Put a Ring On It – But Keep Your Mouth Shut About Other People’s Rings


Even though I’m already married and the ‘ring search’ is far behind me, I still love looking at engagement rings and seeing what is new and exciting in that world. On a blog I was reading recently a woman posted the following:

“I see so many posts about moissanite and never realized it’s as popular as it is. I was under the impression it was a relatively new creation. I have had several people ask me if my diamond ring is “real” and I have to admit that it bothers me. Also, how do you even respond to that? Anyway, I am looking forward to reading other points of view.”

My thoughts:

I think my perspective is definitely shaped by the fact that I do not care about other people’s opinions about my ring and I also don’t have friends who would ever judge my relationship (or my financial status) based on the ring I’m wearing. When planning our wedding with my spouse we decided, deliberately, that we did not want expensive or ostentatious rings. What we did want were one of a kind, unconventional and unique rings that suited our style and our lifestyle. I work with my hands and would be nervous to wear something too precious. Not that I didn’t try on a variety of rings… but every time I tried a stunner with a gem that was raised too far from my finger, I felt like I’d get it caught on things, destroy it and every surface in my house, but mostly …like it was totally impractical.

In the end, my ring was made by a friend who is a jeweller; it’s unconventional and we used rough diamonds, so no sparkle really. No one has ever asked if they are ‘real’. However, many people have asked about the ring, the design and where they can contact the creator (Breanne Morrow at White Feather Designs).

View More: http://sweetheartempire.pass.us/alison-allia-engagement

Photo by Sweetheart Empire. Rings by White Feather Designs

View More: http://sweetheartempire.pass.us/alison-allia-engagement

Engagement photos by Kate O’Connor of Sweetheart Empire

I think what bothers me about the idea of people asking the original poster these questions is this: why are they asking? Is there some further question they need to have answered? Why do they care?

Maybe they are a gemologist? Maybe they are looking for an engagement ring. But if it’s because they want to know how costly the ring is… why? It’s none of their business and it’s super tacky that they are asking.

Perhaps they want to know because they are considering their options, or maybe see the value in a ring that doesn’t support an industry that has some problems (conflict diamonds, environmental impact), but you can probably already tell that this is their view based on the way they ask.

At the end of the day, I don’t know why it’s anyone’s business what you choose for something as personal as your wedding/engagement rings.


A Sitdown with Wedding Photographer, Kate O’Connor of Sweetheart Empire

Love, style, Wedding

Just a week after my own article, about how wonderful it was to work with Kate O’Connor, a fabulous photographer, for our wedding images, the venue where we were married (Berkeley Church) contacted Kate to interview her; they also asked to feature our photos on their own blog.


They asked:

When approaching this lovely Berkeley Church wedding what were your considerations and aspirations?

I have three goals for every wedding:

  1. To see my subjects for who they truly are – loving, amazing humans taking a leap of faith;
  2. To make sure they feel comfortable, so that they can be themselves and enjoy themselves;
  3. To capture the wedding day FEELS with love and realness – both how people are feeling (emotionally), and the atmosphere of the day overall.

I wanted the brides and their folks to look back at the images and remember how it felt that day – the anticipation, the emotions, and of course the immense loving energy that happens when you are in a room surrounded by your loved ones.berkeley-church-toronto-wedding-ceremoney-weddin-alter.jpgberkeley-church-toronto-wedding-wedding-pritraits.jpgtoronto-weding-berkeley-church-toronto-venue.jpg

For the whole article, follow the link here.

Stepping Out – Bridal Shoes for the Romantic Bride


Photo (above) by Sweetheart Empire. For more work by Kate O’Connor, check out her website here.

One of the most crucial parts of your wedding day is allowing yourself to enjoy it. This isn’t one of those ‘suck it up’ and suffer-the-heels days. Shoes are one of the most important, practical decisions you’ll have to make. You want to look and feel amazing. Yes, you will be photographed more in one day than ever before in your life, but you should be able to last, comfortably, on this (of all days) through the prep, the walk down the aisle, the photos and the dance party. That was key for me; will I be able to dance… all night long? Yes. So, while some folks opt for two dresses, for me it was the shoes. And I have to mention, that while I took lots of inspiration from the expensive items I sourced online and in boutiques, my TWO pairs of shoes cost me less than $100 … together. For the aisle and ceremony, I wore rose-gold t-strap heels (at a conservative 2.5 inches), and for the party, I put on some delicate rose-gold ballerina flats. I made sure that my dress was fitted to skim the floor (which is why a conservative heel was the best choice). At 5’10, I didn’t need to be more statuesque, but feeling comfy (and elegant) was top of the priority list. Here are some of the heels that stole my heart, though not my pay cheque.

