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Emily + Philip, Under a Plumeria Tree

This summer my brother Philip married his longtime sweetheart Emily. They chose to celebrate the start of their married life on the island of Maui, much to the delight of everyone who attended. A couple weeks after Philip proposed to Emily (at 10,000 feet on a hike through the Grand Teton) they asked me if I would officiate their wedding ceremony. Now it was my turn to say, “Yes!”
In the months leading up to their big day, I got to feel all the excitement that came with being a big sister of the groom and also enjoy their wedding preparations through the eyes of a celebrant. Here are some of my favorite behind the scenes moments that went into the their wedding weekend celebration.  

Lei Making
The day before the wedding, 4,500 plumeria blossoms were picked at sunrise on the island of Molokai, lovingly packed and brought to the airport. The fragrant flowers then made a 20 minute inter-island flight to Maui’s OGG where my father and daughter picked them up. The plumeria were then placed in the back of my dad’s ancient Mazda MPV minivan and driven “up the hill” to Makawao, the hippie cowboy town I grew up in, where family and close friends had gathered at my parents house.
My mother taught the mainland-folk how to make a traditional Hawaiian lei, and then everyone spent the morning talking story, eating Komoda donuts and making enough leis for every guest who would be coming to the wedding.
On the morning of the wedding, my sisters and I got our hair and makeup done by a high school friend MeiLi Coon. Meili now heads the top beauty company in Hawaii, Meili Autumn Beauty. My daughter Elena even had some wings applied for the occasion.
Wedding Ceremony & Celebration Ka’anapali Beach Hotel 
The ceremony site was set up on the edge of the lawn at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, against the beach, and under a canopy of old giant plumeria trees. Black Rock, the famous cliff diving spot was in the background. 
Zak Wass played the music, including an original song, "Paco the Lazy Cat" by my brother.
Aloha! I welcomed everyone and talked about what it means to be a witness.
Uncle Michael started the processional by blowing the conch shell three times, I knew it was coming, but it still gave me goosebumps.
Philip entered between our mother and father.
Adorable flower girl assisted by Grandma
Everyone waits for Emily's arrival.
Emily and her father walk down an aisle under a plumeria tree.

Philip and Emily exchanged leis with each other during the ceremony as a way to demonstrate their solemn promises to be partners for a lifetime as well as to adorn each other in their love.
Emily's lei was made of pikake, a traditional Hawaiian jasmine flower. Pikake is notoriously delicate and very fragrant. When a bride wears a pikake lei, it is another reminder of how precious life is.
Emily and Philip felt grateful to be able to enter their own marriage with the strong foundation of loving relationships they saw in their own parents' relationships. During the ceremony, they presented each parent with a lei as a token of gratitude for all they had done to help shape Emily and Philip into the people they had become.

Declaration of Support: Do you promise to accept this couple...

Seven Steps into the Sunset. Blessings are bestowed and plumeria tossed as the newlyweds take their first steps into married life together.
Everyone gets in on the kissing and celebrating!
At their wedding reception, every guest was greeted with one of the plumeria leis the family had made the day before.
Philip with his lovely older sisters.
Uncles Michael and Pascal give the groom congratulatory shakas.

The highlight of the evening, the real stand out moment, was when Emily surprised everyone, especially her new husband Philip, by dancing a hula. All us locals agree, she nailed it!
I can't say enough about how wonderful it was to work with Chelsea Heller, who photographed Emily and Philip's wedding. As a professional, she was on point unobtrusive and kind. Then when I saw her pictures and the moments she captured, I was blown away by the magic, the sparkle and the romance that came through too. I would absolutely recommend Chelsea Heller Photography to couples and families wanting important life moments documented in a loving way on the Valley Isle.

Linda + Jeremy, Prost!

Last year Linda and Jeremy, two young doctors, tied the knot in a festive vintage Oktoberfest-themed celebration at Friedman Farms a beautiful Pennsylvania horse farm. They did so in such a way that was authentic to themselves and their story, I have not been able to stop thinking about them. Their pictures turned out breathtakingly as you would expect nothing less from With Love & Embers. Green Wedding Shoes published their story here.

