Ali and Jess's Intimate Cabo Wedding
A California duo returned to a beloved Mexico locale for their destination fête.
Ali Stayer and Jess Stricklin have the alphabet to thank for their romance. With last names starting with similar letters, the two were seated near each other in Spanish class during their freshman year of high school. They became close friends and stayed in touch after graduation, even though they went their separate ways for college. After a few years in different cities, they caught up over dinner. Her crush on him reignited, he invited her to hang out again the following morning, and in the end they spent five days of that week together. The rest was history. Five years later, on June 7, 2014, the Los Angeles-based pair celebrated the relationship that sparked in their school days and used some of that Spanish to tie the knot at Cabo Surf Hotel in Mexico.
The bride's and groom's mothers and stepfathers had become friends over the years and were planning a vacation to Cabo San Lucas in 2012. Ali and Jess wanted to crash the trip because they had never been. Jess decided it would be a perfect time to pop the question.
The second night at dinner by the water, Jess asked Ali if she wanted to walk down to the beach. It was dusk when they got to the sand, and Ali pointed out a gorgeous cabana set with lounge pillows, candles, bubbly, and a bonfire. Jess tipped her off that it was for them. As they walked over, she knew something was up, and started asking a slew of questions like, "What are you doing?" and "Do our parents know where we are?" before Jess told her to sit back and relax. He was then the one who got nervous, as he got down on one knee, presented the custom engagement ring, and asked her to spend the rest of her life with him.
"My mom was already crying when we got back to the table," Ali recalls. Two years later and about 20 minutes from that very spot, the couple got hitched. "You can't beat the beauty and good views of the Cabo Surf Hotel," Ali says.
Ali hand-dyed cotton canvas bags for each guest, and stuffed the totes with necessities like granola bars, Mexican chocolate and candy, bottles of water, mints, Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol, and an itinerary for the weekend. Guests used the totes poolside and on the beach in the days leading up to the wedding.
Normally, Ali wears a lot of jewelry and accessories. When she envisioned her big-day look, it was no exception. She let her jewelry steal the show as a reflection of her personal style. The roundup included an 1800s antique lion locket that had belonged to her late grandmother, a beaded rosary from Bittersweet Designs, a bangle by Jen's Pirate Booty, and a trio of rings given to her by family members over the year. She also contemplated wearing a crystal pendant she made (and wore at the welcome party), but as she was getting ready she took it off, recalling Coco Chanel's notion that before you leave the house you should look in the mirror and take one thing off.
For her "something blue," Ali strung African waist beads her sister had brought with her from a trip to Ghana around her ankle.
Ali's bridesmaids chose long dresses in a palette of blush and champagne, and carried petite bouquets of roses, lisianthus, chrysanthemum, and hydrangea.
A Gift for the Gals
As a token of appreciation and love, the bride made necklaces for each of her bridesmaids using different crystals.
The groomsmen (aka the "best men") sported Hugo Boss suits and white linen pocket squares, a gift from the couple.
Photos Around Town
After their first look, Ali and Jess walked around town for some portraits. Locals watched, congratulated them, and even sang songs.
The town square and other backgrounds—like this colorful stucco wall—made for a diverse group of portraits.
A Photo Op
A staircase at the hotel offered a great backdrop for the couple and their wedding party to pose for a picture.
Guests walked down the stairs from the hotel's pool deck to get down to the beach for the early-evening ceremony.
The Ceremony Setting
The service took place on the beach, with a view of both surf and sand. With the groom being over a foot taller than the bride, a hardwood aisle was laid so she could don heels without sinking.
Made With Love
At the end of the aisle, fresh flowers to honor loved ones who had passed away surrounded a handmade Balinese blanket. The blanket—which was originally made as a wedding gift to the artisan's sister—was a symbolic celebration of love.
The couple's grandparents, the groom's parents, and the groom walked down the aisle to "Hold You in My Arms" by Ray LaMontagne. The bridal party followed to "Intro" by The xx.
