We saw this passionate duo in a Monday Montage. They were hot to trot, and now we've got the whole story!


The offbeat bride: Christen, AP Guru/copy editor (and Tribe member)

Her offbeat partner: Leigh, chef

Date and location of wedding: Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows, Kohala Coast, Hawaii — July 2, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: We took many aspects of a “traditional” wedding and either bent them just so, or threw them completely out the window.

To begin, we decided to do a destination wedding in Hawaii because it was as “in the middle” as we could get between my family in the States — and with us living in Wyoming — and his family in Australia. But we did a budget destination wedding, so we had to make sure we were throwing the Benjamins into all the right aspects.

Brooch Bouquet

Gone were flowers, garter toss, bouquet toss, bands, DJs, sit-down dinners, videographers, and extensive decorations.

In were a brooch bouquet, iTunes, open bar, hors d'eouvres, and bunting made by my mother-in-law. Also in were impromptu thumb-wars, rock-paper-scissors, and karaoke. And a not-so-impromptu pinkie swear. We didn't pay more than $100 for anything, save the hotel, plane tickets, wedding package itself, and amazing photographers.

Cupcakes with Gir!

We eschewed the cake for cupcakes, and couldn't figure out what we wanted for a cake topper, so as we were dashing out the door to leave for the airport, we grabbed Leigh's Gir figurine and made sure he was stuck into the top tier.

Wine Ceremony

Tell us about the ceremony: It was short and sweet. I asked the hotel-recommended officiant for his basic civil ceremony and discussed what changes I'd like to make to it with him. I rewrote large portions of it to include wording on remembering those who couldn't be there with us, and recognizing those who are refused the legal right to be married. We included a wine box ceremony, which was painted to resemble a TARDIS, so I had the wording allude to time, space, etc.

There were excerpts from “Winnie the Pooh” and “Still Life with Woodpecker.” A friend read “Litany” by Billy Collins.


Our biggest challenge: Keeping within our budget was a very high priority, as we didn't want to go broke. We were adamant about also getting a vacation out of the damn thing, as neither of us had been on one in years. So, through our two-year engagement, we squirreled away money whenever possible and researched each and every option to ensure we were making the most wise decisions. We set up payment plans with the hotel and our photographers, which helped us pay down the costs.

Group Shot

Group Shot

My mother passed almost halfway through our engagement, which dealt a huge emotional blow to the process. She'd been ill for quite a while and there was a lot of trepidation going into the planning process because we weren't sure how/if/when to go about it. But the wedding and planning provided a good outlet during my grieving process, at which point I refocused the effort on to the most important part: being with our loved ones.

Fatherly Love

Also, planning a destination wedding is a bitch, any which way you cut it. Unless you have oodles of cash to fly back and forth and work hands-on with vendors, venues, etc., it's very much about relinquishing control and trusting people who've been in the biz for a long time. And about fine-tuning communication skills.

VJ-Day kiss with the homies.

My favorite moment: The wedding was the first time I met his friends and family and he met my extended family and some friends. So, obviously, it was the first time the two sides met one another. It was really great to sit back and watch everyone interact and enjoy the melding of our two unique backgrounds.

Seal the deal

The pinkie swear right after our vows was something we had discussed and planned. It's something we do when we promise each other something significant, whether it's to end a fight or back one another up in a social situation, etc. So it seemed only fitting for us to include it in our ceremony, and especially so right after our vows. I don't think everyone really understood it, but the point was that it was ours.

Nailed It!

My funniest moment: The thumb-wars and rock-paper-scissors were pretty hilarious. I got kind of twitchy-nervous because ALL EYES WERE ON US, so I instigated them. With spazzy outcomes: I couldn't get the timing right, the thumb-war was taking too long, and it just felt awkward. But awesomely so.


My uncle, who is awesome, gave a toast during the reception and positively roasted me. At first I was embarrassed, but it was funny.

Sweet caroline

And, as per usual with us, our reception turned into an impromptu karaoke sesh. Truly, if there's a mic in front of us and tunes in the background, it's going to happen. My personal fave was when “Sweet Caroline” came on and all my Red Sox-loving Beantown family came up to dance while I “sang” (which, really, for the sake of humanity, shouldn't ever happen).

The Usual Suspects.

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? The whole thing? Ha, no, I'm not that much of a pessimist. But I was worried that people, especially some of our more conservative family members, would think we weren't taking it seriously because we bucked so many traditions and took so many shortcuts to make it happen.

Overall, I tried not to let it all get to me. There's only so much one can control and anything beyond that is either unlucky circumstance or a happy surprise. Either way, it's best just to roll with it.

Final Act

My advice for offbeat brides: Keep the focus and keep the love. If you hang on to both of these, not just for your significant other but for all those around you, it's going to be much easier and much more blissful. Remember, the planning is just a means to an end. And the end is awesome.

'Grand' entrance.

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photography: Persimmon Images

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Comments on Christen & Leigh’s Hawaiian beach karaoke wedding

  1. Is that a Gonzo tattoo I spy on the groom’s leg? Awesome! I love that last photo <3

    Gorgeous event, you crazy kids.

    • *moves into the little place between their lips, sets up residency*

  2. More things should take place in hammocks.

    Also, you cats are thumpin’ adorable and that bouquet is to die for.

    • I loved the bouquet. My mother-in-law put it together using my mother’s brooches, as well as some gifted from various sources. Thing’s damn heavy!

  3. Crazy in love with the dress and the suspenders. So, so, so wonderful!

    And the pinky promise. Fantastic!

  4. Damn, I didn’t know it was possible to use the words “budget” and Mauna Lani Hotel” in the same sentence.

  5. Any wedding with GIR is a wedding I can get behind. That dress fits you so well, and I love the impromptu karaoke!

  6. My goodness…these guys are just too cute!! The wedding is in the most beautiful location and that first kiss looking picture up there…brought tears to my eyes!

    All around beautiful!

  7. That blue lining on the gown is incredible! Which dress from David’s Bridal did you get – and was the blue lining included or something you added?

    • Sorry, I can’t recall the style number and the tag is long-gone. But it was on the clearance rack for $100. I bought the petticoat, buttons and spaghetti straps separately, and had a woman in my hometown do the alterations. We shortened the dress by about 4 inches and took it in a bit. I had her sew in the petticoat so I didn’t have to fuss with an extra elastic band.

  8. Thumb-wrestling, high-fiving and karaoke? *swoon* I love every single thing about this wedding! Except that I wasn’t there, lol!

  9. “I don’t think everyone really understood it, but the point was that it was ours.”
    THIS! If every bride has that motto, weddings wouldn’t come from magazines. I love this wedding so much. Esp the blue suspenders (omg) congrats!

Comments are closed.