Some of my favourite images feature unusual, vintage-inspired picks. Quirky, feminine pairs, with a sturdy heel were good contenders. The top right pair (below) were more of a wear-anywhere shoe, but the other three could easily have been the peep of colour beneath the kick of my hem.

A little something blue? Blue-green, maybe? Liebling makes a wide array of cool, retro shapes.

These beautiful, embellished flats (below) were, by far, one of the best choices I made. They were a hit on the dance floor. I found a pair from Nine West and still wear them today. Pretty-up a pair of simple flats by adding a shoe clip!
The luxe factor really came into play once I started perusing the feed (and website) of Anthropologie’s BHLDN wedding collection. These shoes are drool-inducing. See for yourself. What shoes helped you put your best foot forward on your wedding day? Or, what pair(s) are you still dreaming of?  


Step up and tell me what shoes you’d rock down the aisle in. 🙂

Wedding Bells: Getting Ready In Style


I love love. I especially love nostalgia, photographs and reminiscing about happy life moments. So, it`s been a total treat looking at the proofs from Sweetheart Empire; our photographer, Kate O`Connor is a total pro and caught all the lovey-dovey moments of our nuptials, making it a day of smooth sailing and laughter. Here`s a little taste of our day: my wife, getting ready to put on the dress and meet me at the church, surrounded by her dearest friends.

View More: http://sweetheartempire.pass.us/allia-alison-wedding

Dress, shoes and grandmother`s vintage fur. Jewels, makeup and finishing touches. We jumped on the trend, right before it peaked two years ago, and ordered long kaftans in an array of bright hues for all our bridesmaids, mum, our musicians and all the friends who pitched in to make our DIY wedding so dreamy.

Our Emcees were one of our favourite couples, a spicey pair of lesbian-marrieds who are just as silly as we are. In the Grand Hotel, she prepped, went over the itinerary, sipped champagne and got prepped with her ladies. Don`t let the serious face, above, fool you; she was cool as a cucumber, no Bridezilla to be found.

With her sister to help zip her in, it was high-fives and hugs. What a stunning bride. And down the hall, I`m in my own blissful bubble, getting ready to see this gorgeous face at the altar. Stay tuned for the next love-update!   Cheers and love, A.

View More: http://sweetheartempire.pass.us/allia-alison-wedding

Santorini Destination Wedding


Greece was on my bucket list. We even talked of taking our honeymoon in Greece. We couldn’t afford it. So, when my good friend, a sommelier and traveller, decided to get married in Santorini, we couldn’t believe our luck. I was asked to do the bride’s hair and make-up and to do make-up for the wedding party. Of course, I said yes.

What an incredibly magical spot to wed!


The Bride’s closest friends, family and her new step-daughter!

Getting ready with her bridal party.


Enjoying the bridal suite at the El Greco in Santorini (Fira), Greece


I brought my favourite products for the big day – tried and true – ready for the heat!


Meanwhile, outside the day was shaping up to be incredibly idyllic. El Greco Resort, Santorini.


At the wedding venue, Oceanides, with my lovely wife. Just a little over a year ago, we married in Toronto, Ontario.


Delicious food and fresh local ingredients.


Honey, sesame and cheese…


By the time the ‘main’ course of whole grilled fish came to our table, we were so satisfied and full!


Plates for breaking. Opa!

The bride’s hair and some behind the scenes NON-professional close-ups.


The bride.


Braids and twists were the inspiration for this Grecian look. Heat-proof hair was on the ‘must have’ list. 


At the venue, the sea took center stage as the gorgeous backdrop for their vows.


Our friendship goes back to 7th grade. She looked absolutely stunning, head to toe.


A rose between two thorns.

The day after the wedding; the bride, Lindsay, was ready to relax on the beach. Tunic/beach coverup from Muska - Thira, Santorini.

The day after the wedding; the bride, Lindsay, was ready to relax on the beach. If only we all looked this fresh the day after ‘the big day’! Beach cover-up from Muska – Thira, Santorini.


Getting ready for their close-ups. Olive branch head garlands.


The flower girl looks on as her step-mom-to-be gets her make-up done.


Finishing touches.

And… Opa! Here are the final photos of the stunning bride (and groom!)

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding. Linds found a lovely local Nona to pose with.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

Lindsay and Rob – Santorini wedding.

This is clearly why people fly half way around the world to get married.  Stay tuned for photos from the Toronto reception. Coming soon…

Yes to the Dress


I worried that I wasn’t going to have that tearful, this is it! moment. That unlike so many television brides-to-be, I wouldn’t know when I’d found my dress. I did know a few things though:

I would rather be comfortable than look ‘skinny’.

