JESSIE + JAKE
Jessie + Jake’s love story began when they met at church and each separately decided to go on a full-time mission trip in Hawaii together. Their church was building a retreat center for church leaders to rest and re-energize. An absolute paradise. Tents, hammocks, standing buildings on stilts. I got to visit and it was absolutely amazing. While there, I learned so much about things that Hawaiins consider sacred. The land that the center is on has over a dozen Hala trees (pronounced Hah-lah). These trees are native to Hawaii and are special to Hawaiians as they are used for so many things. They produce fruit, are used for building, and the leaves are used to make the roofs on hale – nature-built buildings. I got the feeling that they are special for more than just those reasons, but I was never given more details – I guess I’ll have to go back to learn more : )
THE WEDDING STORY
The day before the wedding, I arrived on Maui and took the treck to Hana, where the wedding was being held. The road to Hana was mesmerizing. We arrived on a foggy day and the winding road and its biodiversity was magical and mystical dressed in droplets. The trip was not for those who get carsick easily, but definitely would pull at the heartstrings of anyone who has a love for exotic travel, cultural experiences, and expansive sights. If you ever have the chance to visit Maui, Hana should be on your list.
The night before the wedding I was staying with the Jessie, the bride, and her ladies in their airbnb. While they were off at the rehearsal dinner, Jessies attendant, Anne, and I went to the wedding site to take a peek and we ran into the owner, Essie, and her 4 ( 5?… 6?… 10?) dogs. She invited us into her outdoor kitchen, and taught us the card game Polish Poker (similar to the card game Golf). It was easy spending time with Essie. Her dogs reminded me of my own pup Claire, and Essie talked us through her life and the places she had lived. She spoke extensively about the ceremony property and its history. She told us about her husband, Francis Sinenci, and how he was born and raised in Hana, Maui, and is one of the few people who know how to build hale for the whole of Hawaii. Hale (pronounced hah-lay) are structures built with Hala trees. Francis was the one who built the Hale where Jessie + Jake would be married as well as a vast majority of all of the hale across the islands. At some point during one of Essie’s stories, it started raining. I couldn’t have told you when it started because it started small and was so calm. I wish all of my travels were like this – meeting people and hearing their life stories. Getting to know them and learning from them. It felt like such a dream being welcomed so effortlessly into Essie’s home and spending time well past sunset playing cards and listening to the rain hit the hala branches above us. Being there that evening, playing cards, in the rain, it was all kismet.
PBS recently did an interview with Essie’s husband, Francis, that I think, if you have an interest in Hawaii, was worth the watch. An interview done in 2019 by PBS. PBS Video Interview
This sound clip is so special to me. It is of our evening with Essie. An hour of our time with her, learning from her, soaking in a timeless night under her outdoor kitchen, eating mangos from her mango trees, learning a card game while it rained around it. I can’t think of a night better than this.
THE BIG DAY
The day of the wedding we weren’t sure what the weather would hold! Our morning was pretty damp, but not at all dreary. The hurricane storms that had been threatening the islands decided to mostly pass, but left a cluster of tiny rainstorms in their wake. Jessie embraced the day – rain or shine. While the men were bodyboarding in the rain at a nearby surfing hotspot, Jessie and her ladies were spending the morning inside getting ready for the day together at an airbnb they had across the street from their ceremony site.
I prepped for their outdoor vows by picking up an umbrella at the local general store, but 30 minutes before their ceremony the sun came out to play. Picnic tables lined the aisles and Jessie + Jake stood under a set of palm trees just off of a cliff overlooking black lava rock with ocean blue waves powerfully crashing in. They were surrounded by views. In one direction a vast ocean and to the other Haleakala – a local dormant volcano. Their vows were personal and uniquely special to them. The intimate ceremony was attended by mostly family and some close friends and spoke volumes to what a true community looks like.
Jessie + Jake not only exchanged rings, but they also incorporate the Hawaiian tradition of exchanging leis. They each exchange leis with their parents – a symbol of thanks, honoring their parents and their role in their lives. Jessie + Jake also exchanged leis between themselves. Jake exchanged a Micronesian ginger lei, and Jessie her ti leaf lei.
Local Hawaiin friends of Jake & Jessie’s played music and provided an amazing spread of local fruit for the guests. Coconut, lilikoi (passion fruit), papaya, jackfruit, avocados, pineapple, guava and more all gathered from local trees in Hana. Their reception was under one of the hale that Essie’s husband built, and they were supported in numerous ways by their community the entire day. It was a true untouched day that was purely Hawaii. From sun up to sun down – as Jake said when he addressed his friends and family at their reception – there was so much aloha in their day.
In one of the articles I read about Francis Sinenci, he speaks of laulima when building Hale: the concept of working together. It was so evident that laulima filled Jessie and Jake’s day. Everyone came together to support them wholeheartedly. I’m so honored to have been a part of their team.
As a business that exists to serve, there are promises I’ve made to myself and you, my client, to serve you best: I promise you that I will keep myself honest and accurately represent my qualifications and experience. I’ll serve you best by being committed to understanding your needs and goals. I’ll stay humble by sharing knowledge and professional experience with others. And most importantly, I will provide services in the areas in which I am qualified to serve.
Holy crow Rachel! These are amazing! What an incredible experience to be able to photograph a wedding in Hawaii. So so so stunning. Great work girl!
Aww Rachel, I love remembering this day! Thanks for being part of our day and capturing it so well!