It was only July 3rd, but fireworks were already in the air. Five years after meeting for the first time, Jim Birge brought Ali Stolkin to the beautiful beachfront hotel Shutters in Santa Monica, California, to ask her to marry him. Fourteen months later, they found themselves back at that very same location pledging their love in front of 160 family members and friends.
When considering a date for their celebration, Ali and Jim agreed that a three-day holiday weekend would offer their family and friends an opportunity to turn their wedding-related travels into a mini-vacation. The couple finally decided to hold the event over Labor Day weekend, and encouraged their guests to take advantage of the enviable surfside locale. By scheduling the rehearsal dinner and brunch nearby, Ali and Jim made sure their guests were off to a great start.
Planning a wedding ceremony directly on the beach was all the inspiration Ali and Jim needed. Rather than compete with the natural beauty of their surroundings, they allowed it to set the tone for the affair. To enhance the area’s sun-kissed color palette, the bride and groom and their design team incorporated hues of blue, pink, ivory, and taupe throughout their floral arrangements and attire. The bridesmaids chose their own dresses (in keeping with the wedding’s color scheme), and the groom and his groomsmen wore khaki pants and navy blazers. To top it off, the bride wore a stunning taupe and ivory wedding gown designed by Monique Lhuillier.
To help keep them comfortable while seated in the sun for the ceremony, guests were invited to take bottles of water from a rattan table adorned with upturned pails of flowers. Female guests were also given pretty white slippers to wear so they could navigate their way to the chairs nestled in the sand. Planks of wood created an aisle upon which the wedding party walked, and two market umbrellas with stands wrapped in flowers shielded the bride and groom from the sun.
Ali and Jim made an unusual, albeit wonderful, selection when it came to naming their officiants: They asked their fathers to do the honors. Ali and Jim wanted the ceremony to be completely untraditional and personalized, and together with their fathers, the bride and groom designed the proceedings and selected readings to be shared by their aunts and uncles. Ultimately, they created a ceremony that reflected who they were as a couple and the sentiments they wished to share with their intimate gathering.
But for a moment, it seemed as though the guest list had increased. Because the ceremony oasis was arranged on a public beach framed by a popular footpath, a curious crowd gathered to watch. When Ali began to walk down the aisle, the spectators spontaneously burst into applause. “It was a really fun, unexpected moment that we will always remember,” says Ali.
The reception took place on a patio overlooking the same stretch of beach where Ali and Jim had just become husband and wife. The “eclectic and shabby chic” décor was designed to accentuate the hotel’s cottage style while perpetuating the sense of ease and simplicity already established at the ceremony. Each table boasted a unique centerpiece––a collection of pink, ivory, and peach flowers gathered in silver vessels and surrounded by candles of different heights. A place card and single flower marked each guest’s napkin.
But the bride and groom’s most lasting memory is not of the details of the day, but of the time they spent prior to the ceremony in a park across the street from Ali’s parents’ home. It was there that they saw each other for the first time dressed for the big day. The bridesmaids, who were watching the exchange from an upstairs balcony, could not contain themselves, and after a few moments of stifling their excitement, they cheered the happy couple on.