Our family has many special memories in Hawaii, so we were thrilled when my sister announced she was getting married on Maui. Even better: the wedding would take place in February, which guaranteed a respite from another dark, frigid Alaskan winter. We would wake up in snowy Anchorage, and a mere six hours later land on the shores of a tropical paradise.
Getting there wasn’t completely without stress. Hawaii still had the strictest Covid restrictions in the nation, and even vaccinated visitors needed to jump through quite a few ever-changing hoops before boarding the plane. We breathed a sigh of relief when we were granted the coveted wristbands, which meant we had successfully met the requirements before boarding the plane.
As we settled into our seats in the back of the plane, a fellow passenger asked if we were traveling together. She had been separated from her husband and baby, and was hoping to trade one of our seats for her premium class ticket up front so she could sit with her family.
“But you’re traveling together, so of course you don’t want to split up,” she sighed.
My hand suddenly and involuntarily shot into the air.
“I’LL DO IT!!” I declared.
I honestly don’t know what overcame me.
I’ve flown with my children plenty of times. I’ve hauled heavy carseats to row 34, I’ve gate checked strollers, and I’ve stuffed my carry on with nothing but goldfish crackers. I’ve sat stark awake in the middle seat on red eye flights, cradling their heads as they drooled on me like an old, used pillow. There was an unspoken understanding that normal screentime rules went out the window on an airplane, as they played Minecraft for hours and watched movies I hadn’t even researched. I always felt guilty and judged, but it was travel survival mode.
That might explain why I was so eager to head to the solitude of row 6, with free drinks and four extra inches of legroom. The kids are teenagers now, both fully capable of traveling solo if necessary. I did have a twinge of guilt halfway through the flight when Clark ventured to the front with an old family iPad, which had reached its daily screentime limit and needed an override password so he could finish his movie. Luckily, I remembered the password before the flight attendant ushered him back to his seat due to turbulence.
Despite the aforementioned turbulence, it was a quick, relaxing flight whether you sat in the front of the plane or the back. We were going to Hawaii, after all!
The rest of our family had traveled through four time zones several hours earlier, so they were all asleep by the time we landed. We took a Speedi Shuttle from Kahului to Kihei, and highly recommend this reliable and economical service. Our driver even offered to take us through a drive-through in case we were hungry.
There was no need, since my brother had stocked the fridge in our rental unit with pizza and beverages. We quietly dropped our bags and grabbed a slice of pie before rushing out for a moonlit stroll along Kamaole Beach II.
It was surreal.
The world had shifted and changed in so many ways, and we hadn’t been to Maui in years. Yet this magical beach remained unchanged. A squishy, manicured lawn leading to a narrow sandy path flanked with black lava rocks, eventually opening up to our favorite place on the planet. Warm waves crashed and sounded exactly as we all remembered.
That beach walk was an exhale. All the worry about Covid restrictions and rental car nightmares evaporated into the night air, and each rolling wave ramped up my excitement. The upcoming week was a trifecta: a special celebration of Cody and Elle, a tropical vacation, and a family reunion all wrapped into one glorious trip.
The only bummer was my mom was not feeling 100%. Her body was fighting to heal some burns on her hands and arms from a recent accident, and she also suffered an allergic reaction we still haven’t fully identified. Thanks to Benadryl and extra time to relax, she was able to rally and make the best of the trip.
There was beach time and family time. Moonrises and sunsets, babies and great-grandparents. Swimming, snorkeling, and even scuba certification for Clark, Sam, and Maggie.
And, of course, there was the wedding.
My sister was a blessedly laid-back bride. She loved hanging on the beach (specifically, Kam II) so much that she postponed her wedding manicure appointment until the last second, and even then almost cancelled it entirely. Because, priorities.
In the end she decided to go through with the manicure, so the morning of the wedding my mom, daughter, sister and I (how special is that?!) walked across the street for nail appointments.
Elle was mid-manicure when her wedding coordinator called. I only caught half the conversation, but it took a loooooong time and I got the gist that it wasn’t good news. I was right: her coordinator had to cancel due to a family emergency. Planning a destination wedding is no easy feat, and this woman had been Elle’s lifeline for months. Most brides would have flipped out at this point, but Elle simply declared, “She already found someone to cover for her, it’ll be fine!”
What was to stress? After all, her nails looked perfect, especially with an engagement ring on her left hand and our grandma’s high school class ring on her right.
On to hair and makeup! We got ready in the spacious condo that Cody’s parents rented, but it didn’t have AC and we were soooooo hot. The poor stylist was having hot flashes, but she still took her time to make sure Elle’s inner glow fully shined.
Tell me this isn’t the most laid-back, drop-dead gorgeous, badass bride you’ve ever seen? It was go time!
Clark dropped us off at the wedding venue, where we met the new wedding coordinator and picked up our breathtaking bouquets. She staged Elle and Dad for a private reveal minutes before they walked down the aisle.
The ceremony was idyllic. We gathered on the edge of a golf course that overlooked the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by palm trees and flowers. There was ukulele music and all the positive energy that comes from the blowing of a conch shell.
Cue the goosebumps!
And just like that, they were married.
It was a formal, public celebration of the love these two have shared for years.
After the ceremony, we walked up the lawn for the outdoor reception. It was a relief to have the formalities behind us, and everyone was more than ready to celebrate the new bride and groom. There was fancy food and lots of mingling, enjoying the company of old friends and making a few new ones along the way.
The dance and DJ were priorities for Cody, and he was more than ready to get the party started. He and Elle put together the entire playlist, carefully selecting music that mattered most to them yet ensured fun for all. Many calories were burned on the dance floor that night, which was packed with people and flooded in moonlight.
It’s been a journey, watching these two grow up and grow together over the past several years. They’ve been through a lot in the last decade, and have a lifetime of new adventures ahead.
Cheers to Elle and Cody, two people who will always and forever have each other’s backs.
And cheers to magical Maui.. we will be back!