A Sense of Place: A Wedding at Mauna Lani Bay
Sharon Feldman and Ryan Stewart chose the spiritual setting of Mauna Lani Bay on Hawaii's Big Island for their destination wedding. Guests arrived from across the country to share in their magical celebration, flying into the Kona Coast of the Big Island for a first glimpse of Hawaii’s very origins. The jet black lava that once flowed in fiery streams is now the living land that imbues the island with its unique sense of place. This is the Kohala Coast, where the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel quietly stands surrounded by Hawaii’s majestic volcanic peaks and remnants of ancient civilization.
Sharon considers Ryan her favorite birthday present of all time, since they were introduced on her birthday six years prior to their wedding. The courtship culminated in a romantic gondola ride in Newport Beach, where the two snuggled in and enjoyed a picnic basket filled with wine and cheese. This would be the prelude to a more private moment at the beach later that night, when Brian finally proposed. Sharon recalls, “I was so excited and thrilled, I almost forgot to say yes!” The final determining factor was their only living grandparent. Sharon says, “My 99‐year‐old grandmother lives in Kona, so we decided to bring the wedding to her!”
Sharon met with gown designer Jenny Lee for a private fitting at her Los Angeles boutique. Her desire was a one-of-a-kind dress with a fitted bodice and an a-line skirt ideal for a beach wedding. An organza sash with hand sewn flowers adorned the back of the dress. The crowning glory was a beautifully crafted veil and blusher with a couture organza flower for her hair. The groom showed his natural élan in a Hugo Boss suit. The wedding day arrived a glorious Hawaiian day, and guests gathered on the white sand to witness the union of Sharon and Ryan. The aisle was festooned with brilliant orchid sprays that mimicked the colors of a tropical sunset. Sharon carried an elegant bouquet of phalaenopsis orchids to go with her classic bridal ensemble.
The celebration began in earnest as guests were led to a poolside reception that overlooked the ancient fishponds and the Pacific. The couple had commissioned Diane Phillips of DK Designs to create island style favors, wedding menus and printed place cards. These accents coordinated with vivid orange invitations by the same designer. The details of the evening added to the colorful affair, including Mauna Lani’s signature white chiffon wedding cake with passion fruit filling and buttercream frosting, topped with hand sculpted phalaenopsis orchids. Sharon was certain Ryan would appreciate the groom’s cake, a pineapple-shaped confection that was actually layer upon layer of malasadas. “He loves doughnuts and fresh pineapple!” quips Sharon.
Of the many Hawaiian touches at the celebration, the most memorable was the bride’s hula for her new husband. Sharon was completely in her element, having grown up dancing hula on Oahu with the Iwalani School of Dance and later under Kumu Hula Ed Collier at Iolani School. With palms swaying in the distance and the soft light from overhead lanterns, she had never looked so lovely to her husband. . The toasts continued with a word of advice from her parents, “Make sure you communicate, so you may never grow apart.” Afterward, Hawaiian slack‐key guitarist John Keawe played his song “As Long As” for the couple’s first dance. Their parents joined in as John continued to play his soulful renditions, and eventually everyone took a turn on the dance floor.
Highlights of the joyous occasion were blended with the family photos and music that was shown at the reception in a video presentation. There was not a dry eye as family and friends watched the precious moments of the day. Standing in nature’s embrace under a canopy of stars, Sharon and Ryan agreed, “We wish we could relive it all over again!”