A Mountaintop Elopement and Sunset Sail in Bar Harbor, Maine
In September 2010, Nika was a high school senior with a new job at the local movie theater where Hani, a college freshman, had also just been hired. "We met at orientation for the job," says the couple. "We started bantering and immediately fell for each other." Nearly a decade later, on Nika's 26th birthday, Hani proposed at a private picnic along the Potomac River. "We had talked about marriage for years, so I knew we would get engaged one day, but was so thrown off by the timing that I barely remember anything else," says Nika. "It was amazing."
The couple planned to invite 40 guests for a weekend-long wedding celebration in France in September 2020—until COVID-19 travel restrictions forced them to reconsider. They initially pushed their overseas celebration to June 2021, and tried to come up with a weekend plan to distract themselves from the missed celebration. "We decided that we didn't want to be at home come our 10th anniversary and original wedding date, and figured that escaping up to Maine for the weekend would be a nice reprieve from sequestering at home," says the couple. Drawn to the scenery, food, and outdoor activities in the state, Nika and Hani soon began to consider turning their weekend trip into an elopement. "Everything came together like it was meant to be," they say. "Over the course of two days, all of the big aspects of the elopement were solidified. The gorgeous hotel, a private sunset cruise, getting married on Cadillac Mountain, a fabulous local restaurant—it felt like the pieces of the puzzle had always been there, waiting for us to open our eyes and discover them!"
A decade to the day after they started dating, on September 19, 2020, the couple said "I do" during a mountaintop ceremony capped off by a sunset cruise and four-course dinner with eight guests. "Trust your instincts, even when they're telling you to make an uncomfortable decision," says the couple. "Your wedding day is about your vision and you as a couple. It can be hard sometimes to prioritize your wishes above those of your family and friends, but if you do, you'll be glad you did."
Work of Heart
For their original wedding invitation, Nika—who owns Calligraphette and Co.—"pulled out all of the stops," she says, using paper she and her mother made by hand, custom calligraphy and illustrations, foil printing on navy bookcloth, a custom wax seal, and an Oscar de la Renta stamp. "Absolutely every detail was perfect," she says. "For our elopement, we wanted guests to walk away with a keepsake, but didn't have the time to go quite as in depth as we did for our original invitations."
The finished product—a "We're Eloping!" announcement placed in the welcome baskets—incorporated the calligraphy font Nika had created for the first invitation. "The uppercase letters are classic and flourished, and the lowercase letters are a mix of a loose copperplate style and my own cursive," she says. "Overall, it had an elegant feel that was modern enough to not feel stuffy!" She chose a dusty blue handmade paper from a Maine-based papermaker, and added a sketch of the location. "Having personalized paper details was really important to me as a designer," says Nika. "Taking inspiration from our original invitations and infusing it into our elopement's paper details was a nice nod to all of the creative energy we invested in our original paper goods."
In the Bag
Thoughtfully curated welcome bags included personalized mini Champagne bottles to pop pre-boat ride, a gold-foil-and-vellum accented itinerary, and several custom items. "We included small pieces of us in the welcome bags, as a thank you to our families for jumping on planes in the midst of a pandemic at the drop of a hat," says the couple. These details included Ladurée macarons in everyone's favorite flavors as a nod to where they would have been in an alternate reality, custom-made "Bar Harbor Inn" motel-style keychains made by Nika's childhood friend, and custom face masks with an illustration from the invitations.
Her Gorgeous Gown
Nika didn't expect to find her wedding dress during a brief shopping trip with her mother-in-law—which the two of them scheduled during a short layover between flights. "I had been up since 5 a.m., then on a plane for three-plus hours, and was wearing my glasses," she says. But after several failed options, the boutique stylist pulled out an Essense of Australia ball gown with a deep V-back and matte lace on the skirt. "The second I saw the fabric of the skirt, with the detailed lace appliqué, I fell in love," says Nika. "Once she put the dress on me, I immediately felt at home. It was so soft, with pockets to boot, and the silhouette felt made for me. This dress is everything I could've ever wanted. It's classic and simple, feminine and elegant, yet modern and playful." To complete her look, Nika chose black kitten heels—a bequest from a friend—and a dramatic veil from Green and Blue Studio. "Once we decided to elope, I purchased a veil that was much longer than I had anticipated," she says. "When you're getting married on top of a mountain, you need a long veil to catch the wind. Unfortunately, it was so windy that I had to pull the veil off or it would've taken my hair with it down the mountain."
Nika and Hani chose wedding rings from Alexandria and Co.; Nika's slim band complements her European-cut engagement ring, an heirloom passed down from her great-grandmother. "I wore an Oscar de la Renta bracelet that Hani gave me for my 19th birthday," says Nika. "We were in Paris, and when he gave it to me, he told me that he wanted to marry me one day. It was a really special moment for me, and I knew that I had to wear the bracelet on our wedding day."
Nika requested a "natural and unstructured" arrangement from Honeysuckle Way Flowers, which included dahlias, lisianthus, roses, and eucalyptus. "I wanted the bouquet to feel as though it has been plucked as-is from a garden, and that couldn't have been a more accurate description for what the florist created," says the bride.
Hani chose a navy J. Crew suit, which he wore with a polka-dotted chambray tie. Small anchors on his socks were a "playful nod" to the surroundings. A boutonnière of spray roses, viburnum berries, and calycina coordinated with the floral arrangements at the reception.
