Teaser: Wedding Ceremony Details

When figuring out where to have our wedding take place, we knew we wanted to avoid a banquet venue and hotel. We love being outdoors and one of our favorite activities is hiking through forest preserves. That's when we started looking at local forest preserves for the perfect spot. And we found one! It's a fairly new preserve that was renovated recently with a brand new all year round shelter. It's very close to home and sits on a large lake. There's plenty of trails, lush scenery and slightly hidden so it's romantically secluded too. The best part? The venue rental from sunrise to sundown is a whopping $100! Score!


For our wedding photos, we're leaving those in the hands of Roland Gozun. Our immediate and extended families know each other from decades ago and I'm thankful he was available to capture our special day! We have chosen to do a 'first look,' A 'first look' is where the bride and groom see each other before the wedding and take pictures together along with family and the wedding party. At first I didn't want Patrick and I to see each other before we went down the aisle, but after thinking about how practical it would be for us, I wouldn't have it any other way. I wanted us to see each other before going down the aisle for a few reasons - 1) to calm our nerves as I know seeing each other would put me more at ease; 2) have all our wedding party photos done before the ceremony so that we could all fully enjoy the cocktail hour to mingle and focus on pictures with our non-wedding party and non-family guests.

So after getting our hair and make up done at our house, the ladies will meet up with their significant others and children at the venue. There, we will start our photo sessions, starting with Patrick and my formal couple shots with each other, with Joel, and with our immediate families. Next up will be photos with each wedding party family with us followed by the family's professional photos of just themselves. Once all wedding party and family photos are done, our wedding party is off to do their special tasks.

wedding welcome banner

One of the things I use for my culinary classes is a banner for marketing and welcoming purposes. I thought it would be appropriate to do the same for our guests by welcoming them with a fun and festive sign. I created and order this 8 ft banner from Vistaprint, It was a lot of fun to create and it captured the vibe we wanted our guests to have for our event.

Hawaiian flower girls

Rather than having flower girls in the traditional wedding sense, we have chosen two flower girls and their moms (my matrons of honor) to greet our guests as they arrive to the wedding. Out flower girls will be welcoming our guests by presenting them with a fresh Hawaiian lei made of purple and white dendrobium orchids. The leis have been ordered and shipped directly from Hawaii, using the Hawaiian Lei Company. Younger guests will be welcomed with silk leis.


After our guests have been welcomed with a lei, they will be encouraged to sign our unique guest book. We're purchased two ukeleles for our guests to sign as opposed to the traditional guest book. This is something we can display as an art piece to remember the memories of the day and the friends and family who celebrated with us.


Along with a fresh floral lei, guests will also receive a colorful woven buri fan as another wedding favor with a purpose. These are from the Philippines and tie in my Filipino roots while being useful in case the weather is a bit warm. I love how colorful they are and how they're just a bit more special than the typical plain natural colored fans.


One of the most special trips Patrick and I took together was our trip to Philippines last fall. We had the opportunity to visit the city of Baguio and we decided it was one of our favorite cities we spent time in. While there, I picked up a native woven bag and I thought it would be a great idea to use it as our wishing well since it not only goes with our theme, but it makes for nice way to collect wedding cards the day of the wedding. So here's another twist on the traditional wishing well...

wedding ceremony flowers

Most traditional weddings take place at an altar. For us, we will be wed under a large tree, in a circle of fresh flowers, common in Hawaiian culture. Taking the flowers from our picnic reception the night before along with more dendrobium orchids, it hopefully will make for a colorful and festive spot to take our vows.


For our ceremony/reception, we will have white wooden folding chairs tied with a butter yellow chair ties. The photo above isn't the accurate representation of how the tie will be done but the tie shown is very close to what color ours are. The ties are from LinenTablecloth, where I got all my other wedding linens. We will not have any assigned seating and guests are welcome to seat wherever they'd like!

