Beach wedding in paradise {Kauai Wedding}

One year ago, I landed on Kauai to photograph a wedding and ended up leaving a little piece of my heart there.  For those of you that have visited this enchanted, unspoiled piece of paradise, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  I was there for my friend’s Kristen’s wedding.  That week, waking up to the waves crashing on the shore, hearing the birds chatter at my window, and seeing the humpback whales breach out of the water, I learned to appreciate a slower pace of life.  And, it could not have come any sooner.

Just five months prior, I was at a crossroads with my photography career.  I could either plunge forward, or give it up.  And, quite honestly, I was tired.  If you’re a photographer out there reading, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  I was working 16 hour days just trying to keep up with editing, accounting, marketing and all the other minute details that make a small business tick.   And, well, in 2010, I was almost out of juice.

I’ve known Kristen since 2009 when, as a new NAU Photography graduate, she shoot her very first wedding as my assistant.  If you ever meet her, ask her about that night.  About 6 hours into coverage, she turned to me and stated, “wow, this is hard!”.  It kind of cracked me up, because I remember the first wedding I had ever photographed, and I had similar thoughts.  But then she said, “…But, it’s fun too!”  It was that enthusiasm and dedication that evening (and many more photo sessions/weddings with her after that) that inspired me to ask her to come work for me.  But, alas, Kristen had decided to move to California to chase the dream of being a wedding photographer.


I kept in touch with Kristen and that next summer, I asked Kristen to assist me at a wedding in Lake Tahoe.  The evening of the wedding, while we were running along the banks of the lake to get that perfect sunset photo of the bride and groom, I giggled as I tried to keep up.  We had a great time that weekend with the couple and mountain biking The Flume Trail.  I was excited for her return to Flagstaff.

“Return” you ask?  Yes, luck was on my side.  Kristen had met J.  And J lived in Flagstaff.  Yes!!  So, a few months after moving to California, J flew out to California and proposed to her.  So, in October 2010, Kristen moved back to Flagstaff and she came to work for me.

The first few months of her being with me, I remember her saying things like, “How on Earth did you DO all of this yourself??“.  Well, quite honestly, I wasn’t.   I had been overwhelmed, and was so tired that I couldn’t even sleep.  I barely even saw my husband, much less my friends.  Honestly, I was a bit cranky.  But here this woman was, tidying all my work, getting things in order and making it seem ‘fun’ again.

I loved watching Kristen plan her and J’s wedding.  She and J applied their subtle style to everything.  From the handmade napkins, to the awesome seersucker suit of J’s, to the anthropologie inspired decor, it was all so very Kristen and J.   But, she was smart.  She knew she couldn’t do it all, so they enlisted friend, and wedding professional, Kim of KD Event Designs, to execute the weekend.   Kim pulled this tropical, vintage event together with elegant details and delightful designs.  J’s brother, Chef Grant Carnes, prepared a local fusion of delicacies that everyone enjoyed.

As the sun went down that evening, I was filled with gladness that I could have been there for my friend Kristen.  Now I’m happy to be able to relive it all with you all.  All that’s missing from this post is the song of the humpback whales.  🙂

Kristen was with me for four years at Tangled Lilac.  She helped push me, and evolve the company into something bigger.  She has since moved on to create her own brand and I couldn’t be more happy for her.  Thank you, Kristen, for all that you did for me when you were with Tangled Lilac, and your infectious enthusiasm for photography.  I’ve enjoyed watching you grow into a great photographer and wish you all the success in the world.

~ Melissa

Kauai Wedding Reception underneath the trees at sunset




Couple on Kauai beach wedding

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Wedding Vendors:

Photography:  Melissa Dunstan Photography
Event Planning and Design:  KD Event Designs
Wedding Gown:  J Crew
Groom’s Attire:  J Crew
Hair Design:  Relish Salon

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