After years of losing touch, this couple finds their way to happily ever after.
Photographed by Kuirsta + Seth
Dustin and Kari met when they were teenagers while working together at Kmart. They tried to stay in contact through the years, but distance, relationships, and life got in the way. When the Morgantown natives both found themselves single, Kari messaged Dustin on Facebook—even though he was always terrible with using social media platforms. He quickly responded and they decided to call each other that night to catch up. “We ended up talking for hours,” she recalls. Friendship turned into something more and the two quickly fell for each other.
Two years later, Dustin teamed up with Kari’s mother and best friend to plan the perfect proposal. Kari’s friend lived in Italy, so Dustin and her mother planned a trip for them and Kari to fly to Italy to meet the friend. There they went sightseeing and while Kari thought Dustin was going to propose in Rome, he had better plans. They went hiking on La Via dell’Amore or ‘The Way of Love,’ which is a trail overlooking the sea and allows visitors to hike from island to island. During the hike, Dustin pulled Kari back and when she turned around, he was down on one knee. “He was so nervous,” Kari remembers. “After I said yes, he asked me what finger to put it on,” she laughs.
After setting the wedding date, the couple immediately booked photographers Kurista + Seth, whom Kari had admired for a long time. She had always dreamed of getting married at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, but after jumping through the hoops of booking and planning the venue aspects, Kari realized it wasn’t the right place for their big day. “We wanted something a little different,” she recalls. They decided to have a destination wedding to follow their destination proposal and realized Ocean City, Maryland, was the perfect location.
It took two years to plan the perfect day. Dustin and Kari said ‘I do’ at the Princess Bayside Beach Hotel on July 16, 2016. The ceremony was held on the beach. They went for simple decorations by lining the aisles with white hydrangeas in mason jars, which were later used as centerpieces during the reception. A sign reading “shoes optional”, manila rope and palm trees were added to keep with the nautical theme. Despite there being rainfall just blocks away, guests enjoyed the sunny weather over the ceremony area by sitting in white chairs and listening to country music.
Kari walked down the aisle to the song “Marry Me” by Martina McBride and Pat Monahan. She wore a Haley Paige two-piece ivory dress, which she first fell in love with after seeing a photo of the ensemble online. It features a cropped lace bodice with keyhole back, scalloped detail at the waist, and a skirt made of many layers of tulle and was paired with a bouquet of hydrangeas and roses. “I love my dress. I wish I could wear it everyday,” Kari says. She topped off the look with an up-do featuring the headpiece her mother wore on her own wedding day, which she bought while studying abroad in Japan. The headband was made of satin flowers that looked like starfish from far away. “It ended up being a perfect piece and of course, my mom loved seeing it on me,” Kari says.
The bridesmaids wore long cobalt dresses of various styles. Dustin and his groomsmen donned black and white striped linen tuxedos, which were light enough to keep them cool on the beach. They paired the suits with cognac belts and shoes. Dustin wore an all-white hydrangea boutonniere.
The couple recited traditional vows under a flower-filled arch made specifically for the wedding. A GoPro was placed at the top to record the ceremony from a different perspective. “We had the perfect view of looking out to all the guests, instead of only looking in at us,” Kari says.
Guests followed the newlyweds to the indoor reception held in the Augusta Ballroom of the hotel. The theme of the reception was to dance and have fun. “We wanted to spend the night dancing with our friends and family,” Kari says. However, in order to get the guests dancing, Dustin wanted the groomsmen to do “the running man.” Every groomsmen chickened out, so Dustin dragged Kari on the dance floor instead. “I’m not a good dancer, so it was probably funnier to watch me do it,” Kari laughs.
A two-tier naked cake was adorned with various fruits including strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries and a cake topper that said ‘The Best Day Ever.’ The couple ended the festivities by honeymooning in Mo’orea, the heart-shaped island of French Polynesia. “The island was so beautiful, I thought we had died and gone to heaven. It didn’t seem real,” Kari says. In the end, Kari got everything she wanted out of her wedding day: the perfect location, the perfect dress, and the perfect man. “When we met, I never expected him to be the guy I was going to marry but I had always had a crush on him, so it all worked out,” Kari says.
Bride’s Gown: The Vow Boutique, Morgantown
Hair: Creative Day Spa, Ocean City, MD
Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Babette’s, Bridgeville, PA
Groom’s & Groomsmen’s Attire: JoS. A. Bank, Morgantown
Coordinator: Brandie Plumb, Ocean City, MD
Flowers: Flowers By Alison, Ocean City, MD
Caterer: Princess Bayside Beach Hotel, Ocean City, MD
Cake: Desserts by Rita, Ocean City, MD
Entertainment: DJ Rupe, Ocean City, MD
Rentals: Coastal Tented Events, Millville, DE
Invitations: Paper Hearts Invitations, Morgantown
Location: Princess Bayside Beach Hotel, Ocean City, MD