Ali & Phil's laid-back lunchtime celebration

July 9 2009 | arielmstallings

kiss by the river

The offbeat bride: Ali – pediatric nurse

Her offbeat partner: Phil – electrician

Location & date of wedding: Brethren Church in Toronto, Ontario: wedding upstairs, reception in the gym downstairs. May 9th, 2009

the ring he carved me while we were apart during our engagement

What made our wedding offbeat: I'm from New Jersey, he's from Fiji. We met on a ship in Liberia, and he proposed with a tie wrap in Canada. My wedding ring is wooden; he carved it for me while we were apart during our engagement.

We wanted our faith to be central, so we started our ceremony by sitting back down with our guests while my cousins led worship. Phil is Fijian-Indian, so we had an Indian food buffet for lunch. My brother's mother-in-law did all the decorating and flowers for us, my uncle married us, and my brother emceed.

ice cream scoopers in african apronsNeither of us love cake, and we both hated the idea of a receiving line, so instead we had a sundae bar, where we scooped ice cream for our guests while wearing aprons that a tailor friend in Liberia had sewn for me. We had lots of kids at the reception, we we made goody-bags for them with little toys to keep them occupied while we ate.

There was no color scheme – just every color of tulip in mismatched vases on the tables. We did our photos after we left the reception. That way there was no pressure of a timeline, and we were free to do things like run a quarter mile up a set of train tracks while little kids yelled at us that it was dangerous. I was totally relaxed, ate a ton, and had the best time of my life.

Our biggest challenge: Phil and I are missionaries. We live and work (and met!) on board the Africa Mercy, a charity hospital ship in West Africa. At Christmas, he came home to meet my parents and propose. A week later, he left to go back to the ship. I stayed home to plan things, and so we spent our entire engagement apart.

Since most of my family lives in Canada, and Phil had been living there for a number of years as well, we decided to get married in Toronto, a central spot for most of the people coming. Because of a training course Phil had to attend in June, we set our date for early May; that made for one potentially stressed-out bride: three and a half months to plan a wedding from a different country with a groom who's living on a ship in a different time zone.

Enter my mother. With her as the consummate matter-of-fact planner, we managed to get everything done while spending only 2 weeks total in Toronto. She took our ideas and figured out the logistics, something I'm not great at. (As in, I designed the invites and programs, but she told me where to get them printed.) We recruited friends and family to help with almost everything. She had it so well planned that everyone got to enjoy the day totally stress-free. (At least I did!)

three on a couch

My favorite moment: It's so hard to pick just one, because I loved so much about the day. My bridesmaid and best friend sang a song she wrote during the ceremony. My grandma, who's been struggling since having a stroke, was actually able to come – fitting, since we share the same anniversary.

we're so hardcore

We took photos on train tracks in front of a graffiti-covered wall, for crying out loud! The food was amazing, my dress was comfortable and everything just felt totally relaxed. But the one thing that sticks in my mind is Phil's face when I was walking towards him down that aisle. He had the hugest grin, and he never took his eyes off me. It was like I was the best thing he'd ever seen, and I'll carry that with me through the rest of our lives together.

i like this guy

My offbeat advice: After Phil proposed, my dad sat us down and gave us his one piece of wedding advice. "Think outside the box." We knew that there were certain traditions we wanted to keep, and others that we cared nothing for.

awkward family portrait

We got our fair share of people wondering why I didn't have a theme or a color scheme or even a cake, why there wasn't going to be a first dance, how I could possibly let the bridesmaids pick their own dresses, and whether I was sure I wanted "just a friend" to do my photography. But we did things the way we wanted, and the day ended up being a celebration in so many ways.

My advice? Don't listen to anyone who thinks they know more about you than you do. You know what makes your relationship special. You know what you love about each other, and you know what's important to you. So make your day about all that, not about silly traditions that mean nothing in your lives. I guess what I'm saying is, if you want to get up there and scoop ice cream for a couple hundred people, don't listen to old Aunt Mildred when she wonders a little too loudly why kids these days act so strange.

(…No disrespect intended to anyone who actually HAS an old Aunt Mildred.)

Any vendor links to share?
Photography by Sevenbright. Catering was by The Host, my brother's favourite Indian restaurant

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn:

Oh and PS: Y'all should really go check out the work that Phil & Ali do on the Africa Mercy. It's pretty amazing.

  1. I love the graffiti-covered wall. I always appreciate a contrast. But the thing I must say that I adored the most is that your husband actually carved your wedding ring—now that's what I call devotion!!!! So romantic, Congrats!

  2. Wow! So many details about this wedding display your kind, generous and creative flairs for life. Carving of the ring? ice-cream buffet? kid's loot bags! I can't imagine the simple and relaxed fun time that not only yourselves, but all your guests had.This is a perfect example of what weddings should really be like!

    Congratulations!

    Amber in Edmonton ,AB, Canada
    4 weeks until I'm the MRS.! 🙂

  3. What a lovely wedding! The photo of the wooden ring is so great! As are the lack of wedding colours, the ice cream sundaes, and more. I LOVE that you kept your faith as an important element in your wedding, but also that you weren't afraid to be creative and non-traditional with other aspects.

    Also, I looked through many of the pictures from your time in Africa and — wow. How inspiring and beautiful.

  4. An Ice Cream Receiving Line…. THAT IS GENIUS! To be honest, I hate receiving lines (do I hug the groom who i don't know as well as the bride? Do I say congrats to the MOH even though she isn't the one getting married? etc), but this would have been perfect.

    Plus, your wedding was beautiful! Congrats!

  5. congrats on the wedding, what a beautiful story you two share, and may i commend you most heartily for working on africa mercy! i had long wanted to work with mercy ships ('rents freaked out, so i went to do medical missions on peru instead). i have to say, as interesting and inspiring and intriguing as it is to see so many offbeat brides featured who are boldly forging their own paths, it is even more so to me to see those who are not afraid to seek the path the lord has in mind specifically for them, and the people and places that change their lives forever.

  6. I've lurked around a long time (this site is so much *fun*!), but this is the first time I've been moved to comment. I love this wedding–it's so simple and beautiful and centered around your faith and family. I watched the Mercy Ships video and am nearly in tears here. What wonderful work you've done! What a wonderful way to meet your spouse, too. You two are beautiful people, and I wish you every happiness together.

    And the ice cream bar? Genius!

  7. You can tell that a friend took your photos, they are so (emotionally) warm and you all look so relaxed compared to so many 'traditional' wedding photos. I looked through a blog of photos by somebody my friend wanted to hire for her wedding and I honestly couldn't tell where one wedding ended and the other began. Yawn!
    Beautifully exposed too. I love all the beading detail in your gown!

    Congratulations on your marriage =)

  8. What a blessing and an encouragement your wedding post has been to my husband and I!! (We just got married Jan.9, 2010.) We came across your post several months back when we were planning, and really took your advice to heart. My husband and I aren't the types to follow the cookie-cutter templates. Your post gave us the extra boost of courage to step out in faith to have a wedding that was a true reflection of how God made us– creative!

    However, we did borrow an idea that we loved from your post: the ice cream bar. We, too, weren't into cake that much and I loved ice cream, so likewise my husband and I served ice cream at the reception. We called it our first ministry that we could "serve" together as husband and wife.

    Thanks again for sharing your wedding details! May God bless your marriage!

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