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Originally published in Inside Weddings 

After arriving at her first boot camp exercise class, Malu Tungol took one look at Shannon Ashmon and thought, “I really hope he’s not the instructor.”

“He was too cute,” the bride, a behavioral scientist, reveals. “The last thing I wanted was for a first impression to include me embarrassing myself by struggling through his workout in the blazing Atlanta heat.” But Shannon was the instructor – and he noticed Malu immediately. He began chatting with Malu after class and calling her to ask how she was adjusting to the program. Very soon, the two were dating. “We tried to keep our burgeoning romance under wraps from the rest of the boot camp class,” Malu says. “We didn’t really fool anyone, though.”

Last winter, more than three years after their first date, Shannon took Malu to the Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation on Lake Oconee in Georgia – Shannon’s home state – for what Malu thought was a belated Valentine’s Day celebration. There, in front of 30 of the couple’s closest friends and family members, Shannon said two simple, beautiful words: “Mahal kita,” or “I love you” in Tagalog; then, he dropped to one knee and asked Malu to marry him before placing a vintage-inspired Tiffany ring on her finger.

The couple quickly chose Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine (Malu’s home state) as their wedding venue, and from their home in Atlanta, planned the rest of the event in just six months. With the help of her parents, friends, future sister-in-law, and Shannon, Malu tackled many DIY wedding projects, including save-the-dates, invitations, decorations, and favors. The ceremony, held on an expansive lawn behind the sand dunes of the Atlantic Ocean, incorporated a variety of cultural traditions — Malu’s male family members wore traditional Filipino barong shirts, and the couple shared communion during the service.

Afterwards, the newlyweds and their 121 guests headed to a tent on the Inn’s grounds for the reception, which was decorated with lanterns and a colorful assortment of flowers. As a nod to his new wife’s culture, Shannon changed into a barong for the evening. Malu’s brother wowed the crowd with a performance of his original spoken word poem, and Malu’s college a capella group also took to the stage to sing a song that included a rap verse performed by Malu. “I have never seen a bride rap in her wedding dress, and seeing her do this with her college friends was awesome, certainly unique, and unforgettable,” Shannon says.

For Malu, one of the most precious moments of the day was watching her guests, some of whom had come from as far away as Guam and Ireland, laughing and dancing together, and feeling overwhelmed by their love. “One of our foremost priorities in our planning was our guests – we really wanted them to enjoy themselves and each other, and we wanted to share the beauty and serenity of Maine with those who otherwise may not have ever taken an interest in visiting this gorgeous state,” Malu says. “I was happy that everyone seemed to be as happy as Shannon and I were.”

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