What You Need to Know to Plan a Hawaii Wedding

Big Island Guide Travel Guide

From Simple Beach Ceremonies to Luxury Resort Weddings, Here’s what to know about Planning a Hawaii Wedding

Hawaii is high atop the list of destinations for many couple’s wedding ceremonies and for good reason. There’s hardly a better backdrop on planet Earth to best capture and celebrate love and commitment between two people. Offering luxurious splendor, gorgeous natural environments, and a tropical island atmosphere, any wedding set in Hawaii is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience. But as with any destination wedding, there’s a lot of planning to undertake before making a decision. With this guide, you and your partner should be better educated as to the unique aspects of planning a wedding in the beautiful state of Hawaii.

Which Island?

While every Hawaiian island is beautiful and iconic in its own unique way, choosing between the major tourist destinations for your ceremony can be a difficult enterprise. This cluster of islands, however, are diverse in their offerings – especially for those searching for a venue.

Hawaii – The Big Island
We’re prone to recommend the Big Island above the others for one simple reason: diversity! Living up to its name, the Big Island is a massive geographic wonderland, offering splendid white sand beaches, lush tropical rainforests, intense volcanic activity, and even snow-capped mountains, it offers a completely unique Hawaiian experience. That being said, it’s also an adventurer’s playground, making for the perfect outdoor playground for you and your wedding party leading up to, and after the big day.

World-famous for its beaches and marine life, Maui is an excellent choice for a wedding, vacation, or quick tropical getaway. While it’s considerably pricier than a trip to the Big Island, Maui won’t disappoint. With unbelievable sunsets and stunning natural backdrops, it’s hard to find a bad spot to hold a special occasion.

Of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai is among the least-developed, preserving an incredible amount of the natural beauty that makes Hawaii so special. Stunning seaside cliffs, tropical forests, and natural bodies of water that sneak through every corner of the island, this is an amazing destination for adventure, beauty, and making memories.

Home to Honolulu and much of the state’s tourist activity, Oahu is certainly the most obvious and expensive option for a wedding ceremony. But those who book a wedding venue here will be rewarded with unbelievable options for catering, music, photography, and a bustling nightlife scene.

A quiet, peaceful reprieve from the more heavily-trafficked neighboring islands, Lanai is a serene setting for any occasion. Expansive beachfronts, gentle waves, and perfect sunsets should make this island an attractive option for every couple.

Getting Started

Once you’ve settled on an island, your next steps are a bit more difficult. In order to start planning your special day together, you’ll need to do the following:

Do your research
Each island offers its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to venue availability, amenities, accommodations, activities, nightlife, art and culture, sightseeing opportunities, and cost. Digging into the nitty-gritty in terms of a location, wedding packages, and DIY-opportunity is a major undertaking when planning an event like a wedding. It’s also difficult to bring it all together from afar, so finding a venue with a dedicated wedding event coordinator is a major plus to ensure you’re set to go when the wedding party arrives.

Set a Budget
Depending on the venue you select and the size of your event, you can expect to find a wide range of potential costs. For couples on a budget, the idea of a dream Hawaii wedding may need to include a smaller guest list or a simple public venue at a beach or park. While there are DIY and low-cost, public venues for beachside and waterfront ceremonies, factoring in costs of travel, accommodations, meals, wedding party expenses, and per guest costs is important to ensure your special day stays on track. If your budget allows for an event on the luxury side of the spectrum, finding a good wedding planner and working out a budget in advance is a good idea too. Setting expectations and a solid budget will help you avoid surprises, and it’s certainly an important factor to keep in mind as you choose venues and plan your event.

Marriage Licensing in Hawaii
As with every state in the union, marriage licensing in Hawaii is pretty straightforward as long as you have your proverbial ducks in a row. Aside from the ceremony itself, you’ll want to plan a visit to the local courthouse and apply for a marriage license online ahead of time. More information is available here.


Venue or DIY?
Like other states, Hawaii is full of public beaches, parks, and easily rentable private locations perfectly suited to holding a wedding ceremony. While the reception is a different story with these sites (beaches, for example, don’t allow alcohol consumption and close shortly after sunset), if you’re willing to put a bit more effort into your event or want to keep things small and within a smaller budget, a DIY wedding may be the way to go.

The perks of hiring a wedding venue for your ceremony and reception are plentiful, but then, so is the cost. Most venues will cover the organization, decorating, entertainment, catering, and any last-minute details that may pop up, but you’ll pay more overall than you would at many similar venues on the mainland.

Should you hire a wedding planner?
Especially useful if you’re planning your ceremony from the mainland, having an onsite wedding planner to handle the details and ensure everything’s ready to go by the time you and your party arrives is an invaluable resource. While the costs of hiring someone to plan the event can be high, you’ll have someone on the ground working with resorts, hotels, caterers, entertainers, decorators, bartenders, photographers, and staff to ensure your special day goes off without a hitch.

Some venues also offer the services of an in-house wedding event coordinator and planner. While they might not be as willing to accommodate special requests as a third-party planner would be, they’re an excellent choice for cost-saving insurance to help your event go smoothly and keep the details close to the chest.

Plan the party!
It’s a celebration, right? Your party will be one you and your new partner will never forget, but celebrating with friends and loved ones is equally as important. Because the destination aspect of your wedding will tack on extra costs, it’s important to consider planning your special day around peak/low tourist periods to get the best deal on airline fare and hotel rates. Some venues, resorts, and hotels will partner with airlines to offer the best rates and will provide wedding/special event rates to ensure everyone stays under one roof, so keep an eye out for any wedding promotions when doing your research.

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