With the Pacific as their backdrop, today’s bride and groom exchanged vows on the Big Island of Hawaii in front of their nearest and dearest. Grace Flowers Hawaii adorned their ceremony tree with the most beautiful tropical blooms and 1,001 origami paper cranes for longevity, love, health, and happiness. Their color palette drew on bright and cheerful citrus hues like tangerine, blush, coral,
and yellow, inspired by the sunset and local fruit of the island. To escape to paradise, check out the full gallery of details by Stephanie Brauer Photography and prepare to fall in love!
What did you envision your wedding being prior to planning?
For our wedding, we chose a theme of relaxed whimsical romance meets bright and colorful sunset citrus. After holding a small civil ceremony on the East Coast due to the pandemic, we wanted our eventual larger ceremony to be a celebration of the coming together of our two families in a setting that was not only beautiful but meaningful. Having grown up in Hawaii, I couldn’t think of a better place to hold our delayed celebration and luckily it wasn’t that difficult to convince Francis that Hawaii was the perfect location. Holding the wedding in Hawaii also meant my 97-year-old grandparents were able to attend, which was incredibly important to both of us. Throughout the big day we aimed to interweave personal elements that were unique and true to us. Following our oceanside ceremony, we held our sunset cocktail hour overlooking the ocean before guests made their way to the reception. During our cocktail hour, we knew many of our guests wanted poke so we had a poke and sashimi bar, which was really fun! For the reception, we wanted a relaxed, yet romantic evening under the stars so we worked with Hawaii Island Events and our florist to install foliage-laden trellises with twinkling lights strung in all directions. Over the course of the wedding weekend, we also incorporated Korean and Japanese traditions–many of which highlight the unification not only of two individuals, but two families. Polly, our Fairmont Orchid wedding coordinator, helped in integrating all these various ceremonies and events into one seamless wedding weekend itinerary.
What was your color palette and your style vision?
The vision for our wedding was inspired by the Kohala Coast on the Island of Hawaii–the location of our wedding. Our color palette drew on bright and cheerful citrus hues like tangerine, blush, coral, and yellow inspired by the sunset and local fruit like lilikoi (passionfruit), guava, pineapple, mango, and papaya. Against this citrus palette, we incorporated undertones of light cerulean blue to mirror the Pacific Ocean backdrop. In many ways, I began my planning process by looking for a photographer whose style was soft, romantic, and captured light in ways that felt timeless and ethereal. Our incredibly talented photographer, Stephanie Brauer, shot our civil ceremony a year prior. We were so impressed by the way she captured not just our story as a couple, but the full sensorium of the location (an arboretum in Connecticut). We were thrilled when she agreed to make the long trek to Hawaii to shoot our wedding and just like in Connecticut, her photographs exceeded conventional wedding photographs with their attention to capturing the sense of place in Kohala.
What unique elements or DIY details did you include?
The DIY details involved the creativity and help of many of our family and friends. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, my family dining room transformed into an art studio every night as my family and I worked on various projects. My brother Colby painted watercolors of the dishes and custom drinks for the menus and cocktail signs. He even painted an adorable watercolor rendition of our maltipoo puppy, Pebbles, poised with a fork and knife at the bottom of the menu ready to eat! Other DIY projects included a rustic wooden welcome sign that my other brother Cameron helped stain before we finished it with calligraphy and hand-sketched monstera leaves. To counter the late afternoon heat during the ceremony, my maid of honor LiLi created ceremony programs that doubled as fans.
The DIY elements were the ideal way to interweave fun and quirky aspects to our big day. Since Francis is a physician, I created prescription pads where guests were asked to jot down a “prescription for a happy marriage.” And as a gesture to my own role as a professor, we displayed a framed poem by W.S. Merwin (one of my favorite poets) that I quoted as part of my vows.
Undertaking so many creative projects could at times be overwhelming. A few days prior to the wedding, I stayed up until 2am regretting my decision to hand-letter all the place cards in gold calligraphy. The hand-lettered cards were actually paper leaves my mom and I had cut out by hand to be pinned to clementines for each place setting.
While these projects were incredibly time-intensive, it was these elements (crafted with the help of my family and friends) that made the wedding weekend resonate with warmth and meaning everywhere we looked. Interweaving DIY elements not only helped to pare down costs, but allowed for a degree of customization and curation. By crafting components by hand, we were able to curate our aesthetic vision down to the minutiae of elements like paper texture, lettering style, or napkin linen weave. The end result was a highly personal celebration that not only captured our creative vision but also embodied who we are as individuals and as a couple.
