IKEA might not be the first place that springs to mind for most people trying to plan a romantic wedding, but for one New Jersey couple it was the only place that would do. On Saturday, Shirley Stewart and Berkely Smith tied the knot in the framing department of the Elizabeth, N.J., IKEA store, where they first met eight years ago.
According to ABC News, the couple, who are both 46, first connected in the framing section at the store thanks to Stewart’s daughter. "My daughter had gotten suspended from school, so we were in there doing some shopping," she said. "[Berkely] was in there. I saw him right when he came in, and I checked his finger to make sure he wasn't married. I followed him for about an hour."
Although Stewart was immediately enamored with Smith, she told ABC's "Good Morning America" that she wouldn’t have had the courage to follow up with him if it hadn’t had been for her daughter Jashirele, who was then only 14. “I told my mom, ‘Oh, he’s cute,’” Jashirele said of the first encounter.
After getting her mother’s reluctant permission, Jashirele approached Smith and asked if she could have his number so that his mother could keep in touch with him. Stewart says that she was so shy she had to hide during the matchmaking. “I panicked,” she said.
Eventually Stewart overcame her embarrassment. "He said to her, 'I don't give my number to little kids,' so she brought him over to me," Smith said. "I was thinking, 'Oh, my God. I'm going to have a heart attack.' But we've been best friends ever since."
When Smith proposed to his bride, the couple reportedly knew right away that they both wanted to return to the store for their big day. "I called and explained we wanted it to be just him and I in that section, and just take a picture and that's it," Smith said. "I didn't want to distract the customers or cause a big fuss, but they said they'll do it even better."
True to their word, IKEA staff had a breakfast prepared for the bride and groom-to-be when they arrived in the store on Saturday morning alongside close friends and relatives. Once they were given the go-ahead by IKEA employees, Stewart and Smith walked over to the framing section where a black suitcase that had been marked “Just Married” had been set aside. “This is the spot where we met,” Smith said when the couple arrived in the department.
In honor of the event, IKEA, which has hosted several weddings at its store around the world, also donated gifts to the newlyweds. The store’s spokeswoman Olivia Johnson even came in for the event on her day off. “We were here for you when you met,” Johnson told the couple. “So we wanted to be here for you when you exchanged your vows.”
"It came out to be so beautiful," Smith said. "It was better than I ever hoped."
The wedding was likely a welcome distraction from the scandal the Swedish company faced earlier this year when meatballs in its European stores tested positive for horse DNA.