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A Wedding at the Pink Palace in Hawaii

By Alexandra Macon | Photography by 

Derek Wong Photography

Facebook consumer communications manager Chelsea Vaofu’a Maughan and Nest Labs attorney Scott Kohler’s courtship began like a romantic storyline on West Wing—they met through mutual friends in Washington, D.C., while she was working at the State Department and he was at the Department of Energy. “I was coming up on my seventh year inside the Beltway, having worked since college for Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton,” remembers Chelsea. “Scott was newer to town, having gone to law school and worked at a law firm in New York, but he had a big group of Duke friends in the District, who became our common connection.”

After seeing one another for a few months in D.C., she moved to San Francisco for a job at YouTube. “I’d gone to college in the Bay Area, and California had felt like unfinished business for me ever since,” explains Chelsea. “We dated long distance for more than a year and a half while Scott was still in Washington. This experience gave us a huge amount of respect for couples—like my parents—who dated long distance back when the only way to connect was a phone call from a landline at a designated time. Even though we had technology on our side, Scott and I are both big believers in snail mail. My retail Achilles heel is a stationery store, so there were tons of little notes, long letters, and surprise packages in our courtship. So while we relied heavily upon modern ways to stay in touch, there was a streak of old school romance in there too.”

Scott eventually moved to San Francisco early last year, giving the couple the chance to share a city again and spend less time on Kayak coordinating travel schedules. “We got engaged last December, two days before our third anniversary,” says Chelsea.

The engagement was a big surprise. “I was totally not expecting it that weekend, as Scott had cleverly used a holiday party as a decoy for his proposal plan,” explains Chelsea. “As fall approached, we agreed to host something casual in the neighborhood as a last hurrah before folks went their separate ways for the holidays. Scott quietly steered the plan toward the weekend of our anniversary. I was so busy menu and outfit planning that this timing—which should have been a huge flag—was totally lost on me. Meanwhile, Scott plotted his surprise with two of my closest friends. He had one of them suggest a double date brunch the day of the holiday party at Foreign Cinema (again, I thought nothing of it: it’s our favorite restaurant in San Francisco). Upon arrival, Scott and I were taken upstairs to a private balcony overlooking the restaurant. I had no idea why they were leading us away from the main dining room, until I saw flowers, candles, and realized that our friends weren’t coming and something much bigger than eggs benedict was about to happen.”

For Chelsea, it was a perfect combination of having an intimate proposal and time to celebrate as a couple, followed by an impromptu engagement party that evening. “Our guests showed up with no idea what had happened earlier in the day, so getting to share that with each of them was so much fun,” she remembers.

Scott popped the question with a gorgeous emerald cut engagement ring. “It is also the style my mom has,” says Chelsea. “And, he was clever enough to consult two friends about my ring, but he picked it out all on his own. He’s always been the best gift giver of the two of us, which annoyed me until I realized it’s not really a bad problem to have.”

The two quickly decided on a destination wedding in Hawaii. “My mom is from Hawaii, and I grew up visiting Honolulu every summer and holiday season,” says Chelsea. “It’s my second home and felt like a natural place to bring our favorite people together.”

The Royal Hawaiian—or “the Pink Palace” as locals call it—has always been a magical place for Chelsea, so it was an obvious candidate for the venue right off the bat. “It has an incredible history, too, dating back to 1927,” says Chelsea. “Scott was always incredibly open to venues, but I think the fact that Don Draper vacationed there probably didn’t hurt.”

The couple wanted their wedding to be a true vacation for their friends and family, so they focused on introducing their guests to things they love about the island: local flowers and food, historic and cultural landmarks, and a focus on being comfortable and having fun. “For many guests, this trip marked a first—their first time to Hawaii, their first time away from their kids, or their first big family vacation—so we thought we owed people more than good food and a killer dance floor,” says Chelsea. “For some, it might be the only time they ever visit! We wanted folks heading home feeling like they learned a little about Polynesia and both of our cultures as opposed to just about our relationship.”

Given the climate, Chelsea was set on keeping her wedding day look simple. “I knew I wanted to wear something that didn’t sacrifice comfort for style,” she says. “I was really attracted to the idea of sleeves from the start, but I ended up going with lace, which I definitely didn’t expect. When I tried on this Carolina Herrera dress, it felt like the perfect marriage—terrible pun intended—of a modern cut with the bridal classic that is lace. The dress was low cut and long sleeved, so I brought the neckline up two inches and made the sleeves short instead of long.”

When it came to her hair and makeup, Chelsea didn’t want to experiment. “It didn’t feel like the right time to try out a dramatic look,” she says. “For example, I really wanted to get eyelash extensions, but then I chickened out, because I’d never had them before and let’s be honest, you don’t really need to try something new in your literal field of vision the week of your wedding. So ultimately, I ended up going for a natural look with a bit of extra wedding day oomph. And long, wavy hair felt right in line with our venue and the overall weekend vibe.”

The couple used the meal at the reception to introduce their guests to signature local flavors. “We had so much fun planning our dinner menu with my parents,” says Chelsea. “Our watermelon and shrimp appetizer incorporated ling hi mui dusted popcorn—a salty, dried plum seasoning combined with one of my all-time favorite snacks. Most of our guests gravitated toward the onaga, which was our nod to Honolulu’s incredible seafood. And our wedding cake had our two favorite flavors: banana (mine) and chocolate (Scott’s).”

At the end of the night, the newlyweds ended up hosting the guests who were still standing after their band’s encores in their suite. “Our friends mean the world to us and one of our favorite things to do is have people over be it for debate watching, dinner parties, to celebrate a birthday or shake off a case of the Mondays. That’s been a theme from the start of our relationship, as our friends introduced us,” says Chelsea. “And ending the night with them was actually a great way for us to spend a little more time all of the people who’d traveled from afar to celebrate with us.”