An Elegant, Tropical Wedding by the Ocean in Oahu, Hawaii
Vanessa Dessere and Nathan Syne credit the start of their relationship to "the serendipitous opening of elevator doors" while they were both working in New York City. The two made plans for coffee, and quickly realized they had a lot in common—including a connection to Australia, where Nathan was born and where Vanessa had just finished working. "Time must have been standing still, since what was meant to be a 30-minute catch up over flat whites between client meetings turned into hours of conversation and plans for a follow-up date," says the couple. A few months later, another work opportunity inspired Vanessa to move back to Australia—and this time, Nathan went with her. "Nathan popped the question on one of our favorite beaches on the north shore of Sydney," says Vanessa, "where he organized a romantic picnic for just the two of us. We hugged, cried, laughed, and shared our special moment in such a beautiful and intimate way that I couldn't have even dreamed of."
With their family spread out across the globe—Nathan's in Australia, and Vanessa's in America and the Caribbean island of St. Kitts—they planned a destination wedding in a spot they'd chosen years before. "We previously traveled to Hawaii together before our engagement, and absolutely fell in love with the island of Oahu," says Vanessa. "It was the perfect location in the middle. We always said Hawaii would be our place if we were to tie the knot, so thankfully, that decision was easy!"
Vanessa and Nathan organized a week-long trip for their 90 guests to the island, including a beach party on the last day, but the highlight was their November 16, 2019, oceanfront ceremony. They chose a color palette of mauve and pink with ivory-and-green accents that tied into the tropical gardens at Lanikuhonua in Oahu, and carefully chose flowers, music, and design elements to create a "tropical, romantic, and elegant" event. "Our wedding-day vision was all about bringing two families together and celebrating our love every step of the way," says Vanessa. "We believe our vision came true as our family and friends left Hawaii with so many new friendships and memories. Having our closest family and friends in one place was such an incredible feeling."
Simple and Tropical
The couple's The Writing Desk Hawaii invitation suite featured tropical flowers and leaves, bright pink accents, and a crest, all of which previewed the color palette and accents that recurred throughout the big-day design. "We worked with our designer to include a map of Oahu and the various locations across the island, including the wedding venue, beach day, and other popular locations," says Vanessa. "We kept our invitation suite very simple and kept the focus on the paper quality and design, which we loved."
A Lucky Find
Vanessa's mermaid-cut lace wedding dress was a top contender during a shopping trip at the Pronovias flagship store in New York City, but she hadn't been able to commit on the spot. "A few days later, I stumbled into a luxury consignment boutique and saw one of my favorite dresses for a fraction of the price, brand new, unaltered, and in my exact size," she says. "It truly felt like it was meant to be. I never thought I would find my wedding dress in a bridal consignment boutique, but would highly recommend it to brides who are comfortable shopping pre-owned or sample dresses." Sydney-based Bespoke Bridal Tailors added tulle sleeves that Vanessa removed during the reception, and Ivonn Couture used the same tulle to form a matching veil.
The bride's "romantic and organic" bouquet was a hand-tied collection of cymbidium orchids, garden roses, parrot tulips, and ranunculus. "Flowers were an important factor for us," says Vanessa. "We loved Passion Roots' work and selected this vendor immediately after we secured our wedding venue."
Father and Son
The groom shared a quiet moment with his father before the ceremony as he pinned his grandfather's World War II-era rose gold and diamond brooch to his father's lapel. "Since the wedding, Nathan's parents' home was lost in the bushfires which ravaged the east coast of Australia and the brooch was one of only a handful of items which were recovered from the rubble—still intact—increasing its sentimental value to the family," says Vanessa.
She Said, He Said
Vanessa and Nathan met before the ceremony, exchanging personal letters in an intimate space on the grand staircase at the Four Seasons Resort in Oahu. "Walking down the staircase to meet each other for our first look and exchange our private vows was such a special moment that we will forever cherish," says Vanessa. "Our first look helped ease some of the nervous feelings and pulled us right back into the moment before the day officially started."
Laughter and Love
The couple ordered vow books and customized them with rose gold foil lettering to create an heirloom memento. "It was such a surreal moment sharing our private and intimate vows with each other," says Vanessa. "We're so happy we did. It was one of our favorite moments from our wedding day."
"Taking inspiration from the royal weddings, we decided to keep the bridal party small," says Vanessa. Her matron of honor wore a BHLDN sheath dress in apricot, while the flower girl—Vanessa's five-year-old cousin—dressed up in a tea-length tulle princess dress. "She wore a beautiful flower crown customized by our florist to match the aesthetic of the bridal bouquet," says Vanessa.
Vanessa's nephews joined the bridal party as ring bearers in dark blue pants, suspenders, and bow ties. "They both wore mini full ti-leaf leis, which was perfect," says Vanessa. "Our flower girl and ring bearers were beyond adorable and did such an amazing job!"
Arm in Arm
The bride and groom made thoughtful song choices throughout the day. "Music was another important factor for us, and we wanted the right songs to evoke both a romantic vibe and a positive energy throughout our day," she says. They asked singer Jason Laeha to perform for the ceremony and cocktail hour, and chose "Can't Help Falling in Love" for their processional. "My father walked me down the aisle and the smile on his face was priceless!" says Vanessa.