WEDDING programs

Continuing with our birds of paradise motif, I created our wedding programs using Zazzle. These are simple fold programs with a rack card insert. Upon opening, it outlines our ceremony details. The front of the rack card inside outlines our reception details. The back of the rack card has our luau reception menu, highlighting all the different food 'islands.' The back page lists our wedding party and immediate family members. And the back of the program is our thank you page, which we have personally signed.


For the wedding, the rings will be placed in a round bamboo box. It's more our style and the box can be used for safekeeping after the wedding. It also fits more appropriately in our overall Hawaiian theme where we will have natural woods like bamboo and acacia used in our decor. I especially like that it will be easy for Joel to carry down the aisle.

processional song 

A traditional processional song just wouldn't fit in with who we are and what really captures the essence of the day. That said, the bridal party will be starting off our ceremony with one of my favorite songs - Somewhere Over the Rainbow, sung in the style of Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole by the Barefoot Hawaiian musicians. This song has a lot of sentimental meaning for me... and is the first song I sang to Joel the day he was born. I probably had this song on repeat while he was in the NICU for a week after he was born and this song helped me get through that period while I was waiting for him to be released to come home. I also love this song because it just gives me a sense of peace and happiness. Instead of our wedding party walking down the aisle individually, since this is a family affair, we are having each family walk down the aisle together. This works out well so the children involved don't get stage fright - or at least we hope not lol.


One of my dearest friends who I met through our love of singing years ago in high school is also taking a special part in our ceremony. He will be singing my bridal entrance song of "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz. This song not only has the upbeat island sound, but has meaning as well. When the song writer, Jason Mraz, was asked about the song's meaning, he explained that this song is "about finally giving into love and life's possibilities." The lyrics really resonates with me and I need to make sure I hold it together as I walk down the aisle lol.

Hawaiian lei exchange

The Bride always presents the lei first to the groom. Now in present day wedding in Hawaii this tradition is incorporated into the ceremony. The exchanging of leis is done before the start of the ceremony after her father gives her away. The minister or best man holds the grooms maile lei for the bride and the maid of honor holds the brides lei for the groom. To extend this further, we want to present our parents with special leis as well. This is as a sign of thanks for being  there for us, guiding us and having a loving and solid marriage we would like ours to model by. My son, Joel, will help with the lei ceremony by holding the leis for us.


After spending an amazing time in Philippines, I wanted to pay homage to my culture. As a result, we are incorporating some Filipino traditions in our wedding and will include things like the Filipino candle, coins, veil/cord and coins into the ceremony:
Candle - Two candles lit by both our families symbolize how they light our lives and guide us as we live life as a new couple. The candles are then used to light one candle by the bride and groom.  
Coins (Arras) - Thirteen coins (or arras) symbolize Christ and his twelve apostles. These coins also symbolize the prosperity that would be shared by the new couple and the couple's commitment to mutually contribute to their relationship, family and community. In the picture above, the coins are placed in a small wire cage and set on top of a pillow for easy carrying.
Veil - The veil is a symbol of purity and is placed over the shoulders of the couple to symbolize their union. 
Cord - The cord is a symbol of the couple's bond and is knotted into the infinity symbol. which means they are no longer two individuals but rather one combined union in their new life as a couple. This knotted cord is then placed over the heads of the couple, above the veil.

 exchange of wedding vows & rings

After the Filipino customs, we will move forward with exchanging of vows and rings. We didn't feel the need to write our own vows and profess them with an audience as we are more on the private side. That said, we'll be repeating after our officiant and alleviating any additional stress on us lol.

blessing of the hands

Hands are considered to be a connection to the heart, and a hand blessing symbolically brings two hearts together. And then before you know it, we'll be pronounced as husband and wife!


What would a Hawaiian themed wedding be without the Hawaiian Wedding Song? There  were a couple versions of the song available, but really, any one will do at this point lol! 

So with the ceremony details covered, stay tuned tomorrow for the reception details!...


  1. It has been a joy watching you plan your wedding. It will be a beautiful and memorable day for you and your new husband. Thanks so much for sharing it with me and opening up your life. I wish you both happiness and joy for the rest of your life.

  2. It's going to be such a beautiful wedding Jolene!