Nicole the Bride: Hang is a business intelligence analyst. He telecommutes since moving from Studio City, Los Angeles to Sahuarita, AZ (just south of Tucson). I am a full-time student. My current major is psychology and I will be transferring to the University of Arizona in the fall.
Hang and I first met at a music festival, Coachella, in April of 2014. He was in one of the camps that merged with us. He just had this energy that was incredible and a great laugh too. We continued to camp with our newly merged group of friends each year at Coachella, both of us crushing on each other without being aware of the other one's feelings.
We began dating in the spring of 2016. Distance meant that we didn’t see each other as often as we wanted to. After an extended hiking trip in Colorado together, Hang relocated to Tucson. We spent time together with the kids and it was all just so natural, this evolution of our relationship. It felt different than anything either one of us had ever experienced.
Our engagement lasted about eight months. During that time we had a house built close by the kids’ schools and friends where I was already living. We settled into our new home in the summer of 2017. By December of that year, we were in Ecuador travelling with the kids and anxiously awaiting our celebration of unity and love.
It was our one-year anniversary of not exactly dating but when we first realized there was something… more. We were sitting alongside a fence at a campground of Coachella. We were discussing some hurt feelings that came up that day. Hang is very logical in his thinking and his proposal came out in such a way.
I, being more of the emotional one, declined in a not so nice way. I told him that I didn’t need his pity proposal just because I was upset. After about an hour of talking, Hang asked again. I said yes and we both cried. The next couple of mornings when we woke up the crying would start all over again because we remembered that we were getting married and we were just so overwhelmed with love and gratitude that it came spilling out in tears and laughter.
A story from the lead up to the wedding; we stayed up late, drinking wine, the night that we put together our playlist and chose our songs. It wasn’t until it came time for the first dance that we realized we didn’t really know how to dance to the song so we just laughed and did our best. There was a superfluous amount of spinning each other around the dance floor involved but we had fun doing it.
This one is not really funny but it was memorable - I had my dress altered by a woman in our local area who came highly recommended with over twenty-five years of experience. When I went for the final try on and pick up, I cried. Previously I did not understand this sort of emotion that was seemingly attached to an inanimate object. I thought it was just extra effect for the shows on television. But it was more than the dress. It was that beautiful princess moment that I didn’t even know that I wanted. And I’m so glad I had it.
We did not see our venue until the day before the wedding. At least not in person anyway. We knew that we wanted something small, intimate. I said “I have some friends in Ecuador. They have a luxury travel business as well as event planning. Their work is stunning. You have to see.” So I pulled up their Instagram page and Hang got pretty excited about the photos. We agreed that this was the type of wedding that we had always wanted but couldn’t quite articulate.
During the process of working with them, they offered us several locations. Once we narrowed down the location, we looked at photographs and a virtual tour of the venue. It was gorgeous then and even more so in person.The staff at Terrabambu provided our entire party with exclusive lodging and delicious food. They also helped us arrange safe and affordable transport to our next location, which came in the form of an off duty school van with a very friendly driver. This was much easier than finding a taxi for seven people travelling such a long distance.
Our wedding inspiration was nature, sustainability, love, intimacy, family, friends.
Etica Events decorated everything so perfectly. There were beautiful details in the table arrangements and settings. I may be biased but our reception was the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen. Oh and the cake! Breathtaking simplicity with edible flowers. It was not only gluten free but so so tasty! Words cannot do these details justice! You just have to see the photos.
We also had a couple come and give an interactive demonstration of making chocolate. From fruit, to bean, to gourmet hot cocoa. The kids really loved this!
I did not undertake DIY projects, we left it up to the professionals. I’m not exactly a “Nailed it!” kind of person when it comes to Pinterest or things like that.
Oh my gosh! The dress. THE dress! I wanted something simple, pretty, elegant. I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a dress that I knew I’d never wear again and was going to trash in a photo shoot the next morning anyway. The first dress that I purchased was vintage, ivory, plunging neckline for about twenty dollars. After a month or so I toyed with the idea of a long flowing blue/ peach tulle skirt with a white lace crop top. It was playful and fun. I didn’t love- love it but the day was quickly approaching.
My friend Denise and I went shopping for shoes and accessories. First stop was Nordstrom Rack. As we turned into the parking lot, a yellow banner beckoned us to a store in the corner. It read $299. ALL DRESSES. Alfred Angelo was closing their Tucson store and we had just stumbled upon the first day of the liquidation. Fifty-something dresses and many hours later we emerged victorious and hungry.
Every single detail was coordinated and implemented by Assyah and Jose Luis at Etica Events. Having seen many examples of the weddings that they had designed over the years, we entrusted them with all of that. We simply answered some questions about our style, gave them our dietary preferences and restrictions, and requested that there be no roses or calla lilies.
All vendors were local to Ecuador, which was essential to us. In travelling, we feel that is a person’s responsibility to not just go and take from an area. Being able to support the local economy, small businesses, and honour the environment at the same time by leaving less of a carbon footprint, made this trip very enjoyable for us as a family.
Moments and Memories of the Day.
