Chelsea and Mike tie the knot — tiki style — at the Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale

tiki-theme-weddingWe love the Mai Kai. We love true love. Put them both together: And you get Chelsea and Mike’s tiki-tastic wedding three weeks ago in Fort Lauderdale. Chelsea and Mike own a midcentury vintage store — Rave On Vintage in Austin, Texas — so it’s an easy bet that their Molokai matrimony would hit all the right notes. Sure enough, Chelsea has shared her favorite 20 photos — and we get to see the dances… the hair… the makeup… the tiki mug… even … mermaids! Photos are courtesy Eugenio Wilman, The Wedding Traveler, who surely must have had a blast, even though we presume he was *burdened* by needing to pace himself on the Sharks Bites while he was working. 

mai kai restaurant
Chelsea writes:

Hi Pam!
My husband, Mike and I met while living in South Florida almost 11 years ago. He grew up in Fort Lauderdale, and I grew up a few hours north in Jacksonville but moved to Miami to go to college. My first ever visit to the Mai Kai was on my 21st birthday to celebrate in style with happy hour in the Molokai bar. After that we regularly visited the Mai Kai for special occasions and always make it a point to spend at least one (but often several) nights there when we are back in Florida. We moved to Austin, Texas, eight years ago but go to Florida once or twice a year to visit family.


When Mike and I finally started planning our wedding last spring after nine years together, I knew I wanted it to be more of a party rather than a formal wedding. We wanted somewhere with a vintage flair since Mike and I own a midcentury vintage store and a 1964 time capsule home, so basically most of our lives revolve around the 1960s and we wanted our wedding to reflect our style. The location was briefly a choice between Rock City (which my husband has never been to) and Mai Kai, but it only took about five minutes to decide on the Mai Kai since we had history there and loved visiting, plus our families still lived in Florida. We have always loved tiki drinks and culture but over the past two years or so it has turned from casually collecting mugs to a full on tiki obsession. I had been telling Mike for years he needed a new hobby and finally he decided Tiki mixology and history would be it, which he has delved into extensively over the last few years. Thus we began planning our destination wedding to the Mai Kai.


We and our wedding guests stayed at the B Ocean Resort, formerly known as the Yankee Clipper, which we had stayed at two years ago during the Hukilau. The main reason we chose the old Yankee Clipper was because of the weekend Wreck Bar mermaid shows, where we had hoped to host our rehearsal dinner on Friday night. Also, Mike’s father briefly lived in an apartment right next to the Clipper when he was growing up and it always fascinated him, so the boat shaped hotel also had sentimental value to him. When we found out the Wreck Bar wouldn’t be able to accommodate a private party for us we were disappointed. But luckily Christina, the events organizer at the Mai Kai, was eager and willing to help us make the Mai Kai work for our rehearsal dinner Friday in addition to our wedding the next day.


We still got to enjoy the Mermaid show at 6 o’clock in the Wreck Bar before we headed to the rehearsal dinner in the Mai Kai’s Molokai Bar. One of Mike’s oldest friends even surprised us by giving a printed and laminated sign to Marina, the head of the Mermaids, to hold up while swimming by the porthole windows! After that we all loaded onto a big shuttle bus that took us to the Mai Kai for a delicious buffet and plenty of fruity cocktail drinks with our family and friends.


The next morning my sister and I went to Retro Red’s Beauty Shop to get our hair done by Annie, the owner, who specializes in vintage hair and makeup.


She made us both look and feel like pin-up princesses. Naturally I was running behind schedule and showed up to my own wedding almost 30 minutes after it was supposed to start, but at least they couldn’t start without me! Everyone commented on how perfect my hair and makeup and dress were and how I looked like I came out of the 50s, which was exactly what I was going for!


We had our ceremony underneath a big tiki at the back of the gardens and our officiant was a lady named Denise, who the Mai Kai referred us to. When meeting with Denise a few days earlier we realized the traffic noises on Federal Highway on the other side of the fence from the garden were pretty loud and distracting but luckily the Mai Kai was able to set up a microphone and PA so everyone could hear us.


We wrote our own vows and I was crying like a baby while reading mine, which I had only written the day before while sitting on the beach outside our hotel.


The ceremony was short and sweet, 10 minutes or less, then we headed into the Tahiti dining room, which had been reserved specially for us.


They set up a bride & groom table complete with peacock chairs for us to sit in which made us feel like Polynesian royalty. The staff was absolutely fantastic and really took care of us. I was on my feet running around constantly visiting with friends and family, getting pictures with the photographer, etc., and the wait staff would do things like search us out and bring us our cocktails while we were in the gardens getting pictures, or put a metal lid over our plates to keep our food hot until we could get to it.


