A Casual Beach Wedding in Puako, Hawaii
Kristina Difazio and Kai Steuer met at New York City's Electric Zoo Festival in 2011. After a few years together, the pair decided to abruptly quit their Wall Street jobs, sell their apartment, and travel the world. They visited Africa, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines before landing in Hawaii, where they planned to live full-time. "I had an inkling that an engagement was on the horizon but had no idea when or where," says Kristina, the director of sales and business development at a property management company, of her relationship with her banker beau. "I assumed he didn't bring the ring on the trip because that would be too risky, so when we got to Hawaii, I was on high alert!"
One day, experienced scuba divers Kristina and Kai hit the water with their parents off the Kona Coast. As they descended into the ocean, Kristina spotted a giant conch shell in a sand clearing and became instantly excited at the rare sighting—until Kai began cutting away at the shell. "He then showed me his underwater writing slate, which said 'Kristina Will You Marry Me?' and had the option for me to check 'yes' or 'no'. Obviously I checked yes, and then he proceeded to cut fishing line off the shell, turn it over, and pull my ring from inside!" says Kristina. The group had a mini underwater celebration, continued their 30-minute dive, and then returned to the harbor. Back on land, they drank pink champagne with family while "Finally" by CeCe Peniston played in the background.
One year later, on December 12, 2017, Kristina and Kai got married at the Sullivan Estate in Puako, Hawaii. Eighty-five guests attended the casual beach celebration, which was inspired by the natural island aesthetic and, just like the proposal, it was pretty special.
The Stationery Suite
Beacon Lane created the stationery suite with brown typography and a green leaf design. It was a great introduction to the tropical theme of the wedding.
Kristina and Kai tied the knot at Sullivan Estate in Puako, Hawaii. The oceanfront venue boasts spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. "My mom's family is from the Big Island, and every year my family spends Christmas in Puako. We rent the same waterfront house down the street from our wedding venue every year!" says Kristina.
After trying on countless dresses, Kristina fell in love with the "Mariana" by Jenny Packham, which has a V-neck and capped sleeves. "I felt like myself in it. It was also the most comfortable dress I've ever worn—basically like wearing sweatpants for a wedding dress!" she says. Kristina also wore Jimmy Choo shoes, a veil from Saks Fifth Avenue, and heirloom jewelry from her aunt and late grandmother.
Bijou Bridal in Honolulu made Kristina's garter belt. Kristina's dad passed away in 2002, and she honored him by cutting out a pocket from his striped button-down shirt, monogramming it with his initials, and attaching it to her garter belt.
The First Look
The first look was Kristina and Kai's favorite memory of the day. "I went back and forth on the first look idea, but I will say that it was really special to share that moment together before everyone else is involved," says Kristina, adding that Kai shed some tears during the emotional moment.
A Spot with a View
The ceremony took place on the grounds of the Sullivan Estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A wooden structure, designed by planner Vintage and Lace Weddings and florist Grace Flowers Hawaii, anchored the site. Palm leaves and pink blooms covered the arch, and they were also placed along the aisle.
Heavy morning rain cleared in time for the late afternoon ceremony. Kristina walked down the aisle to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole played on a ukulele. Kristina and Kai had a traditional Hawaiian ceremony, and they exchanged vows in Hawaiian. The bride's aunt, Pastor Lani Larrua of Big Island Weddings, officiated.
A Family Affair
Kristina's little sisters (Laney, Lexi, and Kelli) served as bridesmaids, wearing dresses in shades of the bride's favorite color: coral. They struck a pose with other family members in front of the ceremony structure.
Rebecca Arthurs photographed the newlyweds at Paniolos Beach during sunset, where black volcanic lava rock created a naturally beautiful backdrop. At the same time, guests enjoyed cocktail hour by the ocean and pool. Passed appetizers by Paradise Gourmet included ahi poke on crispy wontons, grilled shrimp on lemongrass skewers, beef carpaccio on parmesan crisps, and mini brie grilled cheese sandwiches.
The original plan was to have dinner outside, but with the weather acting up, the reception was moved indoors. "In the Hawaiian culture, the rain is considered a blessing, especially on this side of the island because it often sees drought," Kristina says of the silver lining.
Grace Flowers Hawaii made the sweetheart chair garlands and centerpieces with locally sourced flowers and variegated leaves. The setting had a relaxed and beachy appearance, since the design was inspired by the natural green, pink, red, and orange colors of Hawaii.
The Place Settings
Hawaii Island Events's patterned green and white runners added color, pattern, and a touch of modernity to the wood tables. The tablescape also featured gold vessels, clear glass chargers with gold beads, and geometric glass terrariums. Guests' names calligraphed on leaves served as place cards. For dinner, Paradise Gourmet served a field greens salad, angus steak, fresh fish, vegetarian lasagna, island-style vegetables, and purple sweet potato gratin.
Delicate white orchid garlands, hung from trees by Grace Flowers Hawaii, added a touch of ethereal elegance to the venue. The design element was inspired by the bride's Hawaiian roots.
The Guest Book
In lieu of a book, guests signed a ukulele (sourced by one of Kristina's family members) at the reception. The eclectic piece was chosen for its Hawaiian roots and ability to double as décor. "We have it at our home; we need to hang it!" says Kristina.
The Photo Booth
Vintage and Lace Weddings designed a photo backdrop with live ferns, palm leaves, and other plants native to Hawaii, which showcased the natural beauty of the islands.
Pineapple Bakery baked a coconut cake with haupia filling layered in rich coconut buttercream and adorned with pink flowers and greenery.
The First Dance
Kristina and Kai danced to "Let’s Stay Together" by Al Green.
As wedding favors, Kristina and Kai gifted pineapple bottle openers from myweddingfavors.com.
Dancing the Night Away
At the reception, the couple handed out glow sticks. Guests danced their hearts out before heading to an after-party at Fairmont Orchid. Shortly after their wedding, Kristina and Kai left Kailua for a two-week honeymoon in New Zealand, where they enjoyed married life in paradise.
Photography, Rebecca Arthurs
Location, Sullivan Estate
Event planning, Vintage and Lace Weddings
Catering, Paradise Gourmet
Flowers, Grace Flowers Hawaii
Officiant, Pastor Lani Larrua of Big Island Weddings
Stationery, Beacon Lane
Cake, Pineapple Bakery
Music, 808 HYPE Productions
Rentals and Lighting, Hawaiian Island Events
Bride's gown, Jenny Packham
Hair and Makeup, Salon Muse Kona
Maid of Honor Dress, Joanna August
Groom's suit, J.Crew
Transportation, Jacks Hawaii