O’ahu Hawai’i Destination Wedding | Male’ana Gardens | Cortne & Julio

It all started with an Instagram message. I was looking for vendors to participate in a shoot I was hosting when Cortne reached out to me.

Little did I know, shortly after that message, we would wind up meeting at different shoot, and then at another, so I took her up on her offer to be a cake vendor at one of my shoots. Cortne was helping me photograph a veil shot when she mentioned she had just gotten engaged and needed the practice. So me being me, I joked and said “well, do you need a photographer?” and her response was “actually, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that!” The rest is history. Actually, no, the rest is planning a wedding in Hawaii and becoming great friends in the process! To the point where everyone we encounter thinks we’ve been friends so much longer…and it feels that way too.

It’s funny how life works. In the midst of a pandemic, in which weddings were at a screeching halt, styled shoots are what kept us busy and creative. A lot of people in our industry put their nose up when it comes to styled shoots, but I can honestly say my business boomed because of them. I met some of the best friends I have at styled shoots. I’ve gotten huge jobs because of shoots. I’ve been put on vendor lists because of shoots, and now we can say we’ve been to Hawaii, all because of a shoot.

Over the course of the last 20 months, I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in Cortne & Julio’s wedding plans. From mood boards and place settings, to figuring out how to repurpose florals and how to surprise Julio, it feels like it’s been forever and also just yesterday that we started planning, and somehow it’s already over. Some may think a 15-guest destination wedding is simple, but I can tell you that’s far from the truth! We had countless obstacles to overcome, including canceled flights with no warning or notification! (seriously, don’t use Hawaiian Airlines!) At the end of it all, we had wonderful weather, learned beautiful Hawaiian traditions and made tons of memories.

An 11+ hour non-stop flight with no wifi or outlets was definitely not what I expected on the way there, but we were way too excited to be headed to Hawaii to even care! We arrived and headed over to Aulani where Cortne & Julio would stay for their wedding week and honeymoon celebrations! They had a beautiful view of the ocean, which made for some relaxing sunset views. The first day was rough getting over the jet lag but by the next day we were ready to go for a venue tour and a welcome dinner celebration!

Some may ask, why Hawaii? Cortne & Julio met while working at the Polynesian Resort at Disney World. Julio is a chef and Cortne is a pastry chef. Having met at the Poly, it seemed pretty obvious that having their wedding in Hawaii and staying at the Aulani was a no brainer.

At first glance, the venue, Male’ana Gardens is absolutely stunning! Even the driveway was *chef kiss* 😚 We were so excited to be able to photograph and film in such a paradise, just minutes from the beach. Cortne left no detail undone. She literally thought of everything! From wooden personalized vow books, to stunning stationery with a watercolored personalized crest (with their dogs painted on the envelopes!!), and even custom Hawaiian leaf drink tags that doubled as place cards. She even had a hand painted ring dish and ribbon for me to use! When it came to surprising her groom, she really hit the mark. She had a custom neon sign (that I may or may not have been a bad influence for 😝) made for behind their dinner table, as well as two memorial gifts for Julio to honor his late parents with. The first was a photo charm pin that he wore on his suit and the second was a hand painted portrait of both Cortne and Julio standing with his parents. When I brought him over to show him all the surprises Cortne planned for him, with tears in his eyes he said, “She really knows how to f*ck me up!!!” πŸ˜‚ 😝 I guess she did good haha.

The portrait, accompanied by photos of loved ones Cortne had missing on their day, filled the front two seats of their ceremony. Unfortunately, just days before we were set to leave, Cortne’s Mom was hospitalized and wasn’t able to make it. She honored her mom by including her on that front chair and placed her lei on it as well. We thankfully were able to facebook live the ceremony so that her Mom, as well as all their friends and family in other states and countries could be present in their ceremony!

Speaking of their ceremony – it was beautiful, and I don’t mean just visually. The arch had a ton of palm trees and greenery surrounding it, but also had the most beautiful tropical floral arrangement. In the background, there was live Ukulele music! I enjoyed listening to Kelehua, their officiant, talk about the Hawaiian wedding traditions and it was so cool to witness! They did a traditional lei exchange and then read their custom vows to each other. Cortne had everyone in tears, and of course Mike was right there to film it. He loves a good crier LOL (See photo below). Just like that, they were married – and they were pretty dang excited about it, just look at that exit!

We had a great time during portraits and even got a few minutes at the beach. Thankfully, we had plans to get them dressed back up and head back to the beach the next evening so that they could enjoy their reception. Cortne surprised her dad with their Father/Daughter dance and they spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking and making memories. Her dad even got a standing ovation for his toast LOL! The night ended with a private last dance.

We went back out the next evening for more portraits at sunset, and while things didn’t go entirely as planned, we were still able to get some pretty cool shots on the rocks with the help and assistance of Cortne’s awesome Stepmom (also thank GOD for water shoes!!!). The area was a lot more crowded than we anticipated but I’m really happy with what we were able to achieve! I can’t turn people into bushes, but I will turn them into rocks LOL 😝 πŸ˜† πŸ˜‚

The next few days were a lot more adventurous, a lot less pretty and whole lot of filth. We drove ATVs through the mountains and had incredible views of the Jurassic Park movie set! We also went deep sea snorkeling on the West Coast and ziplining on the North Shore and it was soooo fun! I didn’t think I’d be able to zipline, but hell, Hawaii made me into a little bit of a dare devil haha. We did miss Mike that day though, who stayed back at Urgent care due to sun poisoning πŸ™ Irish people problems… Hawaii has some incredible views and amazing food! I don’t think there was any restaurant we went to that wasn’t impressive, and most were small businesses. Mike and I also had friends in town the same week as us, so we were able to spend some time with them as well. We spent a few days in Waikiki, which was amazing. Overall, it was a pretty fun trip (with lots of sunburn) and we are fortunate enough to be trusted with such an important task.

Cortne and Julio departed Hawaii, but not before heading to California for a few more days of their honeymoon. Double fisting churros and riding all the rides at Disneyland, these two newlyweds had to get more Disney in them before heading back home to Orlando.

Cortne & Julio – THANK YOU for trusting us with such an important day. Over the course of the last 2 years, you guys have become so much more than just a “couple” or a “fellow wedding vendor” to us. You’ve become our friends. We are so thankful to have been a part of this journey with you and it’s exciting to know we get to see your marriage flourish firsthand. MAHALO!!

Aloha & Congratulations to the new Mr. & Mrs. Sturup! Enjoy these sneak peeks and be sure to check out the amazing vendors below who made this day possible. xo

“Out of nowhere, I just see Mike crawling over to me filming me crying” If you cry, Mike will be there to catch it! πŸ˜‚

Vendor Team
Venue | @maleanagardenskailua
Photo & Video | @jennifernicolephotoandfilms
Florist | @haluhawaii
Musician | @jeremyhirokawamusic
Gown | @maemebridal @missstellayork
Suits | @jcpenney
Hair & Makeup | @gracenicoleglam
Cake | @manacakeshawaii
Stationery & Signage | @twopeaspaperco
Catering | @3660ontherise
Officiant | @marryyouinhawaii@marry_me_hawaii
Bartender | @stirbev
Drink Tags | @kulgra
Memorial Painting | @seekatepaint

Ziplining | @climbworks

ATV Tour | @kualoaranch

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