Destination wedding….That’s something of a loaded term. Too often, we think of a gigantic production – massive resort settings, hundreds of guests, and everything staged to perfection. But after spending ten days in Maui with a family of seven (three couples and one young daughter) for one, WOW did I have to rethink what it means to have a destination wedding! Tu & Vuong got married but that wasn’t all that this incredible adventure was about. Taho & Guy renewed their vows and Thep & Bao had their engagement session. These ten days weren’t about a singular celebration of one couple or one experience – it was about the love in this family and the new, if varied, bonds they were creating and my time there was definitely one of the most AMAZING experiences of my life.
We began with a trip on the Road to Hana – (which took a total of TWELVE hours!!) – but was an absolutely beautiful (if death defying LOL) experience. The modern road follows the same path that sugar plantation workers took from Pa’ai to Hana centuries ago and it twists and turns like nobody’s business. But – despite the switchbacks, single car stretches, cliff edges (with no guard rail!) and car-sick passengers – it was an incredible adventure. We drove past (and stopped and saw) some gorgeous waterfalls, ocean views, and an endless stretch of tropical rainforest.
Tu & Vuong were married (and Taho & Guy renewed their vows in a separate ceremony) on the beach with the sun glistening off the ocean and the sound of waves lapping against the shore. Both ceremonies were traditional Hawaiian wedding ceremonies. To signal the start of the wedding, a conch shell (and I mean, a HUGE conch shell) was blown towards all four points of the compass to call the diving presence to the ceremony. The couples wore stunning leis – the men’s made from woven maile leaves and the women’s from multiple strands of white ginger blossoms – connecting the couple as husband and wife and each couple’s hands were bound together with multiple strands of small, colorful shells signifying the same. It was a truly special moment as the they said, ‘I do,’ surrounded only by their closest loved ones and the spectacular landscape.
The next morning we drove to the top of Mount Haleakala where we watched the most MAGNIFICENT sunrise I’ve ever seen. It was a completely different world up above the clouds. Traditionally, the summit of Haleakala was a sacred site and in Hawaiian it means House of Sun. It actually looks like the sun is rising up from the depths of the mountain’s volcanic crater! As the sun rose a hush settled over the mountain and an unexplained reverence filled us. I can’t even begin to describe what it felt like looking out above the clouds – just light and color and endless sky – there truly aren’t words.
I shot Tu & Voung’s day after session and parts of Thep & Bao’s engagement as we traveled back down the mountain. I didn’t think much could impress me after witnessing that spectacular sunrise – nothing else could be THAT beautiful….I was SO wrong. It was dark when we made our assent and driving back down was like entering a new world. The sights and smells were overpowering as the land literally opened up below us.
The whole experience was like something out of a fantasy – you just couldn’t believe a landscape this beautiful and a culture this rich really exists – I felt like I’d won a lottery ticket! My time in Maui opened my eyes to some of the most awe-inspiring sights and moments of my life. You don’t need to have a large or extravagant destination wedding – Hell, you don’t even have to have a ‘wedding’ – you can make your day anything you want! The intimacy of this experience was amazing. It wasn’t overwhelming or outrageous. It was touching and special and personal and filled with rich culture. It was better than anything I could have imagined and WAY more than any expected destination wedding could be.