Jess & George's Hawaiian luau with a theatrical flair (co-starring hurricanes!)

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Photos by cousin of the groom, Sarisa Albrecht

The Offbeat Bride: Jess, cultural anthropology faculty (and Offbeat Bride member)

Her offbeat partner: George, theatre faculty

Date and location of wedding: Hawaiian Oasis, Kona, HI — August 9, 2014

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: George and I decided to get hitched in Kona, because of all the places we have family, it's by far the most deliciously beautiful. George's mother was born and raised in Kona, and her sisters, cousins, nieces, and nephews still live there. We picked the date, because George's parents had been married in Kona exactly 40 years before our wedding.

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We chose a lovely B&B where we could have the reception (and stay with our parents and my brother in the days before and after the wedding). Kona is so beautiful, and we were so excited to drag people there from all over the country. We were able to host a long weekend wedding experience. We had a “hurricane party”/open house on Thursday, a rehearsal dinner on Friday, the wedding luau on Saturday, and a long afternoon tea-type open house on Sunday. And for folks still kicking around the island, we also had a farewell meal at a Japanese restaurant on Tuesday. For our friends and family who could make it from the mainland, it was a tropical vacation in paradise.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
My dad is a very good acoustic guitarist, so he played me down the aisle with his classical rendition of "Greensleeves." We had three lovely kids in our wedding party (bearing banners, rings, and flowers), but we decided to forego bridesmaids and groomsmen. My brother read a short excerpt From Douglas Adams' So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. My Aunt Linda sang Amazing Grace with my dad backing her up on guitar.

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I am Buddhist-leaning, and George is Episcopalian-leaning. We settled on having the ceremony at the B&B only after having gotten booted from George's family's local church (their wedding script would have had us compromise our beliefs, and the pastor wasn't flexible), so I was nervous about letting a religious official do his or her thing. Our general feeling was that we were willing to be blessed as long as we didn’t have to say anything we did not believe.

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Eventually, through our wedding planner, we found an officiant who was an absolute treasure. Kahu Brian was amazing. He was a powerful, smart, and dynamic officiant. He made the ritual of marriage extremely profound, and he did it in a way that maintained his integrity and respected ours. He sang and chanted in Hawaiian, and he also explained in English certain Hawaiian concepts, and how they were crucial to strong unions, such as the need to take refuge in each other and our “ohana” (“family”). Kahu Brian was a force of nature all his own, and one that added real heart and soul to the ritual exchanging of leis and rings.

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Finally, after a long (read: glorious!) kiss, we recessed back up the aisle to Taj Mahal’s “Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes.”

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Our biggest challenge:
Our primary challenges were fierce forces of nature: two hurricanes and an earthquake. Days before the wedding, the weather channel was projecting two potentially terrible hurricanes bearing down on us. We had some cancellations and some guests faced travel delays. We ended up with around 73 guests instead of the 85 we’d expected; there were frantic emails and phone calls, many regrets, and we had a lot of leftovers! But given that we had worried that the wedding would have to be moved inside, we really lucked out in the end.

The first hurricane hit the other side of the island on Thursday, and really barely affected us in Kona. The wee earthquake was mostly just another bizarro thing to add to the list of crazy stuff happening. And, somehow, the weather on our wedding day was perfect.

I have to say that the Offbeat Tribe was very comforting in the anxious days leading up to the wedding. I was on the “August 2014 brides” listserv and I took comfort in their words of wisdom and their assurances that all would be well. Thanks again, ladies.

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My favorite moment:
At the risk of sounding like a total cheese ball, the ceremony was incredibly magical. I was so happy to be standing there under the warm Hawaiian sun holding hands with my life partner. I thought the party would be the best part, but the most meaningful and important moments unfolded during the ceremony. We wanted to be married to one another, but I think George and I were both surprised by how powerful and important it was to actually declare our love and commitment to one another in front of our friends and family.

Our wedding experience was very family-focused, and that was very meaningful to us as well. The B&B was too small to accommodate friends, but there was something special about having just our parents and my brother with us in the B&B. It brought us all together in a very intimate way, and it was special even though (or maybe especially because) my parents are divorced. All the aunts from both our sides did incredibly thoughtful things to make our wedding weekend come together so joyfully. Finally, I do my anthropological research in India, but my Indian family couldn’t make it out to Hawaii, so I made sure there was some fun Bollywood music we could dance to in their honor.

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My funniest moment:
George and I had so much fun writing out our program together. We fashioned it as a Playbill, since George works in theatre. We got serious kicks out of our cast of characters list, and the cast bios. For example, we listed our moms as “producers” and our dads as “associate producers.” We had such fun, and my family and friends could tell we’d enjoyed putting the program together (including wedding Mad Libs)!

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
Hire a day-of coordinator, if you're able to. Our wedding planner was fine on the planning side, but he was a freaking miracle as the day-of coordinator. I was able to relax and let all the things fall into place. Almost everything happened as it was supposed to, and on balance the surprises were positive ones.

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Also, if possible, I would recommend taking a few days to wind down and hang out with the people who traveled to be with you for the wedding. I am so glad that we stayed in Kona and just had days of hang out time with family and friends, instead of rushing off to a honeymoon.

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  1. I LOVE you the touché of blue with the ribbon o the bouquet! Beautiful!

    1 agrees

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