I wanted to have a dress that I could wear all night.

I didn’t want to need help going pee.

The hefty price tag of my dress wouldn’t be a bragging right.

I was deeply uncomfortable about the idea of spending half a month’s salary (or more) on a dress, no matter how important.

As soon as you say ‘wedding’ the price soars on most things you can think of: flowers, meals, alcohol prices, photography, shoes, accessories, cards, underwear… and definitely THE DRESS.

It’s hard NOT to feel beautiful in dresses that cost twenty times the price of things you wear in regular life. I liked them ALL, with some exceptions, and I was lucky that my small bust and tall frame meant that if it fit around my body it looked pretty good. I didn’t face the complicated support and lift issues that more ample, curvaceous brides might have to deal with, or issues of hemming. How do you know what dress is the one when they all feel so pretty?

At the time I had red hair and the contrast was striking; pale skin, red hair and cream, off white, blush… satin, lace, tulle… it was a mini nightmare of choice overload.

The aha moment came when I picked up an unlikely candidate in grey – it was a party dress, very theatrical and almost like a ballet costume. As I picked it up, I noticed that its petal pink, blush and oyster counterpart was hanging behind it. I added it to the pile. As soon as I got it on I felt like a little girl, gleeful in my desire to spin. It went quickly from ‘love this’ to ‘maybe this is the one’ to ‘this is it.’

It also really helped that it was less than half the price of other gowns. I let my gut decide and my budget concurred with a sigh of relief. I had been adamant that I wasn’t going to get suckered into a big ticket dress. This dress wasn’t what I thought I’d find, but very strangely, it had everything that I had been looking for: it was not white, it was soft and romantic, interesting and unusual, light, one shoulder, no corset, open back, the illusion of strapless without the constant need to hoist, and even before being taken in it felt magical.


The first look. It felt so light and dreamy. I knew if heels were going to come into play we’d need to stitch in a few extra layers of tulle to add length.


Moment of truth: is this the way I want to feel and look when I walk down the aisle. It seemed too easy. Yes.


Give it a spin. With the full skirt and one shoulder strap I felt certain that dancing all night wouldn’t be a problem. The flowers at the waist were removable, too.


I had a sheepish face on when I realized how excited I had gotten. I guess that’s how you know. Even before alterations, which my mom’s neighbour completed for us at very minimal cost, and adding four inches of tulle layering to the hem, it feel really amazing and so comfortable – like I’d stepped out of a fairy tale. Mine.

It even matched the drawing I had sketched out months before I started the hunt, quite closely.When I was all ‘jacked up’ as they say, even the Iphone photos capture it pretty clearly – this was definitely a dress to which I could say an emphatic ‘yes.’


Three hours to show time. Getting ready at the Grand Hotel.


Accessorized and ready: Something old, something new, something borrowed… something blue not pictured here.


Ultimately, the dress I wore was the right pick, even though many more traditional and some very modern dresses felt beautiful, I went with the one that gave me a thrill. Good luck on your hunt!

I Heart You

Art, DIY, Love, Wedding

One of my favourite personalized details from our wedding day, almost a year ago, was the custom heart that my designer friend, Katey, created for us. She is a stylist, ceramic artist and all-round creative genius and, knowing our penchant for DIY touches, she asked if she might be able to make us something special.

Photo Credit: Sweetheartempire.com, Heart by Katherine Morley, Location: Berkeley Church, Toronto.

Photo Credit: Sweetheartempire.com, Heart by Katherine Morley, Location: Berkeley Church, Toronto.

The results were amazing and the decorative heart, emblazoned with our names, became a key piece of our wedding day puzzle.

Berkeley Church, Toronto. Photo Credit: Sweetheart Empire, Toronto (Kate O'Connor). Heart by Katherine Morley.

Berkeley Church, Toronto. Photo Credit: Sweetheart Empire, Toronto (Kate O’Connor). Heart by Katherine Morley.

Check out her beautiful designs on everything from ‘Capacity’ – a carefully curated collection of art and design by female designers in Toronto, to her ceramic sculptures for fish tanks (which address the issues surrounding human impact on our oceans and the depletion of sea coral, while providing a gorgeous, sustainable landscape for fish to explore).


Katherine Morley in her studio.

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Sculptural pieces with form and function.


More of her creative pieces, featured in House & Home, including her circus-inspired ceramics, and Iceberg book ends that evoke the Group of Seven.

Supporting local artists, especially ones who are socially conscious and engaged in their community, is a great way to fill your home, event and life, in general, with good vibes, originality and beauty.