In 2019, Chris Zimmerly popped the question over candlelight and Aziza Ali eagerly responded with “Yes!” The couple looked forward to a short, easy engagement so they could begin their happily-ever-after straight away—but 2020 brought a mountain of personal challenges that halted their plans.
First, COVID-19 put event planning on hold. A few months later, calls for social justice rocked the nation—and sent shockwaves through the interracial couple’s household. Ali remembers ”plenty of tears as we watched our country and each other learn and adjust.”
Ali and Zimmerly restarted wedding planning in the fall and even found their ideal venue: Carneros Resort and Spa in Napa Valley, a perfect blend of nature, wine, and luxury. Then yet another shoe dropped when Zimmerly lost his hospitality job. The couple had to suddenly relocate from their Orange County home to North Carolina. “We wondered: Could we afford a wedding with one of us out of work? That doesn’t even make sense,” Ali says.
Just when the two felt like they’d never catch a break, their luck took a dramatic turn. Ali heard about Visit California’s Dreaming On in California contest, a program designed to help people make up for lost 2020 milestones. When Ali saw one of the prizes—an intimate wedding at Carneros Resort and a stay at Vista Collina Resort—she “knew it was meant to be.”
She entered, they were selected as one of the winners, and soon the couple had to let their closest friends and family know to head to wine country on June 25. Ali and Zimmerly were set to tie the knot at a specially created Pop-Up Chapel where the 10 winning couples would experience wine country wedded bliss with one ceremony an hour over the course of the day.
When the big day arrived, Ali says she couldn’t have been happier. “Everything was five-star all the way,” she remembers, from the stunning pool where they held a breezy pre-wedding party to the vineyard-framed altar where Ali walked down the aisle to John Legend's “All of Me.” “It was just perfect,” she says. The wedding party and guests enjoyed a patio reception at Carneros, and the next morning everyone celebrated Ali and Zimmerly with a yoga hike hosted by Vista Collina, featuring stunning views.
“We could just be in the moment with our nearest and dearest,” says Ali. “It feels like a blessing, that’s for sure.” As if a sign of complete kismet, Zimmerly recently accepted a new role as a food and beverage manager at a well-known winery. Next month, the couple will make a permanent move to their dream California location: Napa Valley.
“It’s where we’re meant to be,” says Ali.