Esther Tak and Daniel Chung first met at their college library in 2009. Although Esther was drawn to Daniel’s sense of humor, kindness, and confidence, she wasn’t looking for a relationship at the time. Daniel, on the other hand, was smitten right away. “Charming, confident, and outgoing were the words that came to mind when I first met Esther,” Daniel reflects. “I had never met anyone like her, and I loved that.” After a little persistence from Daniel and some encouragement from their friends, Esther finally agreed to let Daniel take her out. The rest was history.
Nearly 10 years later, Esther was throwing a birthday party with a Friends theme. The celebration included an open mic, so Daniel asked Esther to help him put on a performance. “As I was entertaining our friends, Daniel asked me to turn around,” Esther recalls. “When I turned, he was on one knee and proposed. I said ‘yes!’”
After the duo selected a date and booked their venue, the rest of the wedding planning process started to unfold pretty seamlessly—until the pandemic happened. Since there was so much uncertainty surrounding the future state of the world, the couple decided to postpone their nuptials to the following year. “In general, planning a wedding is stressful, but planning a wedding during a pandemic is even more stressful,” Esther expresses. “Thankfully, having a well-organized system, a supportive fiancé, and working with experienced vendors helped tremendously.”
On October 3, 2021, Esther and Daniel managed to pull out all the stops. The bride and groom said “I do” at The Orchard Hood River in Oregon with 50 of their closest friends and family in attendance. Keep reading to see all of the stunning details behind their micro wedding, planned by the couple with day-of coordination by J29 Events and photographed by Donny Zavala Photography.
For their big day, the couple envisioned a fine-art style black-tie wedding with nods to their Korean culture and their home states of Hawaii and California. They also knew their loved ones would play a role in creating the overall atmosphere. “We wanted a small, intimate wedding while being surrounded by loving friends and family who would celebrate with us and dance the night away,” they share. The duo introduced this aesthetic with blue and white invitations featuring a monogrammed crest.
Esther and Daniel tied the knot in Hood River, Oregon, a location that served as the backdrop of countless dates for them. “We chose Hood River to be our wedding locale because the Columbia Gorge holds many memories for us: numerous hiking trips, picnics on the riverfront, and enjoying all the beauty of the Pacific Northwest,” they reflect. Saying “I do” in Hood River was also a way to honor Esther’s mother, who was buried there.
Once they settled on the right city for their nuptials, the couple chose The Orchard Hood River for their venue. “It brought in all of the beautiful elements of the Pacific Northwest, such as stunning views of Mount Hood and Mount Adams, abundant pear trees and flowers at the venue, and the proximity to Hood River.
Esther chose a silk strapless ball gown with a plunging neckline by Martina Liana for her big day. At first, Esther was working with another designer to fabricate her gown, but once the pandemic emerged, the bride had to start from scratch again. “I selected my dress with some uncertainties, but I knew it could be a strong contender when my sister-in-law teared up as soon as I stepped out of the dressing room,” Esther remembers. Once Valentina of Valentina European Alteration removed some of the pleats and crinoline to pare back the full skirt, Esther was confident the gown was the one. “I loved the simple, yet timeless and modern feel of the dress,” she expresses.
The bride completed her ensemble with Sam Edelman white leather flats, a tulle cathedral-length veil, a silver bracelet from her mother-in-law, and a vintage white beaded clutch that once belonged to her grandmother.
Daniel settled on a classic look with a peak lapel tuxedo and a cotton fly front dress shirt from The Black Tux. He accessorized with a black leather belt, a black bow tie, black cufflinks from Esther’s man of honor, and a white pocket square.
To savor a quiet moment together, Esther and Daniel shared a first look beneath an oak tree at the property they were staying at. “The moment was priceless for us because everything leading up to that point felt so busy. But, at that moment, it truly felt as if time slowed down,” they share. “Our nerves melted away, and our best decision was right in front of us.”
It was the perfect way to spend private time with each other.
After revealing their outfits for the day, the couple drove to Mosier, Oregon with their photographer, Donny Zavala, to snap more portraits and capture the scenic Columbia River. “It was the perfect way to spend private time with each other,” they reflect.
The future newlyweds also used the moment to exchange their handwritten promises to one another rather than recite their vows in front of an audience. “It was a way for us to keep some private on what would be an eventful day,” they explain.
Esther worked with Lisa Boehm of Lisa Boehm Beauty to create a romantic and minimalist beauty look, which focused on a glowing complexion. She had her hair styled in a low bun to balance out her structured neckline and to protect her strands from blowing in the wind.
The bride also carried an organic bouquet of golden fern, dried grasses, garden roses, hydrangea, and phlox. Photo charms with images of her mother and grandmother hung from the floral arrangement, so the bride had her loved ones with her in spirit.
