Though they don’t consider their wedding a traditional one, Kristina and Ryan found ways to honor their families and friends, while making sure everyone had an enjoyable time.

Since Ryan is half-Chinese, he and Kristina brought the two cultures together by incorporating a traditional tea ceremony into the event. When the wedding started, the couple lit a candle for their relatives and friends who had passed away and couldn’t be there, and then proceeded on to the tea ceremony, first serving Ryan’s oldest family member, his grandmother, next to the other elders of his family, then to Kristina’s family as well. “We give tea, we both bow, and then we put the plate of tea up and the person drinks it,” Ryan says. After, the person offers advice or well wishes and gives a red envelope that contains a gift.

With the tea ceremony finished, they moved on with the rest of the event. The couple wrote their own vows, each hearing the other’s for the first time at the wedding. Ryan, who was nervous about making mistakes, went first. “I did a pretty good job, and I didn’t mess up so [that] was good. I’m glad I went first, because hers were so much better.” The moment was so filled with emotion, though, that Ryan couldn’t remember what she said. He was glad they decided to have a videographer, as it was invaluable to watch everything all over again.

Before the ceremony, the couple had their official “first look.” Ryan stood on the covered porch of the venue with his back to the direction from which Kristina would approach. “She came up to me and said ‘hi’ in my ear,” Ryan remembers. “I gave it an extra second before I turned around.” And when he did turn around, was awestruck. “I wasn’t expecting her to look like that,” Ryan says. “I never saw the wedding dress, no one told me any description of it. I just remember saying, ‘Wow, you’re beautiful!’”

Despite raining heavily the entire morning of the wedding, including during the first look, “right after the ceremony we opened the doors and it was beautiful and sunny outside,” the bride says.

“[Don’t] get overwhelmed with certain things and stay organized, but don’t lose sight of the day.” says Kristina, ” Everyone told me it was going to go by fast, and you always think, ‘no, no, no,’ but it really does.”

One of the couple’s main goals was for their guests to have a good time—a mission that was accomplished. Many of the guests said that they had never experienced a wedding like that—they didn’t know it could be so enjoyable. “The wedding, the vows, the ceremony and the reception were so much fun,” the groom says.

After seven years of dating, a year of being engaged, and a successful wedding, Kristina has some advice. “[Don’t] get overwhelmed with certain things, and stay organized, but don’t lose sight of the day,” she says. “Everyone told me it was going to go by fast, and you always think, ‘no, no, no,’ but it really does.”

—Margaret Snider