Sarah Kate Sullivan and Juan Uriburu Quintana grew up on different hemispheres, but their lives were, in many ways, mirror images of each other. Sarah Kate was raised in Birmingham, while Juan grew up in Salta, Argentina; similarly rural cities surrounded by natural beauty with similarly conservative values and ways of life. Both Sarah Kate and Juan spent time in their early 20s working in Washington, D.C., Sarah Kate as a press secretary and Juan as an intern for a New York state senator. Their interests in international politics developed into fascinations with and studies of China, which was the ultimate impetus for their crossed paths and resulting international love story.
Sarah Kate moved to Argentina to earn her Ph.D. in political science at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella. In 2015, while working on her dissertation on Chinese investment in Argentina, she was encouraged to meet with Dr. Uriburu, who works as a Mandarin-speaking attorney on Argentinian infrastructure projects backed by Chinese financing. Their interview lasted more than two hours and continued over dinner, followed by a month of ambiguous dinner meetings that may or may not have been dates. Juan went on a six-week business trip to China and then continued to invite Sarah Kate out after his return to Argentina. By then, she had a good feeling about these dinner meetings. “Within three weeks I was quite sure he was the one,” Sarah Kate says. “I’m sure that sounds so crazy, but that’s how it happened.”
Ten months later, in April 2016, Juan arranged a proposal while Sarah Kate’s parents tuned in via Skype all the way across the world in Mountain Brook. Neither proposals nor engagement rings are Argentinian tradition, but it was important to Juan to honor Sarah Kate’s American customs, so when she returned home from the grocery store one day she found her future groom on the balcony of her apartment, surrounded by flowers and candles with a custom-made engagement ring in hand.
When it came to planning the wedding, Sarah Kate was excited for the opportunity to introduce her family and friends to the country she had fallen in love with, and Juan’s hometown of Salta was the perfect setting for the festivities. Salta is tucked among the rolling hills and verdant valleys of northwest Argentina, and the middle of its sunny summer season is in December, a common month for weddings. They planned the wedding for the week before Christmas, allowing family and friends time to travel to Argentina from around the world — 12 countries represented in total — for Sarah Kate and Juan’s big day.
Sarah Kate and Juan drew inspiration for the aesthetic of the wedding from its location. Sarah Kate says Salta is known for its alpaca silver, so the bride and groom chose soft gray and sparkly silver to perfectly complement the rich greenery representative of the lush hills where Juan was raised. The theme carried over to the attendants’ attire, as the bridesmaids donned floor-length gowns that incorporated soft neutral tones with hints of sparkle as another nod to the silver of Salta, and the groomsmen wore matching morning jackets with silver ties.
The bride and groom looked like the most classic, elegant depiction of a bride and groom — Juan in a family-owned black tailcoat and a gray pinstripe suit, and Sarah Kate was absolutely breathtaking in her Augusta Jones satin ballgown. Though brides in Argentina typically have their dresses custom made, Sarah Kate wanted to have the typical American wedding dress shopping experience and visited Carriage House in Homewood with her mom and best friend while visiting Birmingham. “At my mom’s suggestion, I tried on a very simple satin ballgown,” Sarah Kate says. “I was surprised by how much I loved the simplicity and the ball gown shape.”
For the ceremony, Sarah Kate wore a custom-made off-the-shoulder lace bolero with scalloped edges and a bit of shine incorporated throughout, which she removed for the latter portion of the reception and replaced with a hand beaded crystal belt. “It made sense because we had a very, very formal basilica ceremony and then an elegant ballroom start to the evening, and then the reception transitioned into this fun dance party that lasted until 6 a.m., so I was able to change my look to meet what was happening at that time,” Sarah Kate says.
The ceremony was held at Iglesia y Basilica de San Francisco, a beautiful Catholic church built in the 1600s in the heart of Salta, a fitting location for the wedding as Juan’s parents got married there and Sarah Kate’s parents were wed at another church named for Saint Francis in Birmingham. Rather than having a full Catholic mass in Spanish, Juan and Sarah Kate elected to have an abbreviated bilingual ceremony to best accommodate all of their guests. “I said my vows in English and Juan said his in Spanish,” Sarah Kate says. “It was sweet for our families to be able to hear our vows in their native languages.”
Following the ceremony, guests made their way to Club 20 de Febrero, Juan’s private social club, for the ballroom reception. Cocktails and appetizers preceded the seated steak dinner. (The groom’s mother even went with the chef to select the cuts of meat to be served at the reception, ensuring that their guests would enjoy the very best!) And then the dancing began. Long receptions are customary in Argentina, and it is considered rude for the bride and groom to leave before their guests. Sarah Kate and Juan danced the night away with their beloved family and friends in the truest sense of the phrase. The party came to an end when the club was legally required to shut it down at 6 a.m. the following morning.
Nine months later, reflecting on the wedding and the work that went into blending customs and traditions and honoring both Juan’s heritage and her own, Sarah Kate is thrilled she was able to share her love of Argentina with her closest loved ones. “I’m happy that everybody who got to come got to know Juan and who he is and where he’s from,” Sarah Kate says. “I wanted my guests to get to really experience Argentina, and I felt like so many people really were able to understand for the first time why I like living here, why I love the people and why I feel completely at home married to someone from Argentina.”
The newlyweds are returning to America with a move to Washington D.C. While it’s an exciting opportunity for them to further their careers, it’s bittersweet to leave the enchanting country where they fell in love and were wed.
Cheers to you, Sarah Kate and Juan! Thank you for sharing your beautiful day with us!
Photography: Elena Alonso
Wedding planner: Estefanía Niewolski
Wedding gown: Augusta Jones, Carriage House
Groom’s attire: A family owned black “jaquet” (morning jacket) with tails and gray pinstripe pants
Bridesmaids’ dresses: Jenny Yoo and Adrianna Papell, Bella Bridesmaids
Groomsmen’s formalwear: The groomsmen also wore matching “jaquets” (morning jackets)
Cake: Sol Martinez
Flowers and decor: Las Condes Eventos
Flower arrangements at the church: Alicia Saravia de Cornejo
Venue: Club 20 de Febrero
Catering: Club 20 de Febrero
Band: Rock Madness
DJ and lights/video screen: Congress Rental
Hair: Claudia Chuchuy
Makeup: Vanina Villar
Invitations and logo design: Mariée Ami
Merchandise (cups, napkins, matches, stir sticks): Please Reply
Monogram and guest book map: Merci Design (Buenos Aires)
Videography: Antonio Tita Films
Guest accommodations: Design Suites Salta
Rehearsal dinner and bridesmaids’ luncheon: El Castillo de San Lorenzo
Transportation: Silvia Magno Turismo
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