A Walk to Remember
As Hani, the officiant, and the couple's immediate family waited at the top of the mountain, Nika walked up to meet them on her own. "As I started walking up the path to the summit, everyone who had been on the path suddenly became quiet and stepped off the path," she says. "It was a bit uncanny, as the silence fell and I knew that I was walking up to Hani. Then, everyone started applauding and cheering—total strangers—and saying congratulations to me as I passed. I had a bit of tunnel vision, as I could barely make out Hani standing with his back to me, but I remember seeing really big smiles on our unofficial guests' faces. It's hard to describe how much the joy those people passed to me, people who had come to the same place we had for many of the same reasons. It was really special to share in that joy with those people and share in a seemingly fleeting connection that I'll never forget."
Together at Last
The couple saved their first look for their meeting at the top of the summit. "We wanted to really feel the build up of these emotions at the moment we'd been looking forward to for so many years," they say—and it ended up as their "absolute favorite memory" of the day. "As he turned around and saw me, I saw the look on his face that he had right before our first kiss, like seeing me in front of him was almost too much to bear," says Nika. "He immediately teared up and began to cry, and we grabbed each other's hands and I just felt this radiant happiness." When Hani turned around to see Nika for the first time, he says, "all at once, I was taking in that, one, Nika was wearing the dress that she'd been so excited to put on and finally show me, two, Nika was so happy, beaming up at me with all her might, and three, that Nika was wearing the Oscar de la Renta bracelet I had given her years ago. All of that together overwhelmed me with excitement as I realized that the moment we'd been waiting for was here."
An officiant from Bar Harbor Weddings led the couple through an exchange of civil vows that included personal quotes from the bride and groom. "Our ceremony was written by our officiant, and we loved it," says the couple. "The closing sentence felt so right to us: 'May you carry into your marriage the beauty and tranquility of this place and keep in it always the sense of peace, exploration, and intimacy that you share here today.'"
Nika's sister, Bryn, and Hani's brother, Ramsey, served as the maid of honor and best man; she wore a floral BHLDN gown and he chose a Tommy Hilfiger suit. "When we went to try on dresses, we both immediately fell in love with her dress, as it was the perfect complement to mine but was very Bryn," says Nika.
Nika, Hani, and their loved ones posed by the water for portraits after the ceremony. "We originally just wanted to do something that focused on finally having our wedding ceremony. That was all we really planned on as we thought through our possible plans for eloping," says Nika. "Then, everything else started coming together and turned into the most incredible day we never could have imagined earlier this year."
The group toasted with the Champagne from the welcome bags before boarding a boat from Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines for a sunset tour. "The boat served canned beer and wine, and since we have a lot of IPA lovers in our families, we made sure they had some good options aboard," says Nika. "My mom brought peanut butter pretzels and some trail mix—not very photogenic, but everyone enjoyed bundling up with a cup of salty-and-sweet trail mix after our cold adventure on Cadillac mountain!"
The sunset cruise offered unparalleled views of the mountains and water. "The whole weekend was the epitome of how we like to travel," says Nika. "It felt like a very unique day, unlike most weddings, which is fitting considering how it came about."
Their First Dance
Acoustic guitarist John Tercyak performed a mix of cover songs during the boat trip, and gave the couple an unexpected chance to share their first dance—to "The Boxer—while on board. "As we chatted through the options with him, Hani asked if he knew any Simon & Garfunkel. They're a longtime favorite, and we used to listen to them with my grandpa in Denver before he passed away," says Nika. "Our first dance was magical. Pausing to hold each other and soak in the moment was the most wonderful way to slow down and fully realize that we were in the midst of our wedding day."
Dinner by Candlelight
The couple and their family returned to shore for dinner together at Salt and Steel. A variety of floral arrangements in bud vases and low vessels sat in the center of the bare wood table, and Nika offered up her own shimmering extras: "We had a dozen or so gold vintage candlestick holders and an assortment of white-and-blue candlesticks that I've been collecting over the years," she says.
The bride also hand-made the place cards, using a forest green paper and white ink that coordinated with the white plates, silver flatware, and black napkins.
On the Menu
With such a small group, Nika and Hani opted to have their guests order individually from the restaurant's four-course tasting menu. Options included oysters with Champagne, truffled kale Caesar salad, pasta, salmon, sea scallops, and sweet corn panna cotta or chocolate olive oil cake in lieu of wedding cake. "At our dinner, Nika's mom and Hani's dad started trying to describe what our wedding ceremony was like for them," say the newlyweds. "Janine was tearing up, trying to explain how it felt, and she and Sam worked off each other a bit as he handed her tissues. Hearing the impact that our crying through our vows had on our parents was really touching."
The couple felt so much joy from their intimate ceremony that they decided to cancel their plans for a later wedding in France. "We knew that we wanted the lifetime of memories of our wedding day to be something we'd look back on fondly and that would help sustain our marriage," says Nika. "We weren't robbed of our dream wedding—we just had to figure out what our new dream could be."
Photography, Sophie Kaye
Location and Venue, Cadillac Mountain Summit at Acadia National Park (ceremony); Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines (sunset cruise); Salt and Steel (reception)
Flowers, Honeysuckle Way Flowers
Officiant, Bar Harbor Weddings
Stationery, Calligraphette & Co. (design and printing); Artisan 2 (gold foil printing)
Music, John Tercyak
Rentals, Something Vintage Rentals
Bride's Gown, Essense of Australia
Bride's Accessories, Green and Blue Studios veil; Stuart Weitzman shoes; Oscar de la Renta bracelet
Hair, Bar Harbor Inn Spa
Bridesmaids' Dresses, BHLDN
Groom's Attire, J. Crew
Menswear, Tommy Hilfiger
Favors, Bags of Love masks; La Durée macarons; Tux and Tabby Resin keychains
Wedding Rings, Alexandria and Co.