Taking our vows in Hawaii

Back in 2009, I had been living on the road for nearly four years, and I had been doing it alone. I had pretty much written off relationships and was just focusing on travel and photography. That’s when I met Karen. We met at the Photoshop World Conference I speak at, but to be honest, we really got to know each other online. Over the course of many months, we slowly got to know each other and I had the feeling that this could be something special. Now, about three and a half years later, I am happy to be able to call her my wife. We got married on the Big Island of Hawaii, surrounded by a very small group of close friends and family.

As I mentioned in my last post, Karen and I spent most of the holidays at her family’s home in New Jersey. On New Years Eve, we started the day [very early] in New Jersey, and brought in the new year that night in Waikiki on Oahu. Karen’s family had never been to Oahu and wanted to check it out. While it’s probably my least favorite Hawaiian island (too commercial and city-like) it was a nice place to spend New Year’s Eve. We had dinner at a restaurant called the Hula Grill, which was completely open on one side to the beach and the ocean. This set the perfect stage for the fireworks show over the ocean at midnight. Not bad, right?!

On Jan. 1st, we spent the day exploring Waikiki with Karen’s family. There’s a lot of interesting shops and restaurants, so we kept ourselves pretty busy. What’s great is that we got to meet up with our friends Eddie and Judy, who were in Hawaii for our wedding and had also made a stop on Oahu. Eddie was actually my best man!

In this shot Karen took, we’re exploring and shopping in downtown Waikiki. From left is Karen’s brother David, his girlfriend Cindy, me, Karen’s sister Laura and her fiance Rich.

Karen and I bring in the new year at the Hula grill in Waikiki

Me, Karen, Eddie and Judy at the Yard House in Waikiki.

On January 2nd, Karen and I flew over to the Big Island and checked in at the Hilton Waikaloa, our hotel and the location of our wedding. The Waikaloa is huge and beautiful. It’s so big, in fact, that there are monerails and boats to take you between buildings. You can always walk, but it generally takes a while. For the most part, we didn’t mind walking, but the boat rides were really nice as well. I had actually stayed at this resort years ago when I was attending a Tony Robbins event. The chapel stuck out in my mind and I remember thinking to myself that if I were to get married, this would be a beautiful place to do it. Well, here we are! When we checked in, we were upgraded to an ocean-view room, which was just perfect. Check out Karen’s iPhone pano from the hotel balcony below.

The view out our hotel room window at the Hilton Waikaloa

Shortly after we checked in, our friends started arriving as well. We had a mid-day happy hour with our great friends Jay and Lesa in our room and then we set out to explore the grounds. Karen also wanted to see the chapel, as she had only seen it in photos before! I think it exceeded her expectations.

Here’s a fun suspension bridge going over one of the pools.

Me, Jay and Lesa at the Hilton Waikaloa

January 4th was our big day. Since our wedding was a sunset ceremony, we had time early in the day. I spent a bit of time with Eddie, while Karen had a pedicure and hair appointment at the spa. After she was dressed and ready, she headed out for photos with Judy (Eddie’s other half) and that’s when I got ready. About an hour before the ceremony, we met at the wedding gazebo for photos and last-minute preparations.

Me and Eddie, hanging out before the ceremony.

Karen’s shot of the wedding chapel. The bridal procession walked down this windy pathway into the chapel.

This beautiful photo was shot by Judy in the hotel room, before I even saw Karen in her dress. ©Judy Host

Our first photo together, right before the ceremony ©Judy Jost

The ceremony was really beautiful and revolved around nature and Hawaiian traditions and beliefs. Karen and I wrote our own vows to add a little more of a personal feel to the day. After the minister blessed our rings (a Hawaiian tradition), we read our vows and were pronounced husband and wife! It was a short ceremony, but incredibly meaningful and special to both of us. What made it even more special was the intimacy of the event. Everyone person there was someone who was close with us and who we have known for a long time.

Right after we were pronounced husband and wife

Immediately after the ceremony, we headed outside for some sunset photos. We can’t thank Eddie and Judy enough, for they both shot some wonderful images for us. It even got a little tricky for Eddie since he was the best man and had to be in some of them! While we did photos, there were drinks and tapas served right outside the chapel so we all could stay there, relax and enjoy the sunset.

The whole bridal party, right after the ceremony ©Eddie Tapp

A beautiful sunset shot of me and Karen. ©Eddie Tapp

This one is classic Ben and Karen ©Eddie Tapp

Another lovely image of Karen ©Eddie Tapp

Our reception dinner was held at a restaurant at the resort called the Kamuela Provision Company. Our group had two long tables outside, right by the ocean and lit by torches surrounding the patio. It was a very personal affair, and we felt like we truly got to talk to everyone there. Some weddings we see are so huge and fancy that I don’t know how the couple can relax. I’m so glad we did things the way we did. It was a perfect day.

Our reception dinner

After the wedding day, we focused on relaxing and enjoying the island. We spent a lot of time enjoying the hotel grounds, sharing time with friends and doing some exploring. Since this post is getting pretty long, I’ll just add some photos telling the story of the remainder of our trip.

One of our Christmas gifts from Karen’s parents was an ATV tour near the northernmost point on the big island. We had a blast!

This was one of the stops on our ATV tour

Rough day 🙂

To say that Karen is an animal lover would be an understatement. She’s been wanting to swim with dolphins for ages and she finally got to do it on this trip.

Our whole group went to a luau at the hotel one night. Here we are, enjoying the show.

Happy hour at Buddha point, overlooking the ocean.

**Karen  wrote a nice photo-rich blog post about our wedding day and you can read that HERE. There is also a gallery of wedding day images HERE. **