With our wedding only two days away, my lingering cold was finally in its last stages as Tori and I boarded the Hawaiian Airlines flight to Honolulu early Monday morning. My stuffed-up ears felt like they were going to explode as we landed but I was excited to finally be in Oahu with my beautiful fiance. Tori's friend, Federica, was on the same flight so we dropped her off with our rental car before driving over to The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel. This boutique hotel is below Diamond Head Crater, separated from the jam-packed hotel towers of Waikiki by Kapiolani Park. Our third floor room was small but nicely appointed with a great view of Sans Souci Beach and the huge park from our balcony. The other name for the beach in front of the hotel is Kaimana, the Hawaiian pronunciation of the English name for Diamond Head.
Since it was sunny holiday, the beach and park were crowded as we walked around the area to scout out a good picnic spot for our reception on Wednesday. After a message from our friends, we walked through the park to meet up with Dave, Lindsay, Wayne, Lisa and Tucker at Tiki’s Grill and Bar just outside the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel. My Best Man, Chad, was staying at the Waikiki Beachside Hostel close by and came to join us with a Spanish girl he met there. (My dad ended up getting a bed there too when he arrived late that night since he was too tired to drive over to my brother's place on the North Shore.) After dinner, we all crossed the street to watch the sunset on Kuhio Beach near the Waikiki Wall. All our trapeze friends were renting a house together near our hotel so we walked over there afterwards to hang out.
My cold was almost gone and my ears felt better by the time we woke up the next day. Yay! Tori and I had a wedding license appointment over at the Sheraton Waikiki that morning so we decided to walk over and stop for a tasty breakfast sandwich at the Barefoot Beach Cafe in Sans Souci Park along the way. Entering the hustle and bustle of hotel high-rises and luxury stores along Kalakaua Avenue, we found ABC Stores every hundred yards were we bought our first of many bags of macadamia nuts. After a successful shopping expedition to Costco with Kenny to buy food and supplies, we celebrated by mixing up a test pitcher of POG Juice and Rum to serve at our reception. At 4, we headed to Diamond Head Crater to meet with Chad, Federica, Wayne, Lisa, Alean and Tori's mom, Susan, for a hike up to the rim. The path from the center of the crater wound up the steep walls of the tuff cone before disappearing into a long dark tunnel. On the other side, we climbed the 100 steeply cut steps into the volcanic face where we found a second short tunnel and another spiral staircase up through a old artillery bunker from World War II. At the top we had a wonderful 360 degree view from Waikiki to Koko Head and behind into the crater interior. For dinner, we we went out for sushi with our friends.
All week long, rain was forecast for our wedding day and on Tuesday evening, the sprinkling began and turned into rain that howled during the night. While dark clouds greeted us when we opened our room shades in the morning, growing patches of blue sky gave me hope that the rain was over as we headed down to the Hau Tree Lanai Restaurant for a big breakfast to sustain us on our big day. When the hair and makeup lady arrived for Tori at 10:30am, I headed over to our friends' rental house with my Best Man to hang out while Tori got ready with her friends who crowded into our small room. The clouds were almost gone by the time Chad and I started the thirty minute drive to Makapu'u Beach on the windward side of the island. I wanted to get there early before the Bride arrived with her mom and friends in the limousine.
Powerful winds had blown away all the rain clouds by the time Chad and I pulled into the parking lot at Makapu'u Beach. We could see Manana (Rabbit) Island and the Kaohikaipu Islet just off the rocky coastline and to the south, body boarders rode the big surf pounding a long stretch of sand. Reverend Karen Russ led all the guests down near the water to a sandy spot among the lava rocks where the photographer had Chad and I face the ocean as the limo arrived at 1pm. Waiting nervously, the ukulele musician strummed behind me as Larry walked Tori down the beach to our secluded location. When I finally turned to see my bride in her wedding dress for the first time, I could not find her for what felt like forever before Tori popped out from behind the line of guests. She looked so gorgeous and I could not tell who's smile was bigger, hers or mine. It felt like my face was going to crack. The ceremony went flawlessly as we exchanged rings and preformed the lei and sand ceremonies. Eyes blinking in the bright sun and lips dry from the strong wind, I repeated my vows as the ribbon on Tori's dress ribbon whipped around with a mind of its own. Pumped with excitement, I leaned into to kiss her as we were declared man and wife. The musician played a final song and our family and friends rushed in to hug and congratulate us.
After signing our wedding license, the photographer separated Tori and I from our guests to take photos of us with the lighthouse on Makapu'u Point in the background before we rejoined everyone to take group shots. We stayed behind after our guests left to take more photos on the beach. My favorite picture was of me lifting my bride in the air with the two small islands behind us. (I will post our official wedding photos in a later post.) While Tori rode in the limo with her mother and friends on the way out to the ceremony, we rode alone on the way back where we stopped at Heaven's Point for more pictures with our photographer. This scenic spot is located on the ocean cliffs of Kahauloa Cove at the Lanai Lookout with Koko Crater rising behind us. (Also a great scuba site, he said.) I think it must have been the only non-windy spot on the island that day so it soon grew quite hot under the blazing sun. My mouth was tired from all the smiling by the time we finished.
Riding the limo back to the hotel while drinking champagne was relaxing as we enjoyed each other's presence before the reception started. Back in our room, we hung out on our balcony as we watched our friends set up the picnic in Kapiolani Park across the street. Chad texted us when they were ready and we crossed over to greet everyone. While alcohol is not allowed in the park, rum mixed into our gallon jugs of POG Juice (pineapple, orange and guava) ended up going perfectly with the Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Tacos that Kenny prepared. Everyone says that the Bride and Groom normally don't get a chance to eat at their reception, but I was starving and I ate at least four.
