The first scenes of their romance were set in New York, as Phil Bertelsen spotted Lisette Flanary in a college lounge. “She was gone as quickly as she appeared, like an apparition,” remembers Phil of his film school classmate. Later, when he saw her walking her dog in their East Village neighborhood, he said hello, and a friendship blossomed. Ten years later, it led to romance. Phil proposed to Lisette at a four-star restaurant, the Tasting Room, that was housed in the same space where they once dawdled over morning coffee.
For their wedding, the scene shifts west. Lisette, who grew up visiting her grandparents in Honolulu and produces films about Hawaiian dance, always knew she'd marry on Oahu. “But I didn't want one of those big, public Waikiki weddings,” she says. Instead, Lisette, 34, and Phil, 40, gathered 100 guests on Waimanalo Beach, where she swam as a child. “A light rain began to fall just as my dad and I started our walk,” she says. “Most brides would freak out, but in Hawaiian culture, rain is a blessing.” Those lucky drops led to an only-in-the-movies finish: double rainbows that appeared as the song “Over the Rainbow” played. For the reception at a beach villa called Waimanalo Blooms, local celeb chef Sam Choy served a tropical feast (miso chicken, butterfish, pineapple cheesecakes), but the sweetest finale was the hula that the bride performed for her husband. “I've seen Lisette dance the hula many times, and it's always beautiful,” says Phil. “But I was left speechless. Among a day of special moments, this was by far the most memorable.” —Hillary Quinn
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Leap of Faith: Though the day was filled with Hawaiian customs, the couple also honored Phil's African-American heritage by jumping the broom. In this ritual, skipping over a broomstick represents sweeping away the old and starting a new life together.
The Flower of Love: Lisette chose cymbidium orchid centerpieces in memory of her grandfather, who was a champion grower of these tropical blooms.
License to Chill: Before the ceremony, the bride and her attendants took a relaxing swim and had massages. Lisette brought awa brew for the girls to try. “It's a dried root that's been used by Hawaiians since ancient times to calm the nerves and ease anxiety,” she says.