What was your favorite moment?
We held a Korean ceremony (paebaek) the day before our wedding. During the paebaek ceremony, we express gratitude towards our elders and they offer their blessings and advice. However, two of my favorite moments from the wedding weekend was seeing the sheer joy on our parents’ and relatives’faces as they grabbed the largest handfuls of chestnuts and dates for Francis and I to catch. Depending on the number of dates (girls) or chestnuts (boys) we caught in the cloth we held up, would determine how many children we were to have. Both of our families have some skilled throwers since by the end we were predicted to have somewhere close to 96 children!
To conclude the ceremony, the groom has to carry the bride and then his mother on his back and run around the room. I remember holding on for dear life as Francis ran around the room and our guests cheered us on. Francis kept joking that he should have worked out to prepare for the paebaek, but in the end he didn’t drop either of us so he did well!
For our wedding reception the following day, we worked with our dance instructor to choreograph our first dance to “I love you always forever” by Betty Who. While our dance began with just Francis and I, the dance transitioned midway into a group number with our entire bridal party joining us on the floor for the rest of the routine.
Your favorite crafted detail?
The menus, which featured watercolor artwork by my brother and my own hand lettering.
Tell us about your flowers, your gown, your favors, your cake, etc.
Our florist Grace Flowers Hawaii incorporated ranunculus, larkspur, peonies, roses and other soft, romantic spring flowers with small accents of tropicals and a few in-season, local citrus fruits to accent the tables.
Our wedding ceremony took place at the Fairmont Orchid at “Turtle Pointe” (a grassy spot overlooking the ocean). While we initially intended to create an arch installation between two trees at Turtle Pointe, a bad storm a few months before the wedding left only one tree standing. However, this was almost a blessing in disguise as our floral team created a lush organic floral arrangement that started on the ground and crept up the trunk. From the tree branches, we hung garlands of florals and origami paper cranes to gesture to senbazuru or the Japanese tradition of folding 1,001 cranes for longevity, love, health, and happiness. In one of the most surreal moments, I remember saying our vows as the floral and origami crane strands shimmered and swayed around us.
Our florist also created puppy-safe flower lei for our two “flower pups” (our 17-year-old family dog Ollie and our maltipoo Pebbles). It’s a good thing they were made from puppy-safe florals since we caught Pebbles munching on his lei throughout the day (poor pup–he must have been hungry)!
My dress was designed by Rita Vineris as part of the Rivini collection. I went with my friend Monica to the Kleinfeld Bridal Sample sale just expecting to browse and one hour later I emerged with the gown and veil of my dreams. In a very quintessential COVID moment, I showed my mom my dress via FaceTime and the only two people to celebrate “saying yes to the dress” were the sales associate and my friend who accompanied me. Both the gown and cathedral veil featured delicate lace with classic lines. In order to dance, I later changed into a Self-Portrait guipure-lace midi dress.
For our wedding favors, my mom generously offered to make jars of homemade guava jelly. For months leading up to the wedding, my mom continually harvested guava from our backyard tree in order to make the jars of jelly (using my 97-year-old grandma Jane’s recipe).
Since Francis and I share a love of dessert, we designed our reception layout around a white shiplap circular bar (custom made by Hawaii Island Events) to serve as the kind of bar we like best: a dessert bar! Our dessert bar included a “Manini Malasada & Island Floats” station where guests could sample taro, island vanilla, and cinnamon sugar malasadas (Portuguese donuts that are a favorite in Hawaii) dipped in chocolate lava, lilikoi (passionfruit), and Alae salt caramel. Our “Death by Chocolate” station featured chocolate turtles, chocolate salted caramel eclairs, chocolate macadamia nut clusters, and macadamia nut sticky tartlets, among other sweets. And if your guests weren’t already sick of
chocolate, there was also our wedding cake!
Our wedding cake featured a “Chocoholic” top tier of Midnight Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Mousse Filling, Fresh Raspberries, and Chambord Syrup with a “Passion Drop” bottom tier of Lilikoi Poppy Seed Chiffon Cake, Kalamansi Mousse, and Lilikoi Syrup. For the cake, we went with a simple cream frosting adorned with a few floral sprigs and a custom wooden cake topper by Lollipop Workshop.
