Emotional moment bride with cerebral palsy leaves wheelchair to walk down the aisle
Walking down the aisle seemed an impossible dream for Alaina Banfield… but it came true thanks to her grit, determination and belting attitude.
Alaina, 29 – unable to walk for most of her life – hired a personal trainer three times a week and even took up boxing to build up her muscles.
For someone who has cerebral palsy and relies on an adapted wheelchair, it was an astonishing effort.
But Alaina was determined not to let her disability rule her big day after Phillip Coffee popped the question.
And last weekend she proudly walked 10 metres down the aisle to say “I do” to her beaming fiancé.
The magical ceremony was at Bristol Zoo – where she and Phillip, who she met online, had their first date.
Alaina did things in her own special style – in a sparkling white dress, white Dr Martens boots with giraffes painted on them and a white leather jacket with the wedding date on the back.
Alaina has had cerebral palsy, which limits her movement and coordination, since birth.
She said: “I have unbalanced legs which aren’t straight.
“In primary school I could walk independently. But at high school I wasn’t allowed to due to health and safety.”
Through school and university, Alaina became dependent on her wheelchair, but had always wanted to walk again.
Getting engaged to delivery driver Phillip, also 29, gave her the motivation to get back on her feet.
She added: “To start with I thought it would be awkward as Phillip is able bodied, so I didn’t expect that he would choose to be with someone who would need 24-hour care.
“I was over the moon to get engaged to him in 2018. From that day I have been working hard to build up my strength as I was determined to walk independently down the aisle.
“I hired my own personal trainer three times a week. I also attended conductive education, a form of physio which helps people with cerebral palsy to gain more independence in their day-to-day life.
“To help with my core I took up boxing, which I do on my knees. The wedding was amazing, everything we’d dreamed of. He’s the man of my dreams.”
The Cardiff couple had to cancel the ceremony twice due to the pandemic. After finally tying the knot they headed for a honeymoon in the Lake District.
Phillip said: “When I saw Alaina walking toward me, down the aisle, I just thought, ‘wow, how lucky am I’?
“She looked gorgeous and so adorable and all credit to her as she managed to walk down the aisle. She is amazing.
“The thing I love is the cheeky smiles she gives, the way she looks down at me out of the corner of her eye.
“She’s determined not to let anything get in her way as regards cerebral palsy. There is so much to love about her. How could I not love Alaina? It’s crazy.
“My family love Alaina, from the moment I showed Alaina off they immediately fell in love with her.
“With her speech I thought it would take time for them to understand, but they instantly connected with her.
“They treat her like an adult, whereas people on the street sometimes treat her like a child.”
Alaina told how she had always refused to let her disability hold her back.
She achieved a first class degree in surface pattern design from the University of Wales and now sells her own artwork – created using a digital head pointer – through her company Banfield Designs.
Now she is using social media to help others after being inspired by the videos of online influencer Daniel Henderson.
Alaina went on: “During the first lockdown I decided to set up a TikTok account, which definitely made life a lot easier.
“Daniel’s account is one of the first that I followed. I loved his videos, they always put a smile on my face, he is so funny. He gave me the courage to share my story on TikTok.
“It’s something I’d never done before, but he is motivational and so supportive. I recently messaged him and he has kindly helped me share my video.
“I started using social media to show people that having a disability shouldn’t stop you from doing anything once you put your mind to it. I graduated with a first class degree and I’ve started my own business with my own paintings created using my head pointer as I am unable to use my hands.
“Being disabled should not stop you doing anything – and now I’ve walked down the aisle for my wedding.”
Alaina’s mum Angela, 60, was overjoyed to see her girl tie the knot.
She said: “I didn’t think I’d ever see Alaina a bride – I definitely thought that would not happen. I couldn’t be prouder. Phillip is so lovely the way he looks after her and cares for her.
“Alaina learning to walk is amazing. I feel she gets her determination through me – I still sprint at 60 years of age. It’s in her DNA. I am very proud of Alaina.”
Wonderful Stepdad Michael Bryant 61, said: “I am very proud of her. When I saw her walking down the aisle and the strength and determination to do it, it brought a tear to my eye.
“She has bags and bags of determination to succeed. It was a treat to see. She is a very strong-willed young lady.
“He’s so kind to her, you can see in her face and his, you can see the love there. It’s just the way Phillip looks at Alaina, the love he’s got for her.
“They’re a wonderful couple, they’re meant to be together.”
Alaina’s next challenge is to do a tandem parachute jump for her 30th birthday in October. But then, after walking again, the sky really is the limit.