Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. For most Brides, the something borrowed is a piece of jewelry from a family member. But for this gorgeous Bride, her something borrowed was her dress. And the Nha Khanh dress was the right balance of traditional bride and beachy bohemian for her romantic Hawaiian wedding that came together thanks toSunyas Flowers, Merrimans and the stunning Ironwoods Beach In Kapalua. See the whole day, captured by Wendy Laurel, in The Vault!
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From The Bride…I am not an easy person to surprise. While on a trip to Kona on the Big Island in 2014, Anthony not only managed to pull off a surprise proposal, but he also arranged for nine of my family members to be looking on and sharing in the moment.
When it came to the type of wedding we wanted and where we would get married, returning to Hawaii was always at the top of the list. The breezy, effortlessly cool vibe of the Aloha State was the essence of what we wanted our second—most important—wedding to be. We both had done the big, overblown wedding. One week apart from each other in 2009, we married other people (then, 43 days apart from each other, we both had our first child!). There were plenty of crystals, jumping photos, and lots of guests we didn’t recognize. While beautiful, we knew that our forever wedding needed to be something very different.
It was immediately decided that we would marry on the beach, but family and friends’ budget issues, time off issues, and issues with flying made our dream of a Hawaiian wedding look less and less likely. After many, many conversations we decided to elope. It was all becoming too complicated, and we didn’t want to settle for a cookie-cutter wedding in our home state of Florida just because it was more convenient for everyone else. Since we had both been married before, deciding to not have our families at the wedding was a tiny bit easier. Our two 5 year olds were another story. Michael and Lola were so excited about becoming brother and sister, and we really wanted them to feel a part of the blending of our family. We waffled for months on whether or not the kids should come with us to Hawaii. I poured over unique vow renewals and family elopements on Style Me Pretty, envisioning myself, Anthony, Mikey, and Lola in the images. The kids all looked so well-behaved and photogenic. Maybe we could do this, too? In the end, our guts told us to leave everyone behind and make the moment about us. We had both been through so much, and it was a time to focus on each other, our happiness, and the commitment we were making.
Once we chose the island of Maui, everything just fell into place—which is how we knew it was right. I first saw Wendy Laurel’s work on SMP and immediately decided she had to shoot our ceremony. When I passed along her website and blog to Anthony, he was instantly entranced as well. Hawaii is paradise, but weddings there can get cheesy quickly. Online, I saw wedding after wedding chock full of grass skirts, flowered shirts, hibiscus and tiki torches. While I have to admit that we did participate heavily in the “Maui’d” pun, we wanted to keep things elegant and polished with that signature Hawaii cool factor. We looped this common thread throughout all the details of our intimate ceremony. All of the florals came from a local shop on Maui that Wendy had worked with before and recommended. I chose a mixture of bright, tropical flowers, roses in muted tones, succulents, and what I can only describe as nice-looking weeds. The goal was something organic and wildflower-esque, but still refined. From 4,600 miles away, all I could do was send pictures and hope for the best. When we drove to pick up the bouquet, Haku (Hawaiian flower crown), and Maile (a green, garland-type lei worn by the groom) the day of the wedding (talk about faith!), I loved that the “shop” that I had pictured during my email correspondence with Sunya in the months leading up to the wedding was actually the balmy, open-air converted garage of a home on a side street in the small town of Lahaina. Effortlessly cool.
For my dress I knew I wanted to rent and had heard great things about Rent the Runway. The Nha Khanh number I landed on was equal parts traditional bride and beachy bohemian. The SMP beach wedding inspiration that resonated with me the most was the weddings where the bride and groom didn’t dress down because they were on the beach. (No khaki shorts and white eyelet sundresses here!). The Pacific Ocean off the coasts of the Hawaiian Islands is mighty and regal, so we decided to dress up for it. Anthony wore a crisp white shirt, a skinny black tie and storm cloud-colored pale gray pants. We offset our fanciness with simple Havaianas rubber flip flops in classic black and white. The finishing touches were my Haku and his Maile. When my Mom saw the first picture of Anthony and I at the ceremony she texted back, “Beautiful! You look like a Hawaii girl!” Nailed it.