Saying "I Do"
Two readings during the ceremony—from Vanessa's brother and Nathan's cousin—included a passage from the Bible's 1 Corinthians and Rumi's "This Marriage." Reverend Michael Nelson guided the couple through their non-denominational service, where they exchanged traditional vows. "Our officiant embodied the local mahalo spirt of Hawaii and was exceptional throughout the ceremony!" says Vanessa. "We met with him before our ceremony and he gave us wonderful marriage advice."
The couple held the service on a lawn overlooking a stone wall and the brilliant blue ocean. "In such a gorgeous tropical destination, we knew that we wanted our celebration to be outdoors with amazing views that showcase the natural beauty of Oahu," says Vanessa. "We wanted the setting to capture Hawaii's gorgeous greenery and were intentional with our design and décor so as to not take away from the gorgeous landscape."
An asymmetrical arch included tropical greenery and pink, white, and peach garden flowers, complemented by guests' white chairs. "We made the last-minute decision to add a rose petal aisle splash and I couldn't imagine our ceremony without it," says Vanessa. "It completely tied our romantic theme together!"
A Walk to Remember
Instead of joining their guests for cocktails after the ceremony, Vanessa and Nathan took advantage of the beachfront location and stunning sunset for their newlywed portraits. "The sunset the night of our wedding was nothing short of magical, and I would love to relive that moment again and again," she says. "Our wedding planners even brought us cocktails to enjoy during the sunset portrait session, which was most appreciated!"
Syned and Sealed
Guests found their seating assignments in rose-colored envelopes closed with the couple's custom wax seal. "The wording at the top—Syned, Sealed, Delivered, which was a play on words from our hashtag, #SyneSealedDelivered—was the perfect final touch," says the couple.
A Pretty Pair
A large sailcloth tent strung with overhead lights created a sheltered outdoor space for dinner and dancing. Long tables covered with floor-length linens and gauze runners framed the dance floor, while minimalist wooden chairs created a natural contrast. Tropical arrangements on their chairs—one of the couple's favorite details—marked the newlyweds' seats.
Love Is in the Air
Low floral arrangements in white footed vessels included bright tropical foliage, garden roses, and island blooms, while mother-of-pearl votive candle holders created a sparkling accent. "Our vision was all about romance," says the couple. "We wanted an elegant, memorable, and fun-loving destination wedding."
A Detailed Crest
Table numbers in shimmering frames mimicked the crest from the couple's invitation, trading their initials for numerals in an ocean-blue shade.
At the Table
Place settings included wooden chargers topped with white china, placed between gold utensils. Blush-colored napkins coordinated with the rose-toned runners, while stemless glassware and custom menus detailing the meal—which the couple describes as "Hawaiian regional cuisine with a twist"—were elevated, informal accents.
As the sun set, guests enjoyed their dinner—and each other's company—under the glowing tent.
Vanessa had a specific cake request for farm-to-table dessert caterer Upcountry Creations: "I knew I wanted a carrot cake from early on," she says. Cutting the three-tier, semi-naked dessert was one of the newlyweds' highlights: "Although some might consider it cliché," says the couple, "it was a fun moment which signified the formalities were wrapping up and it was time to have some fun on the dance floor!"
Showing Off Their Moves
The bride and groom looked for a first dance song that was "meaningful, passionate, and gave a nod to Vanessa's Caribbean heritage," finally choosing Bob Marley's "Is This Love." "We love how the song has an island, care-free vibe, yet the lyrics are sweet and romantic," says Vanessa. "We took private dancing lessons as we wanted to wow our guests when we entered the reception—and have fun doing it! Our dance routine incorporated a few spins and dips and we were so happy when we nailed (most!) of the moves. I was worried I wouldn't be able to do some of the dips in my wedding dress, but thankfully we were able to pull it off."
Photography, Kerry Jeanne Photography
Event Planning, Moana Belle Events
Catering, Chef Elmer's Island Cuisine
Flowers, Passion Roots
Videography, Aria Studios
Officiant, Reverend Michael Nelson
Stationery, The Writing Desk Hawaii
Cake, Upcountry Creations
Music, Jason Laeha (ceremony and cocktail hour); DJ Neekz (reception)
Rentals, Accel Rentals; Aloha Artisans; Loulu Palm Rentals
Bride's Gown, Pronovias
Bride's Accessories, Ivonn Couture veil; Anna Campbell jewelry; Bella Belle shoes
Hair and Makeup, Ashlee Valeros (hair) and Kecia Littman (makeup), Aloha Bridal Style
Maid of Honor Dress, BHLDN
Groom's Suit, Mister Mister
Menswear, Hugo Boss
Groom's accessories, TAG Heuer watch; Magnanni shoes
Lighting, Accel Rentals
Transportation, Royal Star Hawaii
Guest Book, Artifact Uprising
Rings, James Allen
Wedding Dress Tailor, Bespoke Bridal Tailors