I had the curry shrimp and Mike had the pork tenderloin and both were delicious, I just wish I wasn’t in such a hurry to eat and could have sat and enjoyed it more! A friend of mine, Tiffany, made our wedding cake for us which we had her replicate from a picture we had found on google after searching “tiki wedding cake”. The cake looked amazing and tasted even better.


We had three dancers and a few musicians from the Mai Kai’s Islander Revue do a 15 minute private show for our group as our entertainment. The dancers were definitely one of the highlights of the night, and having the show performed feet away from us was much more intimate and exciting than watching them on a big stage with everyone else in the main dining room. Towards the end of their performance, the male dancer pulled me up to dance with him, and one of the female dancers pulled Mike up to do a hula with her. We did our best to copy their moves, which was silly and fun. Luckily I had been taking classes at the gym and afterwards, when everyone was commenting how impressed they were by my dancing skills, I told them. “Those zumba classes really paid off!”.


Another highlight was the custom tiki mugs we had made for our guests that were based on the 23′ tall moai tiki carved by Barney West that has been out front of the Mai Kai since it opened in 1956. Tiki Diablo did a fantastic job creating the mugs for us, and even carved our names and our wedding date on the back of them.


About half of our guests — mostly family — left around 8 o’clock, and then it was basically just we and our friends enjoying cocktails. We ordered a mystery bowl, and Mike got the accompanying mystery girl dance, and they brought us a bunch of long straws, so all of us crowded around to enjoy the drink. After we had worn out our welcome in the private room, we made our way to the Molokai Bar, where we stayed for the next several hours, enjoying cocktails until about 2 a.m. when we realized we were the last people left in the bar and we should probably call it a night.


Our whole experience was fantastic and everything I had hoped it would be and more.

Chelseas’s tiki wedding resources:

Makeup and Hair — Retro Red’s Beauty Shop
Dress — Unique Vintage:
Shoes — Bait Footware
Restored bakelite bracelets — Brighter Bakelite
Mugs — Tiki Diablo
Cake: Oh My! Cake Balls by Tiffany
Photography — Eugenio Wilman online and on Facebook.
Hotel — B Ocean, home of the Wreck Bar (formerly the Yankee Clipper)
And don’t forget — The Mai Kai


We also plan on using the money we got from our wedding to build a sun room onto our back porch which will house our home tiki bar, so hopefully in a year or two I’ll have lots of pictures of that to share!

One of the thing that’s super fun for me and Kate is that, now that we’ve been around so long — 9 years for me, going on three for Kate — we get to hear about readers celebrating all kinds of life events above and beyond the house thing. Weddings! Babies! Retiring to hit the road! So wonderful.

Thank you, Chelsea and Mike, for sharing your wedding album. And for sure, we neeeed to see the tiki bar when it’s ready for prime time — bet you’ll come into lots of great goodies via your shop Rave On Vintage. Best wishes for many happy years together!

  1. Marie Gamalski says:

    The quality of the furniture in their store looks amazing!! I’d LOVE any one of the credenzas currently on their site…sigh…the wedding looks like it was a BLAST!!

  2. Neil Ramski says:

    Congrats!!!! What a neat idea to marry at The Mai Kai!!! I grew up in Miami in the 1960s and one of my most special memories are the times my family went to The Mai Kai and while waiting for a table, my brother and I would play and run around outside in the gardens. We could do that, unsupervised, back then!!! It was such a special place!!! Thanks for sharing – I had a happy “stroll down memory lane” seeing your pictures!

  3. Elizabeth Walters says:

    I am lucky to be a customer of Rave On Vintage and can tell you first-hand that this is a darling couple, as you can imagine!! I got my gorgeous G-Plan floating top vanity from them and hope to get more stuff in the future. God bless their marriage and store!!

  4. Peggy says:

    Wonderful wedding photos and joy shining through! Loved the groom’s short and suit — perfect! Thank you for sharing your special day, made me feel like I was a part of it!

  5. Kim McDonald says:

    The bride and groom look fabulous. Loved the bride’s tattoos-they really accentuated her dress, however, the groom’s sideburns are really retro. If only more men would rekindle that look. uy

  6. RockabillyBebe says:

    Congratulations to Chelsea and Mike!

    My husband and I eloped and got married in the Mai Kai gardens too! I think Denise performed our ceremony as well. 🙂

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