Despite its longtime leadership on issues such as anti-discrimination laws, civil unions and marriage equality, Hawaii has been shy about using that street cred to leverage more same-sex destination wedding tourism.
The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau — the private, nonprofit marketing organization for the tourism industry — released an emotional video on Monday featuring the surprise wedding of Christian Alarid and Shayne Barnes, an Oahu couple whose family and friends traveled to Honolulu to see the two men tie the knot. The video and teasers for it quickly went viral, with more than 6.5 million total views on social media by Tuesday afternoon.
Now known as the Alarids, the two had gotten engaged last June. They had been planning a 2016 wedding and had agreed to be models in an HVCB wedding photo shoot last August on the Big Island, after which HVCB staffers had a brainstorm. What if the bureau surprised the couple by organizing a picture-perfect surprise ceremony in Honolulu? HVCB Chief Marketing Officer Jay Talwar didn’t need much convincing.
“They’re a great couple to work with,” said HVCB Digital Strategist Michael Ni, the creative force behind the video, who joined Talwar in discussing the project with Civil Beat on Tuesday. “Super romantic and friendly, and they just exude love.”
The video starts with the couple joining a photographer and videographer on Nov. 12 at the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Spalding House for what Shayne thinks is just another HVCB photo session. But as the session ends, Christian, 24, who had been let in on the surprise earlier, sits down with Shayne. “This isn’t a shoot, it’s the real thing,” he says. “And today’s the day. Are you willing to marry me?”
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