08/25/2013 AT 10:05 AM ET
To calm her nerves on the morning of her Aug. 18 wedding, Bethany Hamilton “went surfing on the beach where I first surfed with one arm,” she says. “I caught a few waves and messed around on a longboard.”
Hours later the survivor of a 2003 shark attack so famous that it was made into a movie (2011’s Soul Surfer) took a moment to “just sit in my car before going down the aisle. So many emotions were rushing through me.”
Then Hamilton, 23, wearing a Lazaro gown, exchanged vows with youth-ministry volunteer Adam Dirks, 25, on a Kauai estate surrounded by plumeria and orchids – and 300 guests.
“When I looked in Adam’s eyes, I almost started crying,” says the bride, who met Dirks last year on a blind date during which they jumped off a 40-ft. cliff.
Following the Christian ceremony, guests moved to a private residence where they munched on opah and vegan spring rolls. Rather than serving alcohol, the couple kept the party pumped up with cold-pressed locally grown coffee.