They knew one another for years, but it wasn't until Rich Austin moved away to Colorado that he and Annalisa Ollada fell in love. He was back visiting friends in California and decided to call Annalisa for an official first date. "We both thought, 'Why didn't we go out sooner?'" remembers the bride. Just two months later, Rich's mother Patty and his good friends helped him arrange a surprise picnic on the beach in Laguna where he shocked and thrilled Annalisa with a romantic proposal. "I forgot to say, 'Yes,' but just jumped up and gave him a hug and a kiss!" recalls the bride. After the engagement, the couple endured a long-distance relationship "for what seemed like a lifetime," until Rich moved back to Southern California to be with his future wife.
Rich had lived in Hawaii before knowing Annalisa, and it did not take much to convince her that the islands would make a perfect spot for their nuptials. "Ever since I went to a relative's wedding there when I was younger, I knew that one day I wanted to be married in Hawaii," asserts the bride. They chose Kauai for the celebration so that Annalisa could finally get married in the church she had fallen in love with years ago. Together, the bride and groom planned their dream day, which would culminate in a reception at the Princeville at Hanalei resort. The bride admits that it was Rich who provided her with the most help making many of the detail-oriented decisions. "He is definitely the more decisive one," she confesses.
Tragically, just one month before the couple was set to walk down the aisle, Patty suddenly passed away. Both Rich and Annalisa knew that his mother would have wanted them to continue with their wedding as planned, so the bride and groom devoted their energies to designing a fitting tribute to the mother of the groom during the event. During the ceremony processional, the flower girl carried a special lei made of jasmine flowers (one that is traditionally worn by the mother of the bride or groom) down the aisle and placed it on the empty chair that would have been reserved for Patty. Later, at the reception, Patty's favorite Hawaiian version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was played in her honor.
Feeling fortunate to be celebrating in a place steeped in such natural beauty (Kauai is called the "Garden Isle"), the couple allowed the local flora to define the decor. Each dinner table was named after a different type of indigenous flower, and centerpieces made of various orchids, lilies, plumeria, ginger, and palm fronds rested on chocolate brown linens. The escort cards were tied to miniature palm fans, and tropical flowers cascaded down the layers of the wedding cake, which was filled with yellow cake (Rich's favorite), butter cream, and strawberries and covered in rich chocolate frosting. As self-described foodies, the menu was very important to the bride and groom; their main goal "was to make sure our guests were happily well fed throughout our weekend." Between dining on bites of sushi, pineapple chicken, and customary Hawaiian fare, everyone made the most of the dance floor after the couple took the first spin to the sweet love song "Ice Cream" by Sarah McLachlan. The group was also treated to a traditional Hawaiian wedding dance performed by Annalisa's cousin Susan, a talented hula dancer.
Annalisa's wish to get married in a location that was close to both their hearts was rivaled only by her desire to place a strong emphasis on her gown and wedding photos. "I know I may be biased by working at a bridal salon (Annalisa is the director of marketing at Mon Amie Bridal in Costa Mesa, CA), but I truly feel that brides should focus on those things about their wedding that will last forever. Because your photos are everlasting, it's important to wear a gown that you love," she explains. Hers was a strapless Ines di Santo creation with a delicately beaded and embroidered diaphanous skirt -- which the bride accessorized with a special handmade orchid lei gifted to her at the reception by a close friend. To ensure that Annalisa's photos turned out exactly as she and Rich wanted, they decided to import a photographer from the mainland to avoid relying on a less familiar vendor.
Since they were already in paradise, the newlyweds decided to remain in Hawaii for their honeymoon. After spending a few more days on Kauai, they couple flew to Oahu where Rich introduced his new wife to the friends and haunts he knew while he had lived there years before. A final stop in Maui rounded out Annalisa and Rich's Hawaiian experience.