it would be the perfect venue to marry her fiance, Maciej Sarota-Raczek, 29. The couple met in anatomy and physiology class at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines more than eight years ago. Now she’s a registered nurse at Rush University Medical Center and he’s a station manager with Superior Ambulance. They wed in a traditional Catholic ceremony at Sts. Faith, Hope & Charity Catholic Church in Winnetka, which Nelson grew up attending with her family.

The ceremony had a sophisticated animal theme in red, gold, black, and white. Save-the-date cards featured a photo of the couple’s pet lionhead rabbits — Zoe and Nacho — clad in a veil and tuxedo. (“I thought, ‘Is this a little too much? Probably, but whatever,’ ” Nelson said.) Upon entering Café Brauer, guests saw a “Find your party animal” pointing them to their escort cards, held by tiny gold animal figurines set on a moss-covered tablescape.

“I wanted it to feel like a romantic, magical forest,” Nelson said. Revel Decor brought the vision to life with centerpieces made from gold-painted manzanita branches laden with red blooms and greenery clusters atop towering pedestals. Special lighting cast a pattern resembling leopard spots across the dance floor and votives suspended from above provided a starry, celestial vibe. The bride wore gold glittery stilettos and later switched to something blue: sapphire sequined Converse sneakers. The guests donned glow-in-the-dark necklaces and lit sparklers to send the couple off to a honeymoon in Belize.

IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS

Bride’s attire: Ines Di Santo from Ultimate Bride, 106 E. Oak, ultimatebride.com

Bride’s accessories: Caracilia faux fur shawl from Amazon.com; earrings and hair clip from Swarovski, swarovski.com; Jessica Simpson heels from Macy’s, macys.com; sequined Converse sneakers from etsy.com

Hair and makeup: Hair by Jola Madejska; makeup by Kate Johnson Artistry, 1050 N. State, katejohnsonartistrybrides.com

Groom and groomsmen’s attire: Formally Modern Tuxedo, 2112 N. Clybourn, formallymodern.com

Wedding planner: Misha Newgren, Nouvelle Events, nouvelleevents.com

Catering and dessert: Appetizers, dinner, vanilla cutting cake, sweets table, and cake pops by Limelight Catering, 2000 N. Racine, limelightcatering.com; ice cream bar by Graeter’s Ice Cream, graeters.com

Entertainment: Indigo, an 11-piece band by Arlen Music Productions, arlenmusic.com

Decor and floral: Bouquets of white cascading orchids for the bride; black and red rose bouquets for the maids by Revel Decor, 2412 S. Michigan, reveldecor.com

Rings: Hers by Wedding Bands & Co., 2 N. Wabash, weddingbandscompany.com; his by Patrick Adair Designs, patrickadairdesigns.com

Transportation: M&M Limo

Photos by Colin Lyons

Alec Winter