What is one piece of advice that you could give brides-to-be?
In addition to the benefits of incorporating DIY elements into your big day, I would also encourage brides-to-be to look for inspiration in unexpected places (not just pinterest where at a certain point all the weddings start to look very similar). At various points, I drew on inspiration from places like the farmer’s market where I chose a color palette I saw reflected in local produce like papaya and lilikoi (passionfruit). I also looked to interior design or architecture blogs (rather than strictly bridal blogs) to find ideas for tablescapes or layered textured elements. And finally, it’s so important to find ways to incorporate yourself into your big day so that your wedding isn’t generic but feels curated to you and your partner.
HOW WE MET (OR ALMOST DIDN’T)
Francis and Courtney almost didn’t meet. They met each other just as they were both getting ready to leave New Haven. Courtney was frantically writing her dissertation and finishing up graduate school to head to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to begin her Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard and Francis was busy with his intern year of training and getting ready to move to New York City to begin the next step of his residency at NYU. However, fate aligned and they both swiped right on Bumble. Courtney was brand new to the world of online dating and Francis was a seasoned pro, yet they immediately bonded over their love of 90s music (shoutout to Francis’s two older sisters for instilling in him a love of Savage Garden and Backstreet Boys from a tender age), travel (solo travel, especially), boardgames, Frank Sinatra, musicals, and boba.
FROM CONNECTICUT TO LONG DISTANCE
Courtney knew Francis was the one during one of their first dates when she changed the playlist to Savage Garden and Francis belted out the lyrics to Truly, Madly, Deeply without missing a beat. Francis knew Courtney was the one when he was unexpectedly called in to cover a night shift back at the hospital during their second date at a 5-star omakase sushi restaurant. In a mixed display of horror and amazement, Courtney watched Francis scarf down the entire 12 course meal before running out the door to work his unexpected overnight call at the hospital. The very next day, even though Francis was tired from a night of no sleep, he asked Courtney to go on a hike to Castle Craig in Connecticut. This hike was the site of their first kiss and would later on be the site of the proposal. Throughout that summer, they were inseparable as they went on countless hikes, road tripped to New Hampshire, went strawberry picking, and ate their way through the New Haven pizza scene. As their time in Connecticut drew to a close, they decided to give long distance a go. Racking up some costly debt but also a lot of frequent flier miles and Amtrak points, Courtney and Francis meticulously planned their trips to see each other over the course of the following year. The longest time they could stand to be apart was about three weeks and even that was a stretch.
When March 2020 hit and the pandemic broke out, Courtney and Francis were about to travel to Iceland for spring break. While they didn’t have the opportunity to take their trip as planned (the mud baths and glacier hiking will have to wait), Courtney ended up moving to New York as Harvard moved all of its classes online (so Courtney could teach remotely). Even as all of her friends fled the city to the suburbs, Courtney found herself moving to the city with the highest concentration of COVID cases about to move in with Francis who worked directly with COVID patients as part of his medical residency training. After stocking up on toilet paper, wine, and kale, they hunkered down in New York City. Francis still had to work as the hospitals were especially busy, but they found time to play a lot of Dominion and Chess (their favorite boardgames), cook together, and take socially distanced walks as they explored the city.
In July 2020, Francis and Courtney took a road trip back to New Haven to visit some of their old haunts and to hike Castle Craig. Castle Craig was the hike they took on their third date (second and a< half date actually since their second date came to an abrupt end). At the top of the summit, Francis recreated their date lending Courtney his jacket to keep warm. Courtney was puzzled because it was scorching July day and she also felt something bulky and square in the pocket (but didn’t say anything)! Finally, with some prompting from Francis she reached into the pocket and found the ring box. Francis proposed and Courtney said yes! Fun fact, the cute white and black dog in the engagement photos is Chili (a dog they happened to be watching that weekend through Rover). True to COVID times, Chili was the only witness of the proposal!
PANDEMIC PUPPY LOVE
In August 2020, Francis and Courtney made a bet on a Dominion game. If Courtney won, they could get a puppy. Francis had never (ever!) seen Courtney try so hard at any game. Luckily, Courtney won (or Francis let Courtney win?) so they began looking into getting a puppy. Taking care of their new maltipoo puppy, Pebbles, has been a whirlwind of excitement and exhaustion. Pebbles is often really naughty and way too smart for his own good, but pays his fair share of rent in cuteness and snuggles.
