Love, Family, and Intentional Sobriety Are What This Wedding Is All About


It’s a celebration of everything that matters

by Stephanie Kaloi

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When it came to planning their wedding for fifty-three guests (thirty-nine adults and fourteen kids) in Hawaii, Billie and Ryen knew what they wanted more than anything: a sober, kid-friendly destination wedding on the island of Kauai. As Billie explained:

Ryen and I are both recovered alcoholics. Very early in our relationship, we managed to become and stay sober together, an against-all-odds anomaly that is to this day amazing. We met in 2007, both reeling from the consequences of our drinking. I was fresh out of the hospital from an alcohol related illness, he was fresh out of jail from more of the same. It was a fateful Cinco de Mayo afternoon at TGI Fridays. We more or less immediately connected–neither of us can recall with certainty.  The next morning, we talked sobriety, hope, and treatment. Two months in, we had an apartment together, I’d checked into rehab, and we started to build. Eight years, thousands of A.A. meetings, and two children later, we got married.

The vision for our wedding was “simplicity and joy,” and the children made that happen with ease. We also planned a few outings to make the destination experience inclusive and celebratory beyond just the wedding day. We had a wedding website and planned three trips: zip-lining, a hike to a local spot of beauty (Queen’s Bath), and an A.A. Meeting. All three were incredibly special. In lieu of gifts, we requested donations to the women’s treatment center that helped get me sober, Residence XII.

So the family of four packed up and headed to Kauai, with APW fave Jonas Seaman Photography in tow… and something pretty special happened:

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Deciding to have a sober wedding was incredibly important to both Ryen and Billie—anything else wasn’t even an option:

Deciding to have a sober wedding was definitely outside the box for my side of the family. Alcohol had been synonymous with a good time for Ryen and I, too, once upon a time, but our recovery was the result of that not having been the case for us anymore. We are committed to our sobriety, and the truth and honesty that goes along with it is the foundation of our solid respect and love for one another. Having alcohol at our wedding wasn’t even an option. While I self-consciously imagined vibes of resentment that the reception wasn’t a “party,” having it during the day (freeing up the night for imbibing) made sobriety a more palatable experience in my mind. We also had a lot of sober friends attend, which made it easier and less stressful.

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In addition to celebrating sobriety and love, the pair wanted the focus to be on another incredibly important part of their lives:

The wedding was not only about bringing Ryen and me together, but was also about uniting us as a family with our daughters. Whitney and Maggie are both little manifestations of the strength and hope we have found in one another! It was important to us that they were included in the ceremony and involved with the whole process. We made sure to plan the wedding for when Maggie could walk down the aisle with Whitney. When we had our rings made, we commissioned the artist Nadine Kariya to make rings for the girls, too. When we sent out save-the-dates, we included Whitney and Maggie’s name in parenthesis to highlight that it would be a family affair. I also had Whitney paint with me while I made the invitations so she felt a part of the process.

Along with Whitney and Maggie, we were keenly aware of the children of friends and family attending as guests. On the invitations, we included the family’s children’s names. Within, we printed, “Kids welcome at every part of our celebration!” Our wedding coordinator, Kaye, brought hula hoops, which were used in every way imaginable—leashes, jump ropes, hula (of course), and space makers. We had a food truck that put out a yogurt parfait bar, which was helpful in getting hungry kiddos fed while the meals were cooking.

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And in the end, every single thing fell into place like they wanted—and needed—it to.

Our love and joy was translated beautifully by the playful and hyperactive kids who endlessly danced, ran, cartwheeled, and tumbled throughout the day. The sun shone just long enough to allow for easy celebration, then the North Shore weather rolled in and doused us in sky and rainbow. As the day’s events wrapped up and the rain began, the safety of our union felt complete and ready for all weather. We are so happy to at last be husband and wife!

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The Info:

Photography: Jonas Seaman | Wedding Location: Kauai, Hawaii | Wedding Venue: Hanalei Bay Resort | Billie’s Dress: BHLDN | Rings: Facèré Jewelry Art | Food Truck: Rainbeau Jos

 

 

Stephanie Kaloi

Stephanie is a photographer, writer, and Ravenclaw living in California with her family. She is super into reading, road trips, and adopting animals on a whim. Forewarning: all correspondence will probably include a lot of punctuation and emoji (!!! ? ? ?).

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  • Notreallytrevor

    Pictures in the sea and rain bought tears to my eyes and I don’t know why, stunning!

    • Brittany

      Same! Such a beautiful story with a profound, but simple ending to the day.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      There’s out of a movie.

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  • Ella

    Every part of this is so beautiful but I especially love “doused us in sky and rainbow,” “the safety of our union felt complete and ready for all weather,” and the photos in the rain. What a beautiful response to the weather. <3

    • Her Lindsayship

      I loved that too – literally gave me chills. It looks like such a lovely and joyful celebration!

  • Green

    Wow, breathtaking. Congratulations to you both on your sobriety, rebuilding your lives, two beautiful children, and an absolutely gorgeous wedding. This brought tears to my eyes. Many blessings to your family on the road forward.

  • Em

    This is beautiful. Congratulations to you both for your weddings + your lives (and lovely children!)

  • Sara

    Those rain pictures are gorgeous. Love everything about this and wish you so much joy.

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    Could this be any more lovely?

  • Megan

    I’m really happy to see a wedding like this on this site. It’s different than any other I’ve seen on a wedding blog. Sober, destination, enthusiastically-child-friendly… So great!

  • Eenie

    The pictures from the ceremony are precious! What a lovely celebration of marriage and family. Congratulation!

  • Jessica

    This is so beautiful.

  • librarygirl.totherescue

    Those rain photos are just STUNNING. Many congrats on your beautiful family and your sobriety!

  • Gaby

    Wow, I got goosebumps at the beginning of this and then I saw those rain photos. I’m wiping tears away now, this is so beautiful! Congratulations for both your union and your sobriety!

  • CMT

    Wow, those photos are amazing!

  • idkmybffjill

    This such a delightful wedding! Simplicity and joy in spades. Congratulations!

  • StevenPortland

    Such a great posting, with great photos. I really loved the quote “Kids welcome at every part of our celebration!”

  • JC

    ALL THE FEELS.

  • Billie

    Thanks so much to everyone for your appreciation and kindness. This sort of beauty is only born of vulnerability – departure from anonymity was worth every discomfort. Love to you all ❤️️
    Jonas and Mary – you rock.
    m/>.<m/

    • Jonas Seaman

      Thank you so much Billie, for sharing your story. It was so wonderful working with you and you both are incredibly inspiring! <3

  • Dustin Cantrell

    Jonas and his wife are amazing photographers!

    • Jonas Seaman

      Ah! Dustin! Thanks so much! You are the best :)

  • Lisa

    I SO want a photo of me and my husband drenched in rain, standing in the Pacific, in Hawaii. Some day.

  • Staria

    I love Jonas Seaman photography, if I lived in the US there is no doubt I would have had him for my wedding! Good on you both for sticking with a dry wedding – it’s what’s important for you. I had a daytime wedding too and while it wasn’t a dry one I did choose daytime partly with the thought in mind that I wanted to limit the drinking. Congratulations!

  • Rebekah Abeja

    Do you have a picture of your rings, including the children’s rings? I just think that is so sweet.

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  • This is so wonderful. We would all be lucky to have an event like this one.

  • luqman gee

    Hawaii is the 50th and most recent state to have joined the United States of America, having received statehood on August 21, 1959.
    http://www.mobiringtone.com/channel/4/message-ringtones/

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