Megan & Aaron's shark-tastic beach wedding

February 25 | meganfinley

dancing on the beach

The offbeat bride: Megan, photographer and Managing Editor for Offbeat Bride

Her offbeat partner: Aaron, Sound Engineer

Location & date of wedding: Keawakapu Beach, Maui, HI – 10/10/08

What made our wedding offbeat: Well, it all started because of a shark attack. We got engaged after Aaron was almost eaten!

We decided to celebrate the "attackiversary" by getting married on the same island where Aaron was almost killed, exactly a year later. Because of this, our wedding became more of a three-day-long celebration of life than a wedding.

coming ashore
a soaking wet aaron coming in on the canoe

The groom actually made a grand entrance! Aaron came into the beach wedding site on a canoe, rowed by our friend's rowing team. They actually launched the canoe from the same beach at which Aaron was attacked. It was a super special moment for him.

conch shell blowers
As a surprise for both of us, that same friend also arranged to have twelve conch shell blowers who also sang Hawaiian chants for us all.

during the ceremony, surrounded by friends, family & conch shell blowers
during the ceremony, surrounded by friends, family & conch shell blowers
All our guests gathered around us in a circle as we got married instead of sitting on chairs. It was important to us to feel like it was a communal ceremony instead of having all our loved ones so far away and feeling almost as if we were performing for them.

shark ceremony 6
At the end of the wedding ceremony we had a "shark ceremony" as a way to thank the shark for letting us have Aaron back and for leading us to this day.

Renee & shark balloon
A guest posing with the shark balloon.
We held the reception at a restaurant just up the beach from our ceremony. At the reception we made sure there was no extra crap that was going to bore our guests, or major lulls where no one knew what to do.

The most important thing for us was to keep everyone fed, happy, and having fun. So we focused on eating and drinking and dancing, rather than speech making and wedding party introductions.

the guestbook table
I highly recommend having a friend man your Polaroid guest book table.

We used a polaroid guest book which people had a lot of fun with. I bought huge pieces of fake coral and spray painted them bright orange to use as our centerpieces, instead of wasting money on expensive flowers.

cupcake display

We asked a local mom to bake cupcakes for us a couple days before the wedding and we sure lucked out, because they were the BEST cupcakes I've ever tasted. I DIY'd this awesome cupcake tower, but when the time came to load the cupcakes, the tiers were too close together (big cupcakes FTW) so we came up with this funky cupcake reef design instead.

erik playing a song

My man of honor playing The Luckiest for us.
For our first dance Aaron completely surprised me with the song. I didn't get to know what song it would be until we were standing there together. He chose, We Dance by Pavement — it was super romantic and made me cry, and he gets bonus points for choosing a song that starts with the phrase "There is no castration fear." And "man of honor" played a song on a ukulele for his speech.

shark fin soap
Our wedding favors were "shark fin soaps" — the purchase of said soaps gave money to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to help in the fight against shark finning. And we also gave out cool buttons — white "Shark Angel" ones and black "Sea Shepherd" buttons.

Our extra wedding favors

We're just a couple of nerds who love Maui and hate making "big deals" out of things. So our wedding was as laid back as possible and everyone had an amazing time.

hey!

Our biggest challenge: Getting my mom to accept that we don't have to things "just because that's the way things are done."

lala & erik
Clearly my mother got over having a boy as a bridesmaid!
It started when I told her I wouldn't be carrying a bouquet, which blew her mind. Then she wouldn't speak to me for a week when the invites weren't addressed to "Mr & Mrs Man's First and Last Name." She kept begging me to not have a guy as a bridesmaid up till the ceremony.

My mom and I got into fight after fight because we wanted to have a wedding that wasn't a huge traditional structured presentation and that's just not "how things are done" in my mom's fancy social scene.

