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Student spends summer in paradise to help create dream weddings

April 16th, 2018

by Sam Bertholf

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Sarah Turner of North Newton, a sophomore business major at Bethel College, wanted to get her feet wet in the wedding planning industry.

She got all she hoped for and more during a summer in Hawaii as an intern with Moana Events, a company that specializes in high-end destination weddings and other special events on the islands of Hawaii.

Turner’s search for an internship started with a simple Google search of “wedding planners in the United States.” The number one result was Moana Events, so she clicked on the website and began researching the company.

“I was hooked on the layout and beauty that was present through the website,” she says. She checked out some other established wedding businesses, but in the end Moana Events seemed to be the best fit.

Turner believes her passion for event and wedding planning is due to her mother, Brenda Turner of North Newton, who has been making specialty cakes – including lots of wedding cakes – for the past 20 years.

Sarah Turner says, “It has always been such a joy to listen in on the bridal appointments and then, months later, help deliver the creation to the venue.

“My mother has a strong passion for making goodies that instantly brighten someone’s day. [I think that’s why] I fell in love with the wedding industry.”

Turner went into the experience with “no expectation, only an open mind.” She was “itching to get my feet wet in the wedding industry.”

“Obviously, I hoped to gain a better understanding of the behind-the-scenes action of wedding planning,” she says, “but I hoped to expand my knowledge on the ways to handle conflict, alternative plans and how to communicate effectively with clients.”

Among Turner’s opportunities: writing magazine and blog submissions that presented Moana Events’ “previous wedding creations, in hopes to be featured in print”; creating table settings for receptions; and designing parts of the company website.

Although the internship was unpaid, she feels she was amply rewarded.

“The emotion and thought that was put into each wedding is all worth it once you see the couple’s face light up [when] they see their Pinterest wedding board come to life, with every little detail.

“After a long day of setting up and tearing down the wedding [and reception], the thought that you helped in making the couple’s wedding day a day to remember is worth all of the long behind-the-scene hours.”

The summer also taught her the importance of independent learning and working, Turner says.

“Although this was the first time for all of us interns in this industry, we were required to learn many of the skills on our own,” she notes.

Although this was sometimes frustrating for Turner and the other interns, it ended up ultimately as a positive experience for them.

“It would have been easier to be given guidance of how to accomplish many of these tasks,” Turner says, “but it taught us how to problem solve and work together at the end to create the final project.”

Another challenge for Turner was finding a place to live for almost 10 weeks. Luckily, she made a connection with a former Newton couple, Jim and Trenna Davenport, who now live in Hawaii with their family.

The Davenports were willing to let Turner stay with them for the duration of her internship. She, in turn, enjoyed being a big sister for the first time.

One of the most remarkable days of Turner’s summer was actually a day off, when she and another intern, Chloe, decided to hike to a hidden waterfall, supposedly a two-mile round trip.

“All happy and excited to see what was at the end of the hike, the two mainlanders embarked on the wet terrain,” Turner recalls. “After a long six miles, we were not greeted with a waterfall. Disappointed and muddy, we had no clue where we made the mistake.”

It turns out they had walked right past the correct path entrance as they got out of their car – following a crowd of tourists who didn’t know where they were going, either.

When Sarah and Chloe finally made it back to their car, they had only an hour but decided to go see the waterfall anyway, setting out on the correct path this time.

“We must not have read the description of the trail correctly,” Turner says, “because shortly we realized we would have to cross a river seven times, climb over fallen trees, tread through mud puddles, and on top of that, it started pouring down rain.”

When they finally made it, they glanced quickly at the waterfall and then started running back so they could make their other commitments that day.

Looking back, Turner says, “All in a day’s fun on the island of Hawaii. Also, we learned that maybe hiking through the jungles isn’t for a girl from Kansas and a girl from Maine.”

She is thankful for the opportunities the internship in Hawaii gave her, Turner says.

“It presented a variety of insights, a spectacular family unit [in the Davenports], and a mysterious piece of land to explore.

“I am blessed with a new view of the wedding industry, and I look forward to continuing my business degree and to see where the next adventure and internship takes me.”

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in the analysis of top colleges and universities, for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.