A Relaxed and Romantic Wedding in a Converted Mill in Baltimore, Maryland
When Ali Muhammed matched with Jessica Bonilla on Bumble in 2016, he didn't get the immediate response he hoped for—but when he requested to extend the match for an additional day, he finally caught Jessica's attention. "Jess was my first match on Bumble—lucky me!" says Ali. "The first date was full of meaningful and unforgettable details and the connection was pretty instant!"
Nearly two years later, in June 2018, Ali surprised Jessica with a proposal on the pier in Hoboken, New Jersey, that honored his mother, Beverly, who passed away in 2012. "Ali had chosen the date as it was the anniversary of his mother's passing," says the bride. "As we walked, he began to speak about what the date meant, how happy his mother would have been to meet me, and how thankful he was for our relationship." After dropping to one knee and getting a big yes from Jessica, he revealed two more surprises: a professional photographer who captured the moment from a nearby hill, and an apartment full of friends and family ready to celebrate.
Wedding planning quickly turned into a team effort: "Ali planned a bulk of the wedding, surprisingly!" says Jessica. "He was very organized and efficient. We worked together to iron out the meaningful details." They chose the Mt. Washington Mill Dye House in Baltimore, Maryland, for a ceremony and reception on November 30, 2019, and included 164 guests. "We wanted a comfortable space that felt intimate," says the couple, adding that they prioritized making their celebration their own. They designed their own stationery, included a memory table honoring Ali's mother and Jessica's grandfather, and added a photo backdrop wall with gold lettering spelling out one of their personal catchphrases: "Love you most." And after more than a year of planning without a professional event coordinator, they have plenty of advice for other couples: "Don't get too overwhelmed with trying to please others," says Ali. "Make sure you do things the way you—as a couple—want to."
Taking the Plunge
Jessica needed only three shopping days to find her Kelly Faetanini wedding dress—a fitted crepe design with a low neckline and plunging cowl back. "I wanted a simple gown that hugged my curves," says Jessica. "My friends took one look at me as I tried it on in the bridal salon and instantly said it was perfect for me, which made me love it more. I also loved that it felt so comfortable to wear and dance in all night long!"
Florist Bay Blossoms created Jessica's loosely shaped "lush and wild" oval bouquet, including garden roses, ranunculus, roses, astilbe, anemone, hydrangea, and veronica in shades of white, blush, and pink. Bridesmaids carried matching bunches that were smaller in size.
Jessica and Ali each had their own ideas for the bridesmaids' dresses—"Ali wanted to have everyone in the same color," says Jessica, "but I wanted a color that was somewhat unique and allowed for variety." She chose Jenny Yoo's Cinnamon Rose shade and allowed each woman to choose her own crepe or chiffon cut. "I saw the Cinnamon Rose color on a photographer's Instagram and immediately messaged the bride featured to ask her the name of the color and the designer!" she says.
A Hidden Tribute
Ali added a touching accent to his navy blue tux with black shawl lapels from Suit Supply. "On the inside, I had embroidered patches of a monarch butterfly and a stitched sunflower," he says. "I was very close with my mother and she loved those two things. Growing up she drew pictures of them and always admired their beauty. I wanted to honor her and have them close to me as I stood next to my future wife. She would have loved it!"
Men in Black
Ali's groomsmen accented classic black tuxedos from The Black Tux with boutonnières of white anemone and seeded eucalyptus (the groom's also included white ranunculus). "I decided that having the groomsmen wear tuxes would allow them to stand out and look very dapper next to the bridesmaids," he says. He also gave each man a wooden watch with a leather band from Grain and Oak.
Their First Look
Ali waited for Jessica on the waterfront in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, where the couple shared their first look before posing for portraits with their family and bridal party. "When she finally tapped me on the shoulder and I got to see her for the first time in her wedding dress, I almost lost my breath," he says. "She was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. We just smiled at each other and I definitely got really emotional because this was the moment I was waiting for—for over a year—and the moment didn't disappoint."
In Your Eyes
Though Jessica admits to nerves in the days leading up to the wedding, the rehearsal dinner calmed her—so by time she met Ali for their first look, she felt only excitement. "We agreed that we wanted to be at each other's side all weekend, apart from getting ready," she says. "During the first look, Ali made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world, and although I wasn't necessarily surprised by his reaction, it was such a special moment that I'll never forget. It was a genuine reaction of joy. After the first look, we were both ready to take on the rest of the day."
