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The Bride Walked Barefoot Down The Aisle at Her Destination Wedding at Hale Mana on Kauai

By Cathleen Freedman | Photography by 

Megan Moura

There are two stories about how James Daniel and Julia Brokaw met. There’s the tale they told his mother—a chance encounter in the avocado section of Whole Foods—and then there’s how they actually met—Bumble in 2019. “I never thought I would meet my husband on an app, but it clearly happens!” Julia laughs. James’s mother in Australia didn’t find out the truth until several years into the couple’s relationship. 

While their origin story may vary, there is no doubt that James always knew he would propose to Julia at the main lookout point of the Westridge Trail in Brentwood. “It’s been one of our favorite hiking trails and where we both feel like we fell in love after just two weeks of dating,” he says. He intended to pop the question on her February 7 birthday, but a sudden work visa trip to Dubai thwarted that. He couldn’t leave the country without asking, though, so he decided to propose ahead of schedule. With their close friend, Arbo, in disguise to photograph the moment on the trail, James asked Julia to marry him.

Julia grew up visiting Kauai every year with her family and always envisioned her wedding there. She considers it to be the most beautiful and peaceful place on earth, so she was thrilled to introduce James to the island in January 2022. He fell in love with it, too, and they both agreed on the destination for their 2023 wedding. “It also didn’t hurt that it is halfway between Australia and California!” she notes. Considering James’s family is based in Australia, this was key.

They wanted to have quality time with all of their loved ones. “We figured rather than having a one-night party at a hotel or restaurant, why not rent out a beautiful estate where we could get married and everyone could gather and hang out for an entire week?” James says. They found Hale Mana, a secluded tropical paradise in Kilauea on Kauai that overlooks the ocean—with just enough rooms to house their siblings and friends.

With an intimate, select guest list of 30 people, James and Julia decided to plan the entire week themselves and ended up loving the journey with all of their helpful and insightful vendors. They enlisted Megan Moura to photograph the wedding and particularly appreciated Jolene from Kealoha Flowers who assisted them with navigating the planning process of an island wedding from afar.

To complement the beach setting, Julia’s bridal look was classic, elegant, and simple. As a nod to her groom’s nationality, she donned a form-fitting dress by Australian designer Grace Loves Lace. Her maid of honor Megan bought her pearlescent wrap anklets for her barefoot walk down the aisle.

The rest of Julia’s jewelry honored the women on both sides of her family: an exquisite aquamarine and diamond necklace from her grandmother Shirley, simple pearl stud earrings borrowed from her mother Christine, and a beautiful charm for her bouquet from James’s mother Paula. The pendant featured a heart and the letter R in honor of James’s grandfather Richard. Her hair stylist, Crystal Hunter, and makeup artist, Misti Medrano, kept her beauty look beachy and glowing all night long.

James’s look matched the milieu with a tan linen suit and button-up shirt from Bonobos, perfectly tailored by Murat’s in Beverly Hills. The couple’s wedding party also dressed for the occasion. Julia’s bridesmaids wore emerald Reformation dresses of their choosing, and James’s groomsmen sported caramel chinos and white button-ups. “Coordinating four guys on what shade of brown their belt had to be from across the globe proved to be a challenge,” he remarks but points out that they all figured it out in the end.

On January 11, 2023, guests gathered on a wooden deck just as the sun shone on the orchid petal-covered aisle. All of Julia’s nerves dissipated as she heard their wedding song, “While We’re Young” by Jhene Aiko, play. By then, she couldn’t wait to meet her groom at the altar. Her mother and father Cary walked her down the aisle and also held onto her veil as the wind tried to lift it up.

Julia’s dear friend and mentor, Heather Hayward, officiated the service. “She did an incredible job making everyone both laugh and cry,” Julia recalls. “She began the ceremony by honoring our loved ones who are no longer with us and read a poem that James’ father, Glenn, had written for our special day.” After exchanging vows and rings, the two walked back down the aisle, as their guests tossed orchid petals and 2Pac and Dr. Dre’s “California Love” played on.

The reception kicked off with traditional Hawaiian cocktails and appetizers, while local guitarist Sheldon Espina strummed acoustic tunes. From there, the party continued under a beautifully lit marquee, as Chef Leo concocted a feast of macadamia nut-crusted fish, portobello mushrooms stuffed with coconut polenta, and fresh market salads. Hilarious and heartfelt speeches followed, along with a cake from Ko Bakery.

The setlist consisted of hip-hop hits, igniting a night of dancing. The bride loved watching her mom grooving to the music she used to play on their rides to school. “Seeing the excitement and knowing on her face when Usher or OutKast songs dropped made everyone freak out, and we were all so impressed!” Julia describes. By the end of the evening, everyone was in the jacuzzi. The next morning, friends congregated in the newlyweds’ suite to reminisce over the wedding—and drink much-needed coffee.