Rei Kawano Suliawan and Matthew Yoder’s first date in February 2019 was one for the history books. “I remember that it was extremely cold that day and apparently was the first day that it had snowed in LA in over 50 years,” Rei says. Having met through the dating app The League, the pair bonded over their business school experiences and love of dogs. On their third date, Matt met Rei’s beloved Shih Tzu, Rara, and their fate was sealed. “I knew he was the one when I saw him sit perfectly still while Rara sat on his chest licking his face for over five minutes,” Rei remembers with a smile.
The two got engaged on 26 September, 2020, right at the peak of the pandemic. They had been talking about their future for some time, and began designing the ring together a couple of months before the engagement with Kat Kim, an LA-based jeweller focused on ethical jewellery. “I kept on asking Matt when the ring was ready and he kept on saying it wasn’t ready yet,” Rei says. “So I didn’t think much of it when he mentioned that his friend Allyson had a ‘beach soiree’ in Malibu that we had to get dressed up for. I should’ve known something was fishy when he willingly drove around Santa Monica with me that day to look for a cute bow for our beloved Rara to wear.”
They drove to Pescadero Beach in Malibu, where they proceeded to walk down the cliffs to the beach looking for Matt’s friends and said event. “Matt looked frazzled as he seemingly called his friends – and I was just along for the ride,” Rei remembers. “We got up on an area of the beach with some rocks, and Matt, who had been carrying Rara the entire time, asked me to fix Rara’s leash and when I looked over to fix it I saw that there was a ring dangling on it. I think he said something about marrying him, but I said yes before he could finish his sentence.”
Afterwards, they looked up onto the cliffs and saw Matt’s family waving at them. They had set up a beautiful picnic, and Matt’s photographer friend Keitaro was hiding among the beachgoers taking photos the whole time. “It was the perfect engagement for us,” Rei says. “We are both LA transplants with a love of the ocean and sun.”
When it came time to plan the wedding, the choice of venue was a no-brainer: Rei wanted to get married at her family’s hotel, Ayana Resort in Bali. “Growing up I spent every summer and weekend living out of Villa 1009, which I would later use as my bridal dressing room,” she says. The pair then set the date for their wedding in September 2022. “I wanted an organic and elegant wedding that celebrated Bali’s natural beauty and blended Matt’s western culture with my Japanese, Chinese, and Indonesian culture,” the bride says. “I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted visually, but I knew for certain what I didn’t want.”
Unwilling to compromise on vendors, Rei hired wedding designer Joy Proctor, photographer Corbin Gurkin, videographer CANA Family, and wedding planners Bali Wedding Paradise as soon as she got engaged. “Joy knew instantly exactly what I wanted in terms of the look and feel and did an amazing job incorporating my culture and the things I love throughout the wedding,” Rei says.
The bride initially felt strongly about having the reception in her parents’ backyard, which is also located on the resort, but when Joy visited Bali in early 2022 on a site visit, she fell in love with the thousands of frangipani (Champa) trees that cover Champa Garden and convinced Rei to have the reception there. “My dad, who until then wasn’t that interested in my wedding planning process and was seemingly bummed about letting his youngest child go, got really excited after hearing this idea,” Rei remembers.
“The pandemic was extremely hard on the resort, and we had to scale back on maintaining the under-utilised spaces, so I think my dad was really excited about refurbishing the space and bringing it back to its pre-pandemic glory,” she continues. “This really sealed the deal for me and looking back I couldn’t have been happier about having had the reception there.”
Champa Garden is a working farm: the flowers supply the hotel and are also donated to the local community so that they can be used for temple offerings. “I recall my parents telling everyone not to pick the flowers in the week leading up to the wedding, and I was shocked to see and smell the scent of the thousands of frangipani flowers that were in bloom,” Rei says. The couple also worked with Italy-based Jenny from Shhh My Darling to design all of their wedding stationery – including a wedding logo with their dog – that blended Balinese flowers with a unique La Dolce Vita aesthetic.
To kick off the wedding weekend, Rei and Matt began with a sunrise blessing ceremony with the high priest at Uluwatu Temple, one of the oldest and holiest Hindu temples on the island. “The temple is perched at the tip of a cliff, and we could hear the sound of the crashing waves as we did our prayers,” Rei says. “The temple is also referred to as Monkey Temple, and the monkeys were alive and up this particular morning. The high priest had to work double duty leading the prayers and making sure the monkeys didn’t steal our belongings! The week leading up to the wedding had been pretty hectic, and I was so glad Matt and I had a moment of serenity to ourselves as we approached the weekend.”
On Friday, there was a Chinese tea ceremony – a family-only event that was held in a glass house filled with orchids – followed by a welcome dinner. “I am forever grateful to Matt’s family as they’ve always been supportive of my culture and traditions,” Rei says. “Our older family members took turns sitting on a set of chairs with their partner – if they had one – and Matt and I would serve them tea in exchange for a gift. My parents gifted Matt an A Lange & Söhne watch and Matt’s family gifted me a giant art piece passed down from his grandpa, a family heirloom.”
For this meaningful ceremony, Rei wore a hand-painted batik sarong and top with a Shanghai collar from Bin House. “My father is Chinese-Indonesian, and I wanted to wear something that celebrated my Peranakan culture, instead of wearing a traditional Chinese qipao or cheongsam dress as many of my family and friends typically opted for,” Rei explains. “I also wore gold and silver earrings from John Hardy.”