In October 2020, with the pandemic’s end nowhere in sight, Francis and Courtney decided to legally marry with a Justice of the Peace ceremony in Westport, Connecticut. Courtney’s mom, Faith, flew up from Hawaii to be part of the ceremony. Andrea, Courtney’s friend from college, also served as a witness (in addition to all the family and friends who tuned in via Zoom) to watch the intimate civil ceremony.
HOW WE LOST OUR ENGAGEMENT RING
Courtney and Francis live in Kips Bay, above NYU Tisch Hospital and frequently take the NYC Ferry across the East River to Long Island City. This past November (with two months until the wedding), they caught the NYC ferry to LIC in order to visit a tailor so Courtney could alter her wedding dress. As they got off the ferry and walked down the metal ramp at the dock, they heard a faint metal clang and looked at each other inquisitively. They weren’t sure what the sound was, but as Courtney was carrying a heavy wedding dress and they were in a hurry, they continued disembarking the platform. When they arrived at the tailor, after a 30-minute drive from LIC, Courtney looked down at her finger and panicked when she noticed her engagement ring was missing. It was then that they realized the metal clang must have been the ring. Francis dropped Courtney off and told her to go ahead and meet the tailor and that he would return to the ferry dock to find the ring. However, after a few minutes, Courtney decided the dress would have to wait and caught a Lyft back to the dock. When she arrived, Francis looked miserable as he scoured the metal slats in the NYC Ferry dock. He hadn’t been able to find the ring.
Courtney and Francis got down on all fours and crawled along the platform meticulously inspecting every inch of the ferry dock. At one point, several ferry workers helped only to say, “It’s probably in the East River” before telling Francis to contact the NYC Ferry Customer Service line. He sent a message to their online form. Courtney sent a tweet to the NYC Ferry. Then they waited. Courtney cried on the dock before they came to terms with the fact that it was most likely gone–lost in the East River, picked up by a stranger, or a whole gamut of other unknown possibilities. They headed home sans-ring and with a heavy (unaltered) wedding dress. Once home, they tried to occupy themselves with other distractions. Later that afternoon, Francis received an email from the NYC Ferry informing him that someone had turned in a ring. Francis replied and then they waited anxiously. The individual wrote back asking Francis to share photos to ensure that this was indeed the right ring. After sending photos, they were so relieved when they found out the ring matched! The family who found the ring lived in LIC but was heading out to dinner and wouldn’t be back in LIC until around 10pm that same evening. Courtney and Francis agreed to meet them wherever, whenever.
That evening, at close to 10pm under the Coca-Cola sign near the LIC Ferry Dock, Courtney and Francis waited anxiously in a light drizzle for the mystery family to arrive. A young couple toting a small cart with a toddler soon arrived. The family, Christine, David, and Elyse Park, of Astoria, NY,had found the ring earlier that morning. Their young daughter, Elyse, loves to hunt on the ground for interesting objects and leaves when she came across something that sparkled. After showing it to her father, David, he quickly picked it up realizing that it was a diamond ring and clearly had immense sentimental value to someone. They waited around for 40 minutes at the dock hoping the owners would return to look for the ring. When no one showed up, and their daughter was hungry, they left but decided to email the Ferry company. Francis and Courtney are incredibly grateful to the Park family for their honesty and this immense act of kindness that reaffirmed to them why NYC remains such a magical place full of people who do the right thing, especially when it comes to meaningful mementos of love. Now the Park family is part of Francis and Courtney’s love story. Whenever they pass by or glance at the Coca Cola sign, they’ll always remember the toddler who found something shiny on the ground.
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Photography: Stephanie Brauer Photography | Floral Design: Grace Flowers Hawaii | Wedding Dress: Rita Vinieris | Invitations: Virgina Brown Art | Bridesmaids' Dresses: Birdy Grey | Catering: Fairmont Orchid Hawaii | Groom's Attire: Robbie's Suits NYC | Wedding Venue: Fairmont Orchid Hawaii | Accessories: Tiffany & Co | Beauty: Indigo Grace Artistry | Bridal Salon: Kleinfeld Bridal | Bridal Shoes: Loeffler Randall | Dance Choreographer: Wedding Dance NYC | Groom's Shoes: Allen Edmonds | Music: Hawaii Sound & Vision | Paebaek Ceremony: La Bella Hawaii | Rentals: Hawaii Island Events | Weddings Rings: The Clear Cut