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This is a story for everyone who wants to do their wedding their way, revealing how working with experienced wedding planners can help make that dream come true … even if your dream wedding isn’t in a cemetery’s conservatory!

Curious? Did we mention the engagement photos were taken in the Mütter Museum’s medicinal plant garden? If you’re not familiar with this museum of medical history at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, it “displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models and medical instruments in a 19th-century ‘cabinet museum’ setting.”

Talk about having it their way! Anything is possible, and that’s Ali Blair Barwick and Steve Wolff’s story.

You two seem beyond perfectly paired. How did you meet?

We met at the Opera Philadelphia shop back in August 2016. We’d both started working there around the same time and became fast friends as the new folks in the company. Steve builds the sets and Ali lights them! Our friendship turned into love, and the rest is history. 

How and when did you get engaged?

Steve proposed on Christmas Day 2021. It was the last present under the tree. The box had a bright light in it, a perfect touch for a lighting gal. The ring itself is from Israel. The irony is Ali’s Jewish, but of course we still have a Christmas tree!

What things do you have in common that make your relationship such a good fit?

We both love music and art. We both appreciate the color black! We make each other laugh and have the same humor. So many things! We love to travel and eat different types of food, go to concerts and have a good time doing something outside of work. Steve gets Ali’s morbid collection of spooky antique things, and Ali gets Steve’s astounding record collection and his passionate love for rock-and-roll.  

When did you know this was serious?

Steve’s answer? “I didn’t know it was — kidding!” Probably when Ali came back from a work trip in 2019. Ali missed him so much and wished they’d done the trip together. We talked every day, and shared pictures during the whole trip!

When’s the big day?

Naturally we’re eloping on “mischief night,” Oct. 30, 2022. The reception is November 12, 2022, at the West Laurel Hill Cemetery’s Conservatory.

Why did you choose Robert Ryan Catering & Design?

Ali made a promise that if she was going to do a wedding, then she’d hire friends. We work in live entertainment and we know that not only our industry, but also the wedding industry, was hit hard by the pandemic. We saw Amanda Frangoulis was working at Robert Ryan Catering & Design and wanted her for our wedding reception planner.

What do you like about working with Amanda?

Amanda appreciates Ali’s spooky aesthetic, and since we’re friends, we knew we could trust her with out-of-the-box ideas. Amanda doesn’t think it’s weird, which is a huge plus when you’re saying your theme is “’Til Death” and are having a reception in a cemetery. 

Has the ongoing pandemic messed with your plans at all?

We chose to elope and then have a party back home specifically because of the pandemic. We were impacted greatly with our careers, and due to that, we tried to plan a situation that if the party had to be postponed, or if the world went into lockdown, we would still have each other and our intimate ceremony. We survived being out of work in this pandemic sporadically for years, and going through a difficult time together, and at the end of it all it made our relationship stronger.

Other than that, between prices, Zoom cake meetings, taking multiple COVID tests due to scares at work, rescheduling and working around our crazy production schedules — it’s been madness! But, we really appreciate our vendors for being flexible and with us the whole way.

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Robert Ryan Catering and Design plans and executes over 400 events each year, boasts a five-star rating on WeddingWire and has received WeddingWire’s Couple’s Choice/Bride’s Choice Award seven years in a row. Learn more about Robert Ryan Catering & Design and tour our venues. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for exclusive offers, up-to-date news and recipes from our executive chef.

Nina Malone

All photos by Flicker + Elm