My/ our Favourite moment/memory from the day was walkingdown the aisle, I saw Hang look up from where he stood and wipe tears from his eyes. When I reached him we both cried and hugged before and while exchanging the vows we had written. Our friend Nicole was the celebrant and had prepared such beautiful words to share with all of us during the ceremony that I felt an astounding amount of love at that moment surrounded by our children and closest friends.
Watching our two oldest kids (teens actually) take on one of our friends in a foosball tournament that got pretty intense at the reception. Also during the reception, Hang busted out some dance moves that not many had seen before, including a backflip. We had so much fun. And the kids were like “Whoa, we didn’t know you could dance Hang!”
Hang and I were both raised essentially without religion. His parents grew up in China’s cultural revolution where those in power were destroying traditional beliefs. At some point my family was Lutheran but that wasn’t practised in my lifetime, with the exception of my baptism.
Through life experience and learning about different religions, schools of thought, etc. we found ourselves comfortably within the agnostic zone. For us, it’s not a matter of believing or disbelieving in any God but rather acknowledging that, with our current knowledge, it is impossible for us to know the absolute truth of exactly how we came into existence.
We wanted our wedding to exude a feeling of acceptance, respect, and love for all living beings and their own personal beliefs. Basically, treat others as you yourself wish to be treated. I think we were successful in this.
What does marriage mean to you?
I’m not really sure. Because we are coming into it from a nonreligious standpoint, the concept has been quite fluid for us. We had no pressure to enter into this marriage and were both successful on our own beforehand. The connection that we feel with each other was and is such that we wanted to get married and experience that together.
We grow and change together every day. Sometimes growth is painful. Sometimes it’s exciting. But most of it goes unnoticed until it’s needed. Being able to share that experience with someone who loves me as I am is everything. Hang has never once yelled at me or made me feel bad just for being who I am. That is love and that is us.
A fun story of the day
Getting ready for the wedding was a breeze. I had an awesome hair and makeup artist, Carolina. A personal assistant to handle any issues that may have come up and also pass messages to anyone else on location. Two of my best friends, Tara and Nicole, were by my side the whole time. It was a group effort to lace the back of my dress and get me into my shoes.
Then I remembered the necklace I bought and Nicole and Tara helped me fasten it. Well, almost. It didn’t quite close around my neck. At first, we thought that maybe it was a child-sized necklace, after all, it was a costume piece purchased at a store that caters to teens. Upon further inspection, I realized that it was a bracelet/ anklet with a longer piece that hung down to be secured around a finger or toe (still not sure which).
We laughed so hard at the whole thing. My assistant was already on the phone taking care of it. She and Jose Luis from Etica Events went to the main lodge and used a metallic string from one of the ornaments on the Christmas tree to extend the “neck” part. Since I was wearing my hair down, the improvisation was completely hidden.
Everyone is different and with unique needs and wants. What worked well for us was leaving the planning up to the experts, staying within budget, and selecting a date that worked for us. You will never be able to accommodate everyone and yes sometimes feelings get hurt but you will also never again have this opportunity. Oh and splurge on the photographer!
Almost every married couple we spoke to after the wedding told us that they wished that they had (fill in the adjective here) photos of their special day. Don’t use a friend or someone whose work doesn’t exemplify what you envisioned. And for real, don’t take on massive debt for this occasion! Entering into a lifetime partnership with someone is going to have challenges as it is. The two of you don’t need to carry the burden of financial debt as well.
I am so glad that we chose to follow our hearts and plan a day that would be special for the kids and us. Coming into this marriage, Hang was not only stepping into the role of husband but also father to four children. We wanted something that was more than just “a big day”. We wanted an experience, a vacation, and an opportunity to explore new places.
With six of us in the home, we chose our wedding date based on when all of us could have that time off and not fall behind on any of our responsibilities. This meant that some family and friends were not able to make it but we understood. After all, we were getting married in the remote cloud forest of Mindo, Ecuador, two days before Christmas.
Hiring Etica Events to plan our wedding took this occasion to a level that we didn’t think was possible in our budget. Every detail was awe-inspiring. Our photographer at Lighthouse Film gave us photos that are so beautiful, unique, and undeniably “us”
Gabo (Lighthouse Film), our photographer was incredible in his ability to capture our moments on film. The day before the wedding, Jose Luis of Etica Events, drove Gabo and us out to a secluded coffee plantation, Cloud Coffee. This eco-farm is nestled in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and is part of the MIndo Cloudforest Foundation, one of several forces committed to the restoration and preservation of this unique eco-system. They have struggled to protect this area from mineral exploration for many years. The owner even drove us up to the very top of the mountain and gave us full access to take photographs.
Gabo photographed us not only that day but also the entire wedding day (getting ready, ceremony, reception). The following morning we dressed in our formal wedding attire and some hiking boots for a “trash the dress” shoot. Now that was fun!
The staff at Terrabambu provided our entire party with exclusive lodging and delicious food. They also helped us arrange safe and affordable transport to our next location, which came in the form of an off duty school van with a very friendly driver. This was much easier than finding a taxi for seven people travelling such a long distance.