Erin and Tom are high-school sweethearts who made it through years of dating long distance, some of which included living in different countries. Erin eventually joined Tom in St. Louis, Missouri, where they completed their degrees. After Erin graduated, they celebrated with a trip to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile trek that cemented that they were meant for each other. Soon after, they moved back to California, and Tom proposed exactly where they met: the theatre building of Jesuit High School.

“I had told him he didn’t have to go over the top when he proposed; I just wanted it to be a surprise,” Erin explains. “He definitely took me by surprise! It was so touching, nostalgic and incredibly romantic.” It was just before the holidays, so the couple waited until after the new year to start planning. Their engagement was short (just under seven months) so they didn’t have a minute to spare when it came to planning. Part of the rush to plan was an impending move to Hawaii in late July. The couple knew that planning a wedding from across the Pacific Ocean would be no easy feat.

As they secured their date, they struggled with the guest list as well as finding the perfect venue. “It is a delicate balance to try and determine how large of a wedding to have. Considering the fact that both Tom and I have quite large extended families, we knew we didn’t have the budget to accommodate such a large wedding. Making the decision to limit the wedding to family not only was difficult but necessary considering our budgetary constraints,” Erin explains. With a “tropical luau” theme to reflect their upcoming move, the couple  wanted to find a space that could offer the island-getaway feel they imagined. “An incredibly generous family friend offered us her gorgeous backyard as a venue for the reception,” she says. “We had been in the middle of trying to find a location that we loved and fit our budget when she offered. We were stunned at how perfectly her garden felt like a tropical oasis, and knew immediately that we had found our space. Tailoring our decorations and floral arrangements to our theme and venue proved to be rather simple and cost-effective. The payoff was that our wedding ultimately exceeded the vision that we had previously held,” says Erin.

As the day approached, everything else fell into place. “It’s very easy to become overwhelmed during the planning process,” Tom says. “There are so many opinions and so many choices that when all is said and done, to be at the altar or enjoying the reception — that’s the best part.”

—Kourtney Jason