Heartfelt Upcountry Wedding: Kelsey & Kieran

Kelsey and Kieran met at Haleakala Waldorf High School, where they are both teachers. They got to know each other, sharing conversations and books, and always laughing together. It was only a matter of time before they fell for each other.

What I absolutely loved about Kelsey and Kieran’s wedding is that they really made it their own with so many thoughtful details and heartfelt touches. Kelsey only had a few vendors. Everything else was done themselves or by close friends who offered to help. Kelsey’s dad made the tables and outdoor couches, friends did all the flowers and palm leaves, Kelsey and her friend made the bouquet, and the bar was a wedding gift.

The vendors that Kelsey did pick – for her dress, hair and makeup, coordination, catering, and then of course photography – she purposely picked by researching whose style was compatible with what she envisioned and then trusted them completely.

For me, having that trust from a client is like gold. It just puts me at ease to do what I do best. There’s nothing worse than knowing that a client actually wanted to choose another photographer and keeps showing me their photos as inspo, but didn’t actually get the photographer they wanted because of budget or availability. Kelsey was the dream bride in making me feel like I was definitely her first choice photographer. We had so much fun together.

Kelsey’s dress was custom made by local designer Jennifer Oberg. It was made out of crepe silk and fit beautifully. She looked stunning.

Kelsey and Kieran’s wedding took place in their backyard. Kelsey got ready in the cottage they built. Her place had such gorgeous natural light and live plants around – it was right up my alley.

They are obsessed with orchids, even have an orchid private dealer, and had been prepping for months, getting orchids for wedding decor.

Some of the orchids decorated the pepper tree that they used for their first look. Kieran said he’s not an emotional person and that I shouldn’t expect much of a reaction, but when we actually did the first look, he was so (understandably) taken by Kelsey’s beauty that he jumped like 5 feet. Kelsey built up the anticipation by teasing him, saying she was standing right behind him and he couldn’t turn around yet. It was the cutest.

We did a first look because it fit the day better. That way, we could fit in an adventure portrait session before the ceremony and they could hang with their guests after the ceremony.

If you’re stuck on deciding on whether to do a first look or not, sometimes it makes sense to talk with your wedding photographer about your personalities and what things are important to each of you to figure out what will give you the best timeline for photos and the flow of the day.

Since Kelsey and Kieran are a bit more private, we used the photo time before the ceremony to do a ring exchange with just the two of them. It was a great way to get the best of both worlds – having the intimacy, almost like an elopement, for the ring exchange and then doing vows and partying the night away with their loved ones.

During their romantic photo time, we stumbled upon this gorgeous blooming jacaranda tree. If you’ve ever been to upcountry Maui in the spring, you’ve seen these trees with dripping with purple blossoms which then shower the sides of the road.

Kelsey has always loved jacaranda trees, so much so that she and Kieran had their wedding ceremony underneath one that her parents planted over 20 years ago. She knew it wouldn’t be blooming for their wedding date in late June, so finding a jacaranda actually in bloom during our adventure was really special.

The symbolism of the jacaranda tree covered in orchids was even incorporated into Kelsey’s brother’s speech during their wedding ceremony:

“There’s a tree that grows in the yard of this home. Every year, in the cycle of things, the tree drops its leaves and bursts into lavender purple blooms.

The lower trunk of the jacaranda tree is covered in orchids, lovingly chosen and placed and cared for. Over time, the orchids’ roots, breathing in moisture and nutrients from the warm upcountry air, slowly attach to the tree. In their own cycle of things, they rest, and they bloom.

Though the orchid’s roots grow attached to the bark of the tree, it does not take from the tree, or make the tree any less. This is still a jacaranda. These are still orchids. Instead, with the support of the branches, the orchid is lifted closer to the light of the sun, and the leaves of the tree and the petals of the flower dance in the same winds.

Kelsey and Kieran–like the orchid and the tree, you are each your own person, with your own roots and your own stories. You come together today to affirm not only your partnership, but also your individuality within it. In honoring your partner’s spirit, you’re also choosing to honor your own. Through your support, you do not take from each other, or make each other any less.

But while this tree covered in orchids is still a tree, it is not just a tree. Because this tree was covered with orchids on purpose, it is also something more. This is Patty’s orchid tree, which grows in the soil next to the house that Steve built; the house where Kelsey and Scott did much of their growing up. This is the tree under which family and friends gather in community to witness Kelsey and Kieran join their lives, in a ritual that our ancestors did before us and our children after us will continue. All of these parts, lovingly chosen and placed and cared for, come together to make something new, and beautiful.

Though your lives are just two parts of the larger cycle of things, through your choices and loving care, your marriage takes on a meaning of its own. You come together on purpose, and that will make something new, and beautiful. This is Kelsey and Kieran’s marriage, which starts today. This is your marriage, which you enter into both as individuals and as partners. This is your marriage, which you will lovingly choose and care for, day after day. You still have your own roots, and your own stories, but as your lives become more entwined, your support lifts each other up closer to the light of the sun, and you’ll dance in the same winds.”

“It’s hard to encapsulate everything that Amber contributed to our wedding. It’s such a gift to have a skilled photographer whose natural ease brings out your own comfort in each other. I always knew the photos would be beautiful–I mean, look at her body of work! Amber immediately made my photo-reluctant husband feel comfortable. She is so easygoing, light, professional, relaxed, quick-witted, excited, creative–all the things! The photos themselves are stunning, but as beautiful as they are, I know we wouldn’t love them half as much if we hadn’t had so much fun behind the scenes. Not a single photo feels awkward or staged. Everyone’s ease and laughter is genuine, and it’s all due to Amber’s sharp skills and bubbly personality. She set the tone for all of us to have a grand old time in front of the camera, so that’s what we did!

We hired Amber for the 8-hour package, and her lively ease did not stop all night! Almost all of our wedding guests told us how impressed they were with Amber’s fun vibe and professionalism, and they were floored when they saw the vast array of gorgeous photos. Her use of light and nature in her photography has always blown me away, but truly, we’re in awe of how every single wedding guest still says they loved having her take their photos. She made everyone feel good. My father-in-law is renowned for hating photo ops, and she got him to laugh multiple times in the family shots! Seriously. It’s one thing to be so technically skilled and creative, but that doesn’t always mean you can make people feel comfortable in front of the camera. For her to get a beautiful and genuinely fun picture of my father-in-law…that’s everything! The true vibe of the night captured forever in a beautiful photo. We can’t thank her enough.

Every time I look at the slideshow and the gallery, I’m overwhelmed at the happiness Amber captured, edited, and organized so artfully. She didn’t miss a thing. Pro tip–don’t skip out on the slideshow or the high-quality prints!! Amber put in an enormous amount of work at every stage and the results are more than I ever thought they could be. Most importantly, every single aspect of working with her was completely stress-free. Amber is the easiest person to work with and she already knows she’s our exclusive family photographer for years to come. We’re honored to have her share in the most foundational moments of our lives. We really don’t want anyone else to capture them! Amber, you have our most profound and awe-filled gratitude. You’re the best!”

Bride Kelsey


Photography: Amber Vision Photography
Hair and Makeup: Donna Romero Beauty
Dress: Jennifer Oberg
Coordinator: Kelly Miller from A Perfect Paradise Wedding
Catering: Cafe O’Lei