Jeremy and Linda have just celebrated their first anniversary, and I wanted to share some of the things that made their ceremony truly remarkable.
Linda says she fell in love with Jeremy the first month they started dating. He was unlike any person she had ever met. And she knew she wanted to be with him forever after college while they were living in separate cities. “We lived apart for three years, Jeremy lived in Philadelphia and I lived in New York City,” Linda remembers. “We were both incredibly busy and I remember thinking that being apart was so incredibly hard that I never wanted to do it again.”
On why they went with the Oktoberfest theme...Linda says, "few people know the history of Oktoberfest but it is in fact a celebration of the King and Queen of Bavaria's wedding anniversary in which they invited all of Bavaria to celebrate their marriage each year. Jeremy and I got engaged at Oktoberfest and I always found the idea behind the celebration very representative of us in the way that we are always inclusive in our celebrations."
Jeremy entered to "Final Countdown" and gave each of his groomsmen a high five as he entered the ceremony space.
After being apart for so long, Linda and Jeremy, looked forward to having their hands fasted together with this garland made of greens and wheat--grains long associated with home and prosperity.
"She's beautiful inside and out, strong and athletic, inquisitive and passionate. A loyal friend and companion, these are the hands that make you feel incredibly loved and cared for and are always there to support you when you need a lift."--Alisa Tongg, Celebrant
Ceremonial Das Anzapfen 
Linda and Jeremy Tap a Keg! The Crowd cheers, "Das Anzapfen!"
"In honor of their Oktoberfest-inspired proposal when a Lederhosen-clad Jeremy surprised Linda at the bar Zum Schneider, in front of family and friends, by asking her to marry him; Jeremy and Linda have brought this keg of Hefeweizen beer, which they have brewed to celebrate the joyful occasion of their marriage. Today’s ceremonial Das Anzapfen symbolizes their hope to enjoy the rewards of their partnership in the many years to come, as well a reminder of the times they have already shared."--Alisa Tongg, Celebrant 
Shared Stein of Life
After tapping their keg of wedding beer, Linda and Jeremy drink from a stein which Jeremy kept as a keepsake from a Munich beer garden where they were celebrating Oktoberfest. The act of drinking from the same cup is meant to demonstrate that the couple is open to sharing in all that life will bring them, sharing their joys and their sorrows.
Gratitude and Beer to Parents

Then, inspired by the Chinese tradition of serving tea to elders in a wedding ceremony, Linda and Jeremy served their wedding beer to their parents to express their gratitude for all of the unconditional love and support they have provided them.
Guests shower the newlyweds with blessings and flower petals as they take their first steps into their married life together.
Prost! Linda and Jeremy ask all their friends to join them in sharing their wedding beer as they toast to their marriage and a future with many more occasions to celebrate.
Upon first glance, this might look out of place for a picture on a celebrant blog. But let me tell you why it's here...why I squealed with delight when I was looking through the photo galleries weeks after the fact. All of my couples share with me pretty personal things about themselves--how them met, fell in love, challenges they faced, how they got through them, what family looks like to them, what they want their family to be like, etc.. Jeremy had shared that as far as special family traditions-- a male from Linda's family "tends to take his shirt off and dance when there's a wedding". This happens at some point at every wedding on Linda's side of the family. When I saw this photograph, and Linda's delighted face, it just said to me, "Welcome to the family!"
The couple who first met freshman year at Bucknell University, paid tribute to the start of their romance--the night they signed up as a team at a Beer Pong Tournament

When I asked, Jeremy about his hopes for the future, he said, “Learn new things together and grow. I want to be able to reflect back on my experiences and know that I did them all with Linda.”

These moments were lovingly captured by Jillian and Ryan McGrath of With Love & Embers.
Venue | Friedman Farms in Dallas, Pa.
Planner | Brava Weddings