It was the only stressful part of a wedding that would have been otherwise completely stress free!

wet feet
Rainbow sandals, tattooed feet and a soaking wet dress.
We sealed the wax on our invites with this shark stamper.
I solved this problem by compromising where I could and then not backing down when we couldn't compromise. For example, when I wrote the wording on the invitations without including all the formal crap she got really upset. But there was no way in HELL that Aaron and I would ever "cordially invite" anyone to anything, plus filling up the invites with my parents full names and his parents full names was going to give people the wrong impression of this laid back, hippy-influenced wedding.

So I compromised with her by letting the RSVPs be sent to "Mr & Mrs Dad's Entire Name III" and that offered just enough stuffy tradition to make her happy.

My favorite moment: My favorite part was signing our marriage certificate.

making it official
Signing our marriage certificate on a plastic bin

Our officiant actually forgot about it and left and then came back & stopped us as we were going to our reception venue. So we plopped down in the grass where we stood to sign the certificate. My cousin happened to be walking by so we flagged her down and she became a witness and when we needed one more witness we used our photographer!

It was such a silly last-minute cluster-fuck over something that's supposed to be so structured and it was exactly how our life is.

the wedding party complete with man of honor and funky plaid shorts
The whole wedding party complete with "man of honor" and funky plaid shorts

My advice for other offbeat brides: Never take yourselves too seriously. The moment you start taking things too seriously you stop having fun with it.

I know that marriage is a serious thing and all, but you've probably already thought about/discussed/stressed over all that serious crap before and after you got engaged. Have fun with the wedding! It is really just a big party that you're throwing for yourselves.

it's over!
The end of our wedding.

I went into planning this wedding knowing that I wanted it to be as laid-back and fun as possible. When things started to not work out the way I thought it should I adopted the mantra of "eh, whatever." And reminded myself that as long as on our wedding day Aaron and I are there with an officiant and we end up married, then things turned out perfect!

Some of our vendors: It was super important for us to try and buy local as much as possible in order to support the island economy…

Enough talk — here's my wedding porn:

oh, and bonus points if anyone can identify what famous indie rock band the best man plays drums for!!!

  1. Is the answer 'The Airborne Toxic Event '

    Oooo this is like a pub quiz – I need a pint now !

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  2. This wedding is absolutely beautiful. My favorite picture is of you signing the marriage certificate in the grass — I hope our wedding is just as spontaneous. Thanks for sharing your shark bite story!

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  3. Wow!!! The video of the Groom's arrival gave me chills!! What a super cool, beautiful, simple, lovely wedding!! Oh, and Gorgeous Dress too!!!

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  4. Meg, I love it! You guys are so super awesome and I can't wait to work with you! *love*

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  5. @Vana – you are correct! And boy were they pissed that he got to take time off and come to Maui!

    @SavvyChristine – You are quite welcome, I think every shark bite story needs to be shared, esp when it ends with a wedding!!!

    @Beckasoup – Mahalo, mahalo & mahalo!

    @Shrie – what can I say to you that I'm not already saying to you on gchat?

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  6. weeeelll, you already know i love your wedding. but, i fucking love your wedding.

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  7. LOOOVE your story – especially the part about you and your mom. Not that it's a good thing to disagree, but it gives me hope that my mom will just go with the flow eventually :)

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  8. Amazing. Looks so fun I wish I could have crashed it :) You both look so relaxed, beautiful and happy. My favourite photo is definitely the last dance one!!! Congratulations

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  9. What a wonderful story & a beautiful wedding! I love her dress too, so elegant and contemporary.

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  10. @amber – you're my girl and I love you.

    @miss jess – I feel your pain re: your mom through your comment. It was really a pain and super stressful, but I think that when she sees you and how happy you are, and how much all the guests (esp including HER friends) had such a great time, she'll realize it was perfectly YOU.

    @Sabrina – would have loved for you to crash it, the more the merrier! I also love that you appreciate that last photo, ROCK ON!

    @Essie – we did, thank you.

