Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is getting married next week and she still hasn’t picked out her wedding dress – but she’s not worried.
“The goal is don’t sweat the small stuff, everyone’s going to have a great time and it’s going to be a wonderful celebration,” she tells PEOPLE.
Gabbard, 33, and fiancé Abraham Williams, 26, a cinematographer, met on the campaign trail. “He volunteered to help out on the shoots for my campaign commercials. It wasn’t until about a year after I was in office that he asked me out for the first time. It was a connection that was immediate and natural, but we didn’t really see it before that point,” she says.
The pair are surfing enthusiasts who “really got to know each other out on the water,” she says. Williams even created a MacGyver-like contraption to keep the engagement ring safe so he could propose to Gabbard beyond the breakers.
“I was quite impressed. He had constructed this floatation device, a piece of foam or something, and he wrapped it up in gold duct tape to make it look prettier, and he attached it with this military-grade cord called 550 cord, for parachutes,” Gabbard says. Williams then safely attached the ring to his invention.
“Once we got out there, past where the waves were breaking, it was beautiful, the sun was setting, and he paddled over after a minute or two and was leaning over his board, and that’s when he pulled out the ring and asked me to marry him.”
The couple will also say their vows outdoors, on the eastern shore of Oahu at Kahalu’u, an historic site. “It was the fish pond that the native Hawaiian people used to feed the village,” she says. It’s “a secluded area with palm trees, with flowers, a quiet peaceful place.”
The Hindu couple have planned a traditional Vedic ceremony for April 9, with a Brahmin acting as officiant. “It’s a ceremony that has been used and practiced by the followers of the Vedas from India for thousands of years. Some of the ceremony will be in Sanskrit, which is the language of the Vedas, and some will be in English. Overall though, we’re in Hawaii and it’s going to be a Hawaiian-style Hindu wedding,” Gabbard says.
“We’ll be exchanging vows that we are writing ourselves and that portion will be in English,” she adds. “Once the ceremony is done, there’s a celebration with different prayers and singing and dancing and a nice, fun party.” Williams, also a musician, is in charge of music and has arranged for his friends to play live.
“I think he’s frustrated that he can’t play – he has an important role in the ceremony,” she jokes. But Gabbard thinks her husband-to-be may play her a song later in the evening. “He has something up his sleeve,” she says.
The reception will be informal, with a meat-free dinner, since both bride and groom are vegetarians.
Gabbard credits her younger sister Vrindavan, a U.S. Marshall, with all of the wedding planning. “I could not have done it without her because of the work that I’m doing in Washington. I serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Armed Services Committee and we’ve been focusing a lot on what’s happening in the Middle East and what’s happening with ISIS.”
Gabbard, an Iraq veteran, has been so busy that she hasn’t had the time to pick out a wedding dress. “I’m still working on it, to be quite honest,” she says, though she has friends helping to design it and she knows her look will be Hindu-inspired.
The congresswoman says she’s focused on what’s most important – starting her life with Williams.
“He’s my best friend, my surfing buddy and my partner in everything. We’re both thrilled to celebrate this new chapter – beginning our lives together.”