TEAM OF STRANGERS “The Wedding Project”

Strangers passionately unite and experience the ultimate effect of Cause & Commerce

TEAM OF STRANGERS is a giving effort built on collaboration, innovation and consciousness. The beauty of the collaboration is its
inspiration . . . focus on what we can give, not what we need. The culmination is how much everyone will ultimately receive.

Viviana Rueda is a master networker. She connects people, she throws parties, she organizes events and she loves to collaborate. Soon, she will embark on the ultimate collaboration with her Danish fiancée, Michael. Originally, their plan was to have a storybook wedding in her country of origin, Colombia. They were to wed over Thanksgiving weekend, surrounded by friends and family in Cartagena. Viviana and her father shared a dream of a traditional Colombian ceremony filled with love and respect for the sanctity of marriage. We watched her dreams begin to unfold. With a deep fascination for the beauty of celebration, in true Viviana fashion, she prepared a wedding lookbook within what seemed like moments of her engagement. As a stylist extraordinaire and image consultant Viviana began to plan the perfectly orchestrated wedding that was sure to be a soiree that memories are made of. And then the unthinkable happened – her father passed away unexpectedly. Viviana and her sister Monika, went to Colombia to support her mourning mother and wheelchair-bound brother. Although there was a great language barrier for Michael, his help and support were invaluable. He returned to the States on his own and Viviana stayed with her family as they began to face the magnitude of their loss.

Almost a couple months passed and Viviana finally returned home and began to deal with her own grief. The sadness interfered with the excitement; her father had been so looking forward to his precious Viviana’s big day. The circumstances coupled with the change in finances for so many began to make the vision of a destination wedding harder to grasp.
Sadly, a letter arrived to all the friends and family who were to attend the wedding in Cartagena, explaining that they have decided to cancel their celebration. They would now have a small ceremony of only four participants at a church in Los Angeles. They asked their friends to the Luxe Hotel in Bel Air where they would then surprise everyone with their earlier nuptials and celebrate with a glass of champagne. They would then go on to a small dinner for eight and the curtain would close on their wedding day. Although they held their heads high and so beautifully recognized that the most important component was the love and commitment that she and Michael share, it was certainly not the wedding day that the Princess had dreamed of.
Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, Nancy Gale, owner of JAMAH handbags and founder of In True Fashion, an apprenticeship program founded on cause, commerce & consciousness, in partnership with Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was collaborating on a video for JAMAH’s Wedding Collection with Terri Apanasewicz, celebrity hair and makeup artist. The intention was to make a simple video that would promote their products and services, but with Nancy’s ‘dream big’ mentality that simply would not suffice. During a brainstorming session with Terri, Julie Jones of Encore Bridal and Annette Hoegner of A Classic Touch Events, Nancy told the tale of her dear friend and business associate Viviana. From there, the idea morphed into a full-scale wedding surprise for a real-life couple that was going through challenging times, but continued to make the best of life. The idea of giving gave so much meaning to the work, making it evident that it was time to change the strategy . . . Give first and for the right reason and greatness will transpire. Fittingly, Viviana and Michael became the chosen couple.

In a heartbeat, event designers Flowers on Mars, The Luxe Hotel Sunset Boulevard, OnSunset Restaurant, Bridget Photo, Vanessa Preziose Photography, A Classic Wedding Car, celebrity manicurist Elsbeth Schuetz, Feedwire Information Technology, singer/songwriter/producer Chris Coto and modern jewelry designer Claudia Endler, jumped on board. Drago Centro, Charlie’s Salon, Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts & Spas generously gifted the happy couple.

It was beautifully overwhelming to witness so many wanting to be a part of something that began with giving.

The surprise was on the bride and groom. When they made their entrance into the hotel to announce their nuptials they came upon “An Evening in Cartegena.” The Luxe patio, transformed by Flowers on Mars to match the culture of Cartegana, accommodated music, dancing, food and celebration in the style that our feisty Colombian and her Gentleman Dane deserved. Friends and family from Denmark and Colombia joined us via Skype.
The wonderful irony was that unbeknownst to Viviana, but only because of her, a group of virtual strangers collaborated and gave of themselves to create something magnificent. From it amazing opportunity for all has evolved. Viviana experienced the effect of her never-ending cause . . . helping to expand the careers of those around her.

Read more about how “The Wedding Project” paved the way for “The Student Project.”