Afterwards, she changed into an Oscar de la Renta dress for the welcome dinner and went down to the beach to take pictures with Matt at sunset. “This was the same beach that growing up I had conquered my fear of the waves in,” Rei recalls. “I felt everything had come full circle and I couldn’t be happier about having the wedding at my second home.”
The welcome party was then held at the private pier on the resort. The theme for the night was “Balinese and Bougainvillea” – Rei and her father’s favourite flower. Guests were ushered in by Balinese dancers and walked through an intricately carved Balinese door into a space filled with bougainvillea and Balinese umbrellas, and almost 360-degree views of the Indian Ocean. “It almost felt like we were floating on water,” Rei remembers. Drinks were offered up on a custom Balinese bar with a buffet of Indonesian food, including the couple’s favourite Indonesian street snack, martabak. “This was the first time we were able to see everyone together and it was such a heartwarming moment,” Rei says. “I even saw friends of mine who I hadn’t seen since high school!”
The search for the bride’s wedding dress began back in 2021 at Monique Lhuillier. Walking into the appointment, Rei thought she wanted a simple structured wedding gown – but the consultant told her to try on a different style. “I ended up falling in love with my lace Monique dress as soon as I saw myself in the mirror,” she remembers. “It wasn’t stuffy, and I could imagine the lace flowers blending in with the beautiful gardens at Ayana. I decided on that dress the day of, and ended my gown search!” In an effort to keep her look elegant, clean, and timeless, she kept things minimal and accessorised with mother-of-pearl and diamond earrings. Matt, meanwhile, wore a custom suit made by Charlotte-based designer Abbeydale, who is also his brother’s friend, along with the A Lange & Söhne watch Rei’s parents gifted him during the tea ceremony.
On the day of the wedding, Rei and her bridal party all headed over to Villa 1009 – now known as the Ayana Villa – to get ready. “This was the villa that growing up I had spent almost every weekend in until my parents eventually built their house on the resort,” Rei explains. “My make-up artist Eva created a look that was natural and understated and most importantly, could withstand the Balinese heat, and then I opted to keep my hair simple with a high bun.”
Alicia from Bows and Arrows Flowers only saw the ceremony space in person for the first time three days before the wedding, and yet was still able to realise Rei’s vision to the letter. “It was the most beautiful lush, organic, tropical, elegant floral design I’d ever seen, and it wonderfully complemented the ocean views,” Rei says.
The couple’s nieces and nephews almost stole the show as they walked in first with Balinese umbrellas and flower baskets to an acoustic rendition of Nat King Cole’s “Love”. “They had practised many times before but never with the decor, and the kids didn’t really know how to exit the space,” Rei says. “I walked in shortly afterwards with both my mom and dad to ‘La Vie En Rose’, to see the amazing decor, my guests, and my nephew Avery jumping up and down the aisle. He continued to run up and down the aisle as I got situated on the altar with Matt. My sister was my maid of honour and her husband Arthur was officiating the wedding, so she was frantically trying to signal to my brother to grab him. He eventually did, and everyone had a great laugh. It was the most imperfectly perfect way to start off the ceremony.”
Rei’s brother-in-law Arthur officiated the wedding. “We wanted someone who we knew personally to officiate the wedding and I wanted someone who could give Matt a few pointers on what it means to marry a Kawano Suliawan,” Rei says. “Arthur is a great public speaker and did a great job – it was personal, light-hearted, and funny – exactly what we were looking for.”
And when it came to the vows, Rei and Matt decided to write their own. “Unsurprisingly we both mentioned our dog, who we treasure dearly and was the centrepiece of our wedding paper goods,” Rei says. “I started crying as Matt began to read his vows, and I recall looking over to my sister Maiko hoping she’d have a tissue, only to find her bawling and handing me a soaking wet tissue which I denied. It seemed she needed it more than I did!”
The couple also opted not to get wedding rings, as neither likes to wear accessories – so when it came time to do their ring exchange, Rei’s nephew Ayden handed them frangipani garlands to exchange. “I was in absolute bliss – everything felt so ethereal,” Rei says. “I remember looking up to see everyone we loved, all smiling in the place I love most. I felt so lucky. In the lead-up, we were worried about so many things: how hot it would be, if it would rain – but the Balinese gods were good to us and everything was so perfect.”
After the ceremony, everyone migrated over to Champa Garden for the cocktails and reception. There was light jazz playing as the guests arrived at the garden covered in a sea of candles, while Proctor’s vision for the tent at the reception was executed flawlessly. “She understood my want for a clean and elegant look,” Rei says. “She designed a stunning tent that opened on two sides to blend seamlessly with the thousands of frangipani trees that surrounded the tent.”
Bows and Arrows Flowers brought Rei’s vision for an elegant, tropical garden wedding to life. “Alicia knew that I didn’t want the florals to be too white, so she blended in beautiful shades of cream and yellow into the arrangement,” Rei says. “My family also has an orchid and anthurium farm and she was sure to utilise them as the main ingredient in her floral arrangements. I’m so proud of my family business and of our products and services – it was so great seeing them showcased throughout the wedding.”
During dinner, speeches were given, before the newlyweds cut the cake and then Rei changed into a custom mesh dress from Indonesian designer Maison Met for the first dance. “Matt and I took dancing lessons at a studio in LA and practised every weekend, and we were still so nervous!” Rei admits. “We danced to ‘You Make My Dreams Come True’ by Hall & Oates, which is one of my favourite songs. We made some mistakes, but Matt did a great job leading me – and right as we took our final dip, fireworks were released high above the frangipani trees.”