The Bride's Entrance
As Sam Smith's "Latch (Acoustic)" began to play, excitement washed over the bride, who walked down the aisle with her mom and dad.
A Tearful Moment
"I knew I was going to be emotional, but since I had already spent some time with her taking photos, I didn't expect my reaction to be so strong," Jess recalls of Ali's entrance. "I started crying before I even saw her coming down the aisle. I lost it as soon as I heard the song start to play."
The nondenominational ceremony, which was officiated by Jess's uncle, incorporated an adaptation of "Union" by Robert Fulghum and traditional vows followed by personalized exchanges.
"I'm pretty sure we had all 55 people crying," says Ali of the emotional vows Jess delivered that brought the whole house down. The newly hitched duo were all smiles, though, as they walked up the aisle to "Shooting Stars" by Bag Raiders.
The Group Photo
The new Mr. and Mrs. met their loved ones right after the ceremony for a group photo on the sand.
A Family Portrait
Jess and his father, Randy, and mother, Diana, posed for a photo in front of the ceremony backdrop.
Cocktails and Revelry
Guests enjoyed cocktail hour by the pool at Cabo Surf Hotel, where they sipped on the signature drink, The Paloma. They also snacked on mini crab cakes with mango salsa, stuffed mushrooms, and spare ribs before moving to the reception for dinner and dancing.
The Escort Cards
The wedding coordinator, Beth Dalton of For You, I Do Weddings, arranged the escort cards in a tray of sand—tying the décor to the setting (and also keeping the cards from blowing away).
Dinner took place on the lawn overlooking the ocean (and ceremony spot). The setup evoked a chic, laid-back vibe. The couple wanted the wedding to feel like an extension of their home ("If we lived in a massive hacienda on the beach," Ali jokes) and have a touch of rock 'n' roll glam.
With the intimate guest list, only two long tables were needed for the seated meal. Table runners were inspired by the ocean and were dip-dyed by the bride and her mother to create a faded ombré effect.
Low arrangements of plants were intended to look like something one might have in their home.
The Table Numbers
As an event designer through her company, A Gypsy Fête, Ali is passionate about the details—many of which she made or sourced from home and brought with her, like these table numbers. Candles and oil lamps added a natural glow to the scene.
The Place Settings
Raw-edge linen napkins were also made by the bride—and tied off with leather cording. Handwritten notes from the couple were tucked into each.
Focusing on gratitude and positivity in their lives and home, the couple took that outlook and applied it to their reception. They wrote each guest a personal note of thanks and tucked it into each place setting. "It was our opportunity to tell each person why we are grateful for having them in their lives," Ali says. "The project took us a while because we didn't want to write anything generic, but nothing could replace the moment Jess and I sat down to dinner and watched as everyone realized what the card was. There were lots of tears, laughs, and stunned faces. No one knew we were going to do that—not even our parents."
Dinner and toasts occurred as the sun set. Lights strung overhead added to the ambience as dusk turned to darkness. As they ate, tunes by The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The xx, and The Black Keys played.
The Guest Book
Ferdinand Protzman's book Love
, a photojournalistic display of love at moments in history and at every human age, morphed from just a coffee-table book to an extra-special keepsake when wedding guests added their own sentiments to the tome.
Jess's aunt wrote: "Always remember your stories, they tell your journey," which resonated with the couple since they've been through so many different stages of their relationship over the years. "We know we continue to change and evolve over the years," Ali says. "But we are committed to growing together, and remembering the past reminds us why we made this commitment in the first place."
The First Dance
The newlyweds spun around the dance floor as "Into the Mystic" by Van Morrison played.
Dancing With the Parents
Ali and Jess danced with their father and mother, respectively, to "Lovely Day" by Bill Withers. Afterward, the duo changed into more dance-friendly attire and rejoined their crowd. Their bridal party was in tow, holding two-foot sparklers to light as everyone gathered around for desserts. The pair shared a churro instead of a traditional cake, and then the dance party kicked off when guests were given hand-painted maracas. It didn't end there, though. After the official party concluded, a pool party transpired into the wee hours and the first full day of married bliss.
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