Intimate Backyard Wedding Ideas
We absolutely loved working with Grace and Zach to help capture their intimate backyard wedding on the Big Island of Hawaii. They were so intentional with all of the different elements of their wedding which made their day so special and unique to who they are as a couple. If you are thinking of having a smaller wedding compared to a larger more traditional wedding, that doesn’t mean you can’t have intentional and thought-out elements to your special day. One of the aspects I loved most about this wedding is that it was designed and curated to include traditional elements that were so intentional to represent Grace and Zach and their celebration with their families.
Getting Ready Wedding Photos
We went over to where Zach was getting ready at the house where his family was staying. Zach got ready in a room where there was a lot of natural light, which really helps with capturing the best photographs when we’re indoors. Another element I really loved about Zach’s getting ready photos was capturing him opening a gift that Grace had gotten him for their wedding day. It was so sweet to photograph him reading the letter she had written him and opening the thoughtful gift she presented him. It was such a thoughtful touch to add to his getting ready photos.
Grace got ready in the Airbnb where they were having their wedding ceremony and reception. When we arrived, we were able to capture Grace getting ready, as well as her mom and sister helping in any way that they could. We captured detailed shots of different family heirlooms and elements of her Filipino culture that would be included in her ceremony.
Private First Look
Once Grace’s mom and sister had helped her get into her dress, Ryan and I had scoped out the perfect shaded location for Grace and Zach’s first look. We had Grace sneak up to see Zach for the first time, and their reactions to seeing each other for the first time were just so beautiful!
A helpful hint when the shooting first looks: Even if the background isn’t the most picturesque, place your couple in a position where you will have even lighting on their faces. For instance, we chose to place Zach and Grace in the shade so that when we were capturing their emotions of seeing each other for the first time, we wouldn’t have harsh shadows on their faces.
Since Grace and Zach weren’t having a traditional dance floor, they decided to have their first dance in private after their first look. Zach had the song downloaded on his phone, and we captured them totally in their element grooving to their favorite tunes. I loved how intimate and special this was for them. It also took all the pressure off of them because there was no one else watching except Ryan and me.
Personal Vow Reading
After their first dance, Grace and Zach exchanged their handwritten vows with one another in another private moment with just the two of them. There were so many raw emotions during their vows, and I loved that they kept this exchange just between the two of them. I thought this was such an incredible touch and allowed them to really soak up their time together before their guests arrived. One of the things Grace and Zach had mentioned to us while planning their wedding was that “We value intimacy and want our special day to be surrounded by the beauty of our family and the island. We simply want to focus on each other!” I love that they mentioned this because it was truly represented throughout their entire day.
Ceremony Wedding Ideas
Grace and Zach were pretty set on having their ceremony right on the beach. However, there wasn’t a beach permit for the location right beside their house nor were they allowed to have seats or any type of floral arch on the beach. Therefore, they decided to have their ceremony right in the backyard of the Airbnb that they rented. There was just enough space for their fifteen guests, and it had the backdrop of the ocean in the near distance.
Grace and Zach’s beautiful floral arch was designed by Grace Flowers Hawaii. It made the perfect centerpiece for their ceremony and it matched perfectly with the rest of Grace’s floral crown and bouquet.
Guest Lei Exchange
Grace and Zach presented leis to each other and all of their guests, as well. The lei is a symbol of unity, respect, love, and aloha. By presenting a lei to each of their guests, it is a way of thanking each person at their wedding for the role they played during the wedding and in the lives of the bride and groom. It is a beautiful and intentional gesture to present this to special members of your wedding party during the wedding day. I love that Zach and Grace presented this to all the members of their family on their wedding day.
Hawaiian and Filipino Ceremony Elements
The Big Island was very special to Grace and Zach when they were thinking of where they wanted to celebrate their wedding day. Grace’s family and friends always vacationed on the Big Island. It’s actually where Grace’s mom had her honeymoon and it was the first place Grace and Zach ever vacationed together. Knowing the significance of Big Island to their relationship, they wanted elements from both Hawaiian and Filipino elements included in their ceremony.
