Renewing our Vows at Nihiwatu Resort

Marrying my soul mate 10 years ago was one of the most unforgettable days of my life.  To honor this journey together my hubby and our children set out on an adventure to Nihiwatu on the island of Sumba to renew our vows.
Sumba is a wild, untouched paradise whose ancient culture is still intact and alive- the Sumbanese have a powerful connection to the land and their ancestral spirit can be felt all around.   
We renewed our vows on the private Nihiwatu beach at the golden hour.  I made a custom dress in Bali that will be available in our upcoming Holiday collection and a matching version for our baby girl Indigo Skye.  Preparing for this day and creating matching outfits with my little girl was so special.  Keenan chose to wear his favorite vest which he calls his warrior vest and the locals gave him a handmade wood sword for the ceremony.   Nihiwatu set up a beautiful bamboo trellis decorated with bougainvillea and palms, and my son Keenan and I decided to create a heart shaped rock; each rock signifying a family member or friend whom we love but could not be with us in that moment.  When we were collecting the rocks to represent each person, suddenly a beautiful yellow butterfly appeared, circling around the two of us for several moments.  I know in my heart that the butterfly was my brother Casey’s spirit reminding us that he will always be with us.  This moment was truly a highlight of our ceremony.
  Local tribesmen remarried us and in the ceremony we were given Betel nut, which is a local nut with mild hallucinogenic properties.  The nut is commonly chewed by the locals, but is also a traditional marriage ritual signifying a seal to the union, similar to the ritual of exchanging rings.  Our mouth was left numb and our head dizzy, adding to the natural euphoria of the moment.  Jim and I rewrote vows to each other, reflecting and honoring the last 10 years of marriage with our hearts full of gratitude and beautiful dreams of the years to come. 
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Nihiwatu resort was created in 1988 by Claude and Petra Graves, and is currently owned by hotelier James McBride and Chris Burch, who we had the privilege of meeting during our stay.  The original founders, in search of a perfect wave landed in Sumba and envisioned a resort that would preserve the natural beauty and way of life of the Sumbanese people.   The resort is a rare gem- set in a private paradise, untamed by hospitality giants and free from an abundance of tourists.  Nihiwatu offers a luxury hotel experience while remaining humbly connected to the wild landscape and ancient culture that surrounds the property. I could not have envisioned a more perfect environment for our meaningful occasion.
For Jim, whose love of surfing was the catalyst for the birth of Cleobella, Nihiwatu offered world class surfing;  the hotel sits right on one of the most sought after left-hand surf breaks in the world.  What’s more, Nihiwatu limits the amount of surfers on the break to 10 at a time, creating every surfer’s dream- to have a world-renowned wave all to themselves.  
 Even for those who don’t surf, Nihiwatu is simply paradise.  Sitting on a mile and a half of untouched, private beach, the resort is a true escape from reality.   Their accommodations are beautiful open-air villas tucked away into lush palms and surrounded by the sound of lapping waves.  Waking up to the ocean air followed by a healthy breakfast and fresh coconuts was absolutely magical.   Even just a short stay here detoxifying; Nihiwatu offers a variety of wellness programs from yoga, massage therapy, meditation, and cleanses, so your stay will provide nourishment for the mind, body, and soul.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was learning about the Sumba Foundation.  Philanthropy is so central to Cleobella’s mission that it was incredibly inspiring learning that Nihiwatu gives majority of its profits back to the Sumbanese through the foundation to develop humanitarian poverty-fighting projects on the island. 
This entire experience was unforgettable and will forever be a memory I will cherish.
Photography by Taryn Kent - @tarynkent