    Sarah- yeah! i freaking love that company. Not only did we use them but the people that worked on our soaps made the most amazing adornments to match our wedding colors and everything. Lush fucking rocks.

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  11. @quian – thanks! the dress was one of my favorite parts. the embroidery was freaking intense. :)

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  12. If my fiancee was attacked by a shark and made it through, I probably would have gotten "Shark Bait Hoo-ha-ha!" engraved on his wedding ring!!!
    Beautiful wedding, your dress is so lovely!

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  13. @alison – ah ha ha ha! i forgot about that!!! too funny. He is and will always be "shark bait" to my family now. He's even introduced as such to new people.

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  14. Oh this is so cool Megan! I knew you got married here and you've told me about the shark attack..but I never heard about your wedding. I love it! Love the laid back approach..I'm so tired of stressing, I wish I could take that approach to life more often. So many important events in our life did not work out like it does for most people and I would get kinda sad about it..but now I'm gonna concentrate on having your mantra "eh..whatever" lol! Thanks for this!

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  15. @Jonara Blu Oh man, if I could get just one person to not stress so much, I'm a happy girl! Seriously, not much in life is worth getting too upset over. And you live on Maui!!! You should be one of the most chill people on earth. ;) thanks for checking this out though, glad you loved it.

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  16. I have tears running down my face after reading your wedding story with the shark attack. What a beautiful, fun wedding.

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  17. @Natalie- wow, i'm touched by how… well… touched you were. That's super sweet. thanks so much for your comment.

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  18. Wickid story with brilliant pictures to boot!

    I love the idea of the groom coming in on a canoe!!

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  19. I love seeing all these photos again. What a beautiful wedding and a gorgeous and extremely LUCKY couple. I hope you buy lotto tickets. :)

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  20. The Megan & Aaron's wedding blog story is very interesting and the photos of wedding is most beautiful from others.

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  21. Megan, how did you make the cupcake stand!? Looks awesome and could work for the mini pies Ill be making for my wedding. Thanks!

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    • drool… mini pies……. mmmmm. (okay snap out of it Megan.)

      All the information you seek about my cupcake display can be found here. Hope this works out for ya because I think it came out looking sooooo cool!

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      • Awesome! Thanks! I've used Cupcake tree before for my sisters wedding and it came out really well…just wanted a different type of design instead of the tower. Thanks so much!

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  22. Oh you are my hero. I'm having the same fights about being "nontraditional" (similar Hawaii wedding plan) – and we are also extremely laid back nerds.

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    • It's suuuuuper hard to do a non-traditional wedding in Hawaii (if you don't live there) bc everyone that you work with expects you to do the same 'ol wedding package stuff. Not to mention fighting the family "traditions" on top of all that. But keep up the good fight and let me know if you need help with anything!

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  23. Heh thanks! I just mean one of those packages, but apparently a beach wedding is "nontraditional" enough to cause fits.

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  24. I'm so glad this is in the rotation this week because I had somehow missed it. So sweet, it makes me all mushy inside! *sniff* Hugs!

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    • Aw Laura!!! Glad you could be a virtual guest at our sharky wedding. ;)

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  25. Are you wearing jelly sandle high-heels?!?! AWESOME. Also your wedding is the bestest. I love how you guys have embraced the shark, and aren't holding any grudges. It's the sweetest thing ever.

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  26. Ugh, this is the wedding I grew up always supposed to have. In my family we all get married (and scattered) at a friends house on the point at Waimea Bay on Oahu. It's just the accepted way things are. Alas I'm marrying into a huge family, therefore it's not feasible to fly everybody over, let alone smash them all onto the property. So now I'm stuck trying to import bits of Hawaii to Idaho of all places, FML. My peeps and I are all wearing Locals slippahs and we're airlifting in a bunch of leis. He's wearing maile, I'm carrying leaves from his lei in my bouquet and wearing tuberose. It's definitely hard though to try to create a non-kitschy landlocked Hawaiian style wedding.

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