‘Close to Perfect’: Inside This Couple’s Dreamy Beachfront Wedding

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Emma Claris and Matt Sawaia threw their initial large-scale wedding plans to the wind and tied the knot in Surf City with 12 guests in attendance

Emma and Matt pose with their pup

By Jessica Mirelli | Photography by Atlanta Dahlia

Chapel Hillian Emma Claris and Matt Sawaia of Cary met in 2014 when she got lost on their first day of interning for MetLife in Charlotte. Sparks flew instantly when Matt offered to drive Emma to work for the rest of the summer.

Emma, an East Chapel Hill High School alumna, and Matt, who attended Apex High School, had both graduated from UNC Charlotte that May with degrees in finance. They bonded over the Carolina Panthers and brewery hopping in Charlotte and soon got a dog together, their best bud, Moose.

Emma gets dressed in her wedding dress

In 2018, Matt surprised Emma in their Uptown Charlotte apartment after a trip to the North Carolina Zoo with her nephew. She said yes without any hesitation and was surprised to see their parents, Gayle Claris and Woody Claris, and Mike Sawaia and Nanette Sawaia, at the celebratory dinner.

After a long engagement, the pair planned the wedding in secret, in just over three weeks, and got married on Dec. 3, 2021. “We picked this day not only because I liked the date [12/3/21],” Emma says. “But because it was about time we got married.”

Emma poses in her wedding dress

The couple said their vows at Soundside Park in Surf City, which was followed by a reception at Diver Surfside Cafe with only 12 invited guests. “[It was] a far cry from the original 180-person guest list,” Emma says. “It was close to perfect and really intimate, and almost every person at the wedding made a toast.”

The couple lives in Charlotte.

Emma and Matt with their wedding guests

If you live in Orange County, North Carolina, or are from here and you’d like your wedding featured in Chapel Hill Magazine, please fill out this form in its entirety.

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Chapel Hill Mag Intern

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