Once guests arrived at the ceremony, an acrylic welcome sign adorned with dried ginkgo leaves greeted them. These botanical accents were actually part of a project that the couple and their families arranged in the fall of 2020, which included gathering, drying, and pressing the foliage. Since Esther’s grandmother was known for this practice, decorating their wedding signage with the leaves was another way to honor her.
At the welcome table, friends and family wrote well wishes on vintage postcards from Hawaii, Northern California, and Oregon and placed it in a white mailbox as an alternative to the classic guest book. The setup also exhibited the bride and groom’s favorite engagement photos.
The duo hosted an outdoor ceremony overlooking the mountains. To coordinate with the natural landscape, a trio of floral arrangements, featuring hydrangea, golden fern, dried grasses, and cosmos, stood at the altar. Guests sat on wooden benches, decorated with similar blooms.
To create her own traditions, Esther asked her older brother to walk her down the aisle. “He has been one of my biggest supporters—always dependable, unconditionally loving and kind,” she says. “It meant the world to me when he said ‘yes.’ I knew it would be very emotional when the time came, and it was.” They made their way to the altar while the instrumental version of “Stand by Me” by Vesislava played.
Although the duo traded vows in private, they personalized their ceremony in other ways. The bride and groom incorporated a unity ceremony using a time capsule, which entailed placing their written vows, polaroid photos, vintage postcards, and other special keepsakes from the day in a wooden box. A few family members also performed a special song for the couple. While the ceremony unfolded, Hanna Baik created a watercolor painting of the scene.
After they were pronounced husband and wife, “Best of My Love” by The Emotions evoked a celebratory feel. While Esther and Daniel walked back up the aisle, they paused to individually greet each of their guests.
The newlyweds captured their first few moments together as a married couple by snapping photos while the sun set. Their dog even posed for a few shots.
Since ginkgo leaves were a motif seen throughout the wedding design, they also made an appearance on the seating chart. Friends and family found their names listed on an accordion-style sign with a lucite finish, created by Paige Thammavong of HeyHalle. “This provided a unique contrast and a texture that we loved,” the couple notes.
Wooden tables showcased a runner of gray gauzy fabric, gray taper candles, and arrangements of golden fern, roses, phlox, and anemone. An arch-shaped table number with a cascade of ginkgo leaves also stood in the center of each table. A hanging installation of 1,000 origami paper cranes—that the couple and a whole team of friends and family strung by hand—suspended above the setup. “In some Asian cultures, cranes are a sign of good luck, prosperity, and longevity,” they explain.
The couple opted for simple place settings with white dinner plates, white napkins, and gold flatware. Pear place cards completed the spread. “To pay homage to our venue setting, we placed local pears with our guests’ names on rolled white paper, which also was used as a wedding favor,” the couple remarks. “Our guests loved snacking on the pears after our wedding!”
Esther and Daniel sat at their own table, which exhibited the same romantic tabletop decorations. To mark their seats, they repurposed their ceremony floral arrangements.
The duo selected a menu infused with ingredients that reflected their Korean heritage and the Pacific Northwest. For the main dish, guests dined on roasted chicken with a spicy gochujang sauce marinade or a kimchi tofu stir fry for the vegetarian option. The sides consisted of “bibim-guksu” (spicy mixed noodles) or “bibimbap” (Korean rice bowl). Rather than individual plates, the food was served family style. “The laidback mix-and-mingle vibe encouraged our friends and family to connect and allow for easy conversations,” the newlyweds state.
Our guests were pleasantly surprised, and many teared up during this special moment.
After the newlyweds shared a first dance to “Every Time I Close My Eyes” by Babyface, Esther surprised Daniel with a special performance: a hula dance. Since the bride was born and raised in Hawaii, she wanted to integrate the tradition as a way to commemorate the place where she grew up. Esther spent months secretly practicing the number. When the time came to deliver the dance, she placed an orchid and tuberose lei around her neck and swayed to “Pua Ki’ele” by Josh Tatofi. “It was such a magical surprise to an already beautiful evening,” Daniel reflects. “Our guests were pleasantly surprised, and many teared up during this special moment.”
Instead of a traditional wedding cake, the newlyweds chose a croquembouche. The sweets didn’t stop there, though. Guests also got their sugar fix at a dessert bar, which offered lemon tartlets with toasted meringue, chocolate budino tartlets with chocolate rye crust and cocoa nibs, French almond cake, mixed berry galettes, and chocolate shortbread cookies.
At the end of the night, Esther and Daniel shared a final dance to “At Last” by Etta James while their friends and family wove sparklers to send off the newlyweds. Although they encountered setbacks and experienced uncertainties due to planning their big day during a pandemic, the couple’s actual wedding was a dream. “It’s okay to not enjoy the wedding planning process as it doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the day of,” Esther says.