"Our chemistry was immediate," says Ashley Taylor Cooper of the first time she met her would-be husband Ernesto Argüello. However, their romance didn't start immediately because he was a close friend of Ashley's family and 15 years her senior. So Argüello, being a gentleman, did what ever gentleman would do in this case—he "sat down individually with my mom, dad, and stepdad to ask for their permission to date me," explains Ashley. And you thought chivalry was dead?!
If you think the beginning of their love story is romantic, then you don't know what's coming at you. Their engagement was something out of a Hollywood movie and it happened in one of the most beautiful places on Earth—Cartagena, Colombia.
After a carriage ride around the old part of the city, they hopped off to walk the ramp up Cartagena's fortress wall. In a matter of moments, a well-dressed trio followed them and began to sing. He had planned *every* detail of the proposal.
Once at the top of the wall on a little bridge Ernesto whispered to Ashley: 'I want to be with you forever!' and before she knew it, he fell down on one knee, pulling a stunning ring out of his pocket, and asked her: “Will you let forever begin today?" Way to put his own spin on a classic question, right?! We are sure you could guess what her answer was. Who could say "no" to that kind of proposal anyway?!
"This was a fairytale—my fairytale," says Ashley.
"After I spoke to Naeem and shared my vision based on one of his gowns I was convinced he would create my dream wedding dress," she says.
The result of their collaboration? A breathtaking custom embroidered dress that any bride would swoon over.
Unlike some couples who would hire a planner to take care of all the details that go into planning a wedding for 400 people at New York's most sought-after venue, the Plaza Hotel, Ashley was actually extremely involved with everything from floral arrangements and centerpieces to even designing the costumes of the staff and entertainers. And, believe it or not, so was Ernesto (he's a keeper, Ashley).
"We enjoyed every second planning our wedding. It was so special to share those moments and it made us appreciate the final results even more," she says.
They worked with celebrity florist Dieter Van Beneden who executed the entire design and also added his own magic touch to the night. The theme? Enchanted fairytale and, more specifically, love birds.
To make their vision come to life, Van Beneden incorporated a lot of birdcages and birds throughout the reception. In the entrance of the Plaza's Terrace Room, stood two "coquette" girls who wore gold bird cage skirts filled with champagne glasses for the guests.
They even had an aerialist dressed as a white dove hanging inside of a 15-foot cage on silk ribbons performing and helping each guest find his or her seating card.
"It was a spectacle," says Ashley.
Every table had an arrangement made out of ivory-colored hydrangeas and lush greenery as well as candles. Guests were given custom embroidered napkins with the couple's logo and a small birdcage filled with mini white dove salt and pepper shakers. Even the bathroom mirrors were sprayed with golden graffiti.
"We literally thought of everything."
But if you ask us, the best thing about Ashley and Ernesto's wedding was the registry. Why? Because they donated all of it and did not accept any gifts. In fact, the entire registry was strictly donations that will be used to build a new educational center for underprivileged children in Latin America. So far, they have fundraised more than $23,000. The couple has been involved with charities for a very long time and they have even partnered with the UN as spokespeople for road safety.