Borrowed and Blue
Jessica's accessories included a diamond tennis bracelet borrowed from her matron of honor and a delicate silver ring with a single turquoise stone that Ali gave her as a wedding gift; the heirloom piece had belonged to his mother.
Down the Aisle
After Ali walked down the aisle to John Legend's "Stay with You," the bridesmaids—followed by Jessica and her parents—processed to "River" by Leon Bridges. "When Ali heard this song, he immediately got chills thinking about how much I meant to him," says Jessica. The song reminded both of them of a relationship-defining weekend New Year's Eve trip they shared in 2018. "We used that song to let go of difficult circumstances encountered in that year—a cleansing of sorts," says Jessica. "After bonding with my friends that weekend, I knew Ali had solidified a place in my life."
He Said, She Said
Ali and Jessica asked two friends to officiate their ceremony: David Brumel, Jessica's best friend's husband, and pastor Timi Ogunfowora, Ali's former roommate. "These two worked so seamlessly together and made our ceremony so special and personalized," says Jessica. "Dave provided comedic relief and Timi provided structure and elements of spirituality."
The bride and groom wrote their own promises—and sharing them became one of the newlyweds' favorite parts of the day. "Our vows were from the heart," says Jessica. "They included reflections from our relationship and seemingly insignificant details that we truly consider to be special and the foundation of our relationship."
The New Mr. and Mrs.
Jessica and Ali exited as husband and wife to Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." They kept their ceremony décor simple, accenting the open ceiling with string lights and using two floral arrangements in front of a central window to define their altar space.
Light the Night
In the reception area, the couple set up round tables topped with low floral arrangements alongside wooden farm tables decorated with garlands of eucalyptus. They added abundant candlelight and twinkling string lights to soften the exposed brick and concrete floors of the industrial space.
Linwoods restaurant catered the event, putting together a cocktail hour menu that included citrus-rubbed tuna with lemon purée, lobster tempura, and sliced duck breast with port-glazed figs. For dinner, the couple served a mixed greens salad with apples, walnuts, and goat cheese; an entrée duo of short ribs and grilled salmon; and a vegetarian option of eggplant and couscous—and gave Jessica's mom the house speciality of liver and onions (her favorite). "We loved that the venue had a well-respected restaurant as a catering option as we are very serious about food!" says Jessica. "Ali was on Chopped and one of his top asks was good food!"
Table for Two
Jessica and Ali sat at an intimate sweetheart table set up in front of a 10-foot-tall reclaimed arched doorway and surrounded by candles. "We wanted to have doors throughout," says the couple, "to signify us entering a new stage of our relationship and lives."
Linwoods also provided the couple's dessert: a three-tier naked cake with two layers of Devil's Food cake and chocolate mousse filling and a bottom layer of carrot cake with buttercream filling.
Before the couple's first dance, Jessica's brother gave a brief speech; he then accompanied the DJ on guitar. "He practiced staying in sync with the song for weeks," says the couple. "It was the perfect touch to an already special first dance."
Song and Lyrics
Jessica and Ali chose "Beyond" by Leon Bridges for their first dance because, they say, "We wanted a song that was a little more upbeat to be able to dance to—we loved the words of the song and felt that it described how we felt about one another early on in our relationship." The lyrics had another personal connection for the couple, too: "We also loved the line that says, 'Grandma would've loved her like she was her own,' often changing it to 'Mom would've loved her like she was her own,' as a nod to Ali's mom," says the bride.
The couple's guests swayed and sang along during the first dance—a preview of the party to come. When DJ Jake Sherman played Celine Dion's "All Coming Back to Me Now" for the last dance, says the couple, "The entire bridal party started singing and Jess's bridesmaids lifted Ali up in the air, and then proceeded to lift Jess up in the air. It was a wild way to wrap everything up before heading to the after-party!"
Photography, Greta Tucker
Venue, Mt. Washington Mill Dye House
Catering and Cake, Linwoods Restaurant
Flowers, Bay Blossoms
Music, DJ Jake Sherman, Washington Talent Agency
Rentals, White Glove Rentals
Bride's Gown, Kelly Faetanini
Bride's Accessories, BHLDN veil and jewelry; Chaos and Harmony shoes
Hair and Makeup, Melissa Elbert (hair) and Nancy Goana (makeup), Makeup by Ana B.
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Jenny Yoo Groom's Attire, Suit Supply
Menswear, The Black Tux
Groom's Watch, Grain and Oak
Lighting, Event Dynamics
Transportation, Superior Tours
Rings, Cranford Golden Touch Jewelers
Table Rentals, Barnes Farm Tables