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 how to Plan 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. The Kohala coast offers some of the world’s most exclusive resorts so you can opt for an all inclusive resort wedding, the up-country Waimea area offers rolling hills and ranch style venues, or you can keep it simple with a natural beach setting. 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 tends to be pricier than a trip to the Big Island, Maui won’t disappoint. With unbelievable sunsets and stunning natural backdrops, it’s easy to become enchanted with the valley isle for hosting 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. Higher end amenities are a bit harder to come by as there are fewer resort venues on Kauai, so it is a better fit for those seeking a natural getaway.

Home to Honolulu and much of the state’s tourist activity, Oahu is one of the more convenient options for a wedding ceremony when you examine the amenities. Those who book a wedding venue here will be rewarded with unbelievable options for catering, music, photography, and a bustling nightlife scene as well as a diverse set of ceremony options, from natural to resort, Oahu has a bit of everything.

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

Plan a Hawaii Wedding – Getting Started

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

Do some research
Each island offers its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to locations, venue availability, amenities, accommodations, activities, nightlife, sightseeing opportunities, and cost. Digging into the nitty-gritty in terms of what you really want for a location, wedding package, and DIY-opportunity is a major undertaking when planning an event like a wedding. If you’re having a hard time getting started, start by researching event coordinators (or officiants if you’re going smaller) and find someone who can help you bring your vision to life. It’s difficult to bring a destination wedding together from afar, so finding a dedicated wedding event coordinator is a major plus to ensure you’re set to go when the wedding day 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 for the ceremony. You must also remember to factor in costs of travel, accommodations, meals, wedding party expenses, and per guest costs 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 still a good idea. Setting expectations and a solid budget up front will help you avoid surprises, and it’s certainly an important factor to keep in mind as you choose venues and plan your event.

Full Venue or DIY?
If you are hosting a small ceremony or an elopement, you may be able to plan your wedding day as a DIY event, organizing most of the details yourself then working with an officiant for the ceremony specifics. Like other states, Hawaii is full of public beaches, parks, and easily rentable private locations perfectly suited to holding a smaller wedding ceremony. A reception is a different story with many of these sites (beaches, for example, don’t allow alcohol consumption and close shortly after sunset). You will likely need to plan a separate reception site if you have the ceremony on the beach. Restaurants and lounges are a good choice and offer this service for smaller parties. If you’re willing to put a bit more effort into your event or just want to keep things small and stay within a smaller budget, a DIY wedding may be right for you.

For larger gatherings and inclusive destination weddings you will likely want to opt for a fully hosted venue with a dedicated event planner. The perks of hiring a wedding venue for your ceremony and reception are plentiful, but then, so is the cost. Inclusive venues will generally 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. That being said, there is a vast range in wedding venue costs in Hawaii and you should look for something that fits your budget and style. Check out some of our favorite Hawaii Wedding Venues.

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. While they might not be as willing to accommodate special requests as a third-party planner would be, they’re an excellent choice for insuring your event goes smoothly.

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. Make sure to include your wedding party in the planning process so they can make sure to set aside the time and funds to celebrate with you on your special day. Because the destination aspect of your wedding will tack on extra travel costs, it’s important to consider planning your special day during lower tourist periods to get the best deals on airfare and hotel rates. Some venues, resorts, and hotels offer wedding/special event rates to ensure everyone stays under one roof, so keep an eye out for any wedding promotions when doing your research.

Marriage Licensing in Hawaii
Marriage licensing in Hawaii is pretty straightforward as long as you have your proverbial nene (Hawaiian geese) 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.

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