Elements of their ceremony included:
Pikai is also known as a saltwater blessing is a Hawaiian wedding tradition.. This involves the officiant sprinkling the lei or rings with the water of the ocean. This symbolizes the washing away of any imperfections and the cleansing of the bride and groom’s special gifts to each other.
One person from each side of the family lights a candle symbolizing God’s presence at the union.
This is a Filipino wedding tradition. The groom gives the bride 13 coins, or arras, to symbolize their mutual prosperity. It also symbolized the groom’s promise to support the bride and their future family.
After Grace and Zach exchanged their rings, they kneel side by side of each other. Then, Grace’s brother and Zach’s sister draped Grace’s veil around Zach’s shoulders. It symbolized that they were dressed for the world as one.
Next, a white decorative silk cord was placed over the couple in the sign of infinity (a sideways figure-eight). It symbolizes everlasting fidelity and signifies that they walk the world as equals.
Grace and Zach exchanged official vows during their ceremony. These were different from their personal vows they exchanged earlier in the day.
They also did a lei exchange with one another during their ceremony. This is a Hawaiian tradition, and by placing flower leis over each other, it is a symbol of sharing their love, affection, and respect for one another.
Sunset Beach Portrait Session
We took Grace and Zach to the beach to capture some intimate sunset portraits of them before their dinner started. Because Zach and Grace didn’t want to be far from their guests for long, we took them out to the beach/lava field next to the ocean for their sunset bridal shots. We captured intimate moments of the two of them in their wedding attire for about thirty minutes. We knew we would have more time with them the following day for a more in-depth session, so we kept our bridal session short so that they could get back to the party. Having their Airbnb just seconds away from where we captured their bridal shots was seriously ideal.
Meaningful Centerpiece Table Items
Grace and Zach had their farmhouse-style table decorated for each guest with place cards, their five-course menu, pineapple, and crystal jewels for everyone to take home. Grace explained at the beginning of dinner how much the crystal jewels meant to her and that she always uses them to keep her calm and grounded. She hoped that everyone would take them home as a reminder of their time together. They also had photos of members of Grace and Zach’s family who couldn’t be there to celebrate with them. Their menus listed all of the items they would be served throughout dinner that were sentimental and important to them.
Intentional Dinner Choices
What made Grace and Zach’s dinner so special was that they had food served to their guests that had all been dishes they tried during their time in Hawaii and that they loved. They had Noah and his team from Puako Provisions come in to create an epic six-course meal for their guests. Grace and Zach explained the significance of each dish to their guests before it was brought out. Food is really important to Grace and Zach, and I just love how they centered their reception around the food that they loved and had been part of their personal journey as a couple.
Following Day “Trash the Dress” Session
A “trash the dress” session is always a good idea in our book. Grace and Zach booked a full eight-hour wedding day that we were able to capture in addition to an adventure session the following day where they could “trash the dress”! I loved this because it really allowed Grace and Zach to be fully present with their guests on their wedding day, but it also allowed them to embrace their adventurous side on their following day adventure session. We met at the beach and took some shots along the lava rock cliffs. Later on in the session, we got to jump in the water and take some of my favorite images of Zach and Grace. Grace’s second “trash the dress” is from Reformation. It was the perfect dress for her to rock for this session! We had so much fun during this session, and I was so thankful we had some extra time to really capture these intimate and beautiful photos of their love.
At the end of the day, whatever wedding you choose to have, you can be as intentional as you want to truly make your day special. Our best advice is to really think about what is important to you and invest in the things that will make you happy and that will allow you to savor the moments you have of your day!
Floral Vendor: Grace Flowers Hawaii
Officiant: Ana Nawahine-Kaho’opiˈi
Grace’s Wedding Dress: Monique Lhuillier
Grace’s Adventure Session Dress: Reformation
Groom’s Outfit: J. Crew and Suit Supply
Chef and Team: Puako Provisions & Catering
Airbnb: Whale’s Tail