While the wind was too strong for our first choice by the beach, the reception location ended up being in a perfect spot under the trees with a view of Diamond Head. Shannon volunteered to become the official reception photographer and she took a lot of amazing shots. After eating, talking and posing for more pictures, it was time to cut the cake. Months earlier, Tori made me promise not to smear any on her face and I stayed true to my word despite her trying to get a little on mine. Not fair! Ha!
Chad and Jessie then gave wonderful toasts as the Best Man and Maid of Honor before we moved on to the garter and bouquet toss. Jessie caught the bouquet and Kenny snagged the garter.
As Jessie and Kenny were taking their picture together, one of them had the bright idea to stick Jessie up in the tree. Probably Kenny. With a little help, the Maid of Honor was soon hanging from a high branch with the bouquet between her teeth. I climbed up next, followed by the Bride hanging only by the legs in her long white gown. After that, it was necessary that the Best Man take a turn to complete the set.
As the light faded away, the bride performed some more hand-balancing tricks with Kenny and Jill and then we headed back to our room to change. After resting for awhile and listening to Shannon play her banjo, we drove down to the Moana Surfrider with Jessie and Chad to have drinks under the huge banyan tree with my Dad and Gail. Since the kitchen closed at 10pm, we went off on a hunt for french fries and ended up at Cheeseburger in Paradise until after midnight. It was a great day and everything went so smoothly. The hardest part was removing the countless bobby pins in Tori's hair before we went to bed. Ha!
I woke up married today! Our plan for the day was to drive to the North Shore, counter-clockwise up the windward coast. Federica and Chad rode with us and Louise and Doug followed in their car. Our first stop was the Makapu'u Point Lookout for a panoramic view of the beach where we were married. We hit a traffic-jam passing through Kaneohe, but we were soon on our way into the rural country where we arrived at Tropical Farms. I wanted to take the Ali'i Tour of the many famous movie locations on the nearby Kualoa Ranch but we didn't want to wait over an hour for the next one to start. Instead, we bought lots of Macadamia Nuts and continued on our way. Since we were getting hungry for lunch, we stopped at the Shrimp Shack food truck parked along the beach-side road in Punalu'u. Tori ordered the coconut shrimp and I had the spicy-garlic shrimp. Suck, Peel, Dip, Eat. Their tropical float with strawberry-guava juice over vanilla ice cream was delicious!
As we turned the corner of the island onto the North Shore, our first stop was the Turtle Bay Resort where "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" was filmed. We parked at the beach and walked out to the end of the long volcanic reef protecting the shallow Kuilima Cove from the huge surf outside. We then continued on to Sunset Beach where they had safety tape up to keep people out of the water. The North Shore was having its largest surf since 2004. The peak swell was reported at 35 to 50 feet, which means 7 to 10 times overhead. (The Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave International was scheduled for our wedding day because the surf had passed the 40 foot minimum but was cancelled due to the high onshore winds destroying the wave faces.) Our last beach stop was Banzai Pipeline which was also taped off by the lifeguards. I took a lot of pictures of the chaotic surf but the photos didn't do their size justice. As we drove past Waimea Bay, we saw a helicopter flying low over a group of surfers braving the conditions. Heading back through the pineapple fields in the central valley dividing Oahu, we stopped at Dole's Plantation. It took us about 45 minutes to complete the Pineapple Maze and we celebrated with a Dole Whip, their delicious Pineapple Ice Cream. We had so much leftover food from the reception that Kenny heated it up for dinner when we got back to Waikiki.
We had been so busy all week that Friday morning was our first chance to just relax on the beach in front of our hotel. Tori surprised me with a new bikini that spelled out "Just Married" on her bottom with rhinestones. Very clever! Our friends joined us and I snorkeled over the reef and along the wall of the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial, a dilapidated 100 meter ocean swimming pool that borders the north end of Kaimana Beach. I found out later on the evening news that a snorkeler had drowned early that morning in the same spot. In the afternoon, Tori and I went to the harbor with Chad and Gail for a trip on the Makani Sailing Catamaran. Once we cleared the surfers riding the waves around the jetties, I volunteered to raise the sail. The higher it ascended the towering mast, the harder it got to pull down on the rope. Ugh! Sailing along the coast of Waikiki, we drank our Mai Tais and Blue Hawaiians as we kept an eye out for humpbacks. We didn't see much beyond distant whale spouts before turning around at Diamond Head and heading back. Right before we reentered the harbor, a humpback surfaced close by and hit the water with a loud tail slap. It happened so quickly that I didn't have time to raise my camera.
For our final night in Oahu, Tori and I walked down to Roy's Waikiki for a romantic dinner. We started with some wonderful cocktails and decided to both have Roy's Classic Tasting Menu. The appetizer selection of Blackened Ahi, Szechuan Spiced Baby Back Pork Rib and a Chinatown Chicken Spring Roll was delicious. Tori thought her entree of Classic Macadamia Nut Crusted Monchong was just okay, but my Slow Braised Honey Roasted Grilled Beef Short Ribs were so tender and flavorful that it was best meal I ate in Hawaii. We each picked one of the two desserts on the tasting menu to share, the Macadamia Nut Tart and Roy's Melting Hot Chocolate Souffle. Yum!
Saturday morning, we left our friends behind on Oahu and flew off to Kauai for our Honeymoon!