Getting ready for the ceremony was a blur as it often is for the bride. Anthony and I decided to separate after our morning wedding errands and to not see each other until we met on the beach when it was time to get married. This turned out to be a great choice. It felt more special to have the hours before the wedding apart, building up to the big moment. Anthony had a massage at the spa while I got my hair and makeup done in the hotel’s salon. All the ladies in the salon swooned when he had a card and a gift dropped off during my appointment. Keeper! Afterward, I had a little time in the room alone to quietly reflect and get dressed. I did have to stop ask a woman in the hotel lobby to zip up the back of my dress the rest of the way (#elopementproblems).
When I arrived at hidden and quiet Ironwoods Beach where our wedding ceremony would take place, I felt like a Kardashian. Anthony had arranged for a driver at the Ritz-Carlton where we were staying to take me to the beach in a black Cadillac Escalade with dark tinted windows. Since we didn’t want to see each other prior, I was held in the car while the driver, our officiant, Pia, and Wendy placed everyone in their proper positions. Pia and Wendy went out of sight where Anthony was waiting and her assistant stood where I could see him and told me he would give me a thumbs up when it was time for me to start walking toward the ceremony spot. As I waited for his signal, I felt so calm. I kicked off my flip flops, dug my toes into the cool, soft sand and just stared out into the ocean listening to the sound of the crashing waves. When he gave me the sign, I slowly walked toward Anthony, whose back was to me. He finally turned around and we locked eyes, and he whispered, “You’re beautiful,” which is the first thing he said to me when we met. It was truly a magical moment.
Pia, our officiant, did a wonderful job with the ceremony. There was a part where he asked us to hold hands and look out into the sea, which felt so serene and really drew attention to the breathtaking scenery around us. He brought a little bit of Hawaii to the wedding and that made it so special. It was exactly what we wanted. Afterward, we learned that Pia and his wife were married on that very beach 11 years prior. Anthony and I felt we were in great company! After Pia performed the ceremony, Wendy took lots of pictures. Then, we were alone on the beach as husband and wife. Anthony pulled up DNCE’s “Cake By the Ocean,” a wedding-planning fave, on his phone and we blared it and just danced crazily on the beach together. We made a video for the kids before heading to Merriman’s for our wedding dinner.
While our technical first dance was “Cake By the Ocean,” my absolute favorite memory from the day was when Anthony asked the guy playing guitar and singing in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton if he knew “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis. Elvis is major in Hawaii, so of course he knew the tune and he stopped everything and played it right away, allowing us to have our own private first dance as husband and wife right then and there. Other hotel guests were congratulating us, watching, and clapping. It was such a spontaneous moment that could not have been better if we had planned it for weeks. A perfect ending to the best day ever.
My advice for other brides-to-be is to be yourself and keep the focus on the union. Whether it’s your first or second wedding, no matter your budget or your situation, stick to your tastes and preferences and make the day entirely your own. Also, when it’s all said and done, your cranky great aunt isn’t in this relationship—you and your partner are. Choose a location and a style that makes you happy and celebrates your commitment. Most importantly, focus on that commitment. A wedding is just one day while the marriage is all the rest of the days.
Throughout the planning process and after the ceremony, all I talked about is SMP. “It’s the biggest wedding blog that exists,” I kept telling my now-husband. Being the sweetheart that he is, Anthony reached out to SMP the day after we got married without me knowing inquiring about being published because he knew it was so important to me. (Let me put it this way: I worked at a local news station for several years, and a favorite pastime is writing and re-writing the headline for my fantasy front-page SMP feature). Besides the obvious bragging rights, I think our wedding being featured on SMP would be amazing because it’s not your traditional love story. Ours is a modern-day, Brady Bunch-style, fairy tale. This is our second marriage, and our first marriages were 7 days apart. Our kids are 43 days apart in age. Anthony has family in and used to spend summers in the tiny town where I am from in Pennsylvania. We met on Match and overcame a lot to bring our two families together. I feel that our love story is special and unique and would give readers of SMP a fresh, different take on happily ever after.
Photography: Wendy Laurel | Floral Design: Sunyas Flowers | Wedding Dress: Rent The Runway | Bride's Shoes: Havainas | Catering: Merriman's | Hair + Makeup: Test Vendor | Officiant: Pia Aluli | Ceremony Music: Hawaii Hula Company | Venue: Ironwoods Beach In Kapalua | Bridal Boutique: Rent The Runway | Photography Assistance: Jeffrey Oltman