How To Plan A Destination Wedding In Hawaii
Do you dream of a warm, tropical destination wedding in Hawaii? You’re not alone! Hawaii is the ultimate destination wedding location for many people. Over 20,000 couples travel to Hawaii to get married every year!
In this post, I’ve compiled 7 important tips for planning your dream destination wedding in Hawaii. Keep reading and contact me to make sure you receive beautiful, professional photos on your big day!
Choose An Island
Hawaii is comprised of 9 islands, but only 6 are openly accessible to tourists. Most people have a personal favorite island. However, if you’re completely new to Hawaii, you may be wondering which one to choose for your wedding.
The four most popular islands are Oahu, Maui, Hawaii (better known as The Big Island), and Kauai. Each of these four islands has their own unique characteristics.
Oahu is Hawaii’s liveliest (and my personal favorite) island. This island is home to Honolulu, the state’s largest city, and features beautiful hotels, world-famous beaches, and breathtaking views. There’s certainly no shortage of fabulous wedding backdrops.
If you’re expecting a lot of guests, Oahu is a convenient choice as it has a major airport with many direct flights to and from the mainland.
Maui is beloved by many travelers and is often considered a great place for a romantic getaway. Maui features luxurious resorts and beautiful beaches-- the perfect setting for a Hawaii wedding.
Driving the island’s breathtaking and twisty Hana Highway is a memorable activity. Visitors can also visit the top of Haleakala Crater to witness some incredible sunrise and sunset views.
Hawaii (The Big Island)
The Big Island is Hawaii’s largest island and has the most diverse climates and landscapes-- from lava fields to jungles, and even snow! This island is a great choice whether you want a relaxing, beautiful wedding or an adventurous elopement.
The island’s Kohala Coast on the west side is known for being sunny year-round and features the island’s finest resorts. Hilo, on the eastern side of the island, sees much more rain but has a small town vibe that is truly unique.
If you’re looking for a lush, tropical background for your wedding, Kauai is the obvious choice. This island is much quieter than the other three and features incredible waterfalls, hiking trails, and coastal views.
Kauai sees a fair amount of rain throughout the year (Mt. Waialeale is the wettest spot on earth), however, visitors will almost always find sunny weather along the southern coast.
When To Get Married In Hawaii
When it comes to choosing a date for your Hawaii wedding, the best time is whenever is convenient for you and your guests. The islands of Hawaii are known for their amazing year-round weather, with temperatures fluctuating between 70 and 80 degrees. No matter what time of year you choose, you’ll likely have great weather for your big day.
Though Hawaii has multiple “peak seasons” throughout the year, the bulk of visitors travel to Hawaii from December to early April. Expect ticket prices to be higher and wedding vendors more fully booked during Christmas, spring break, and summer vacation. You may also want to avoid these popular wedding dates.
Get the best prices on tickets by looking at dates from mid April to early June and September to early December.
Understand Hawaii’s Legal Marriage Requirements
Make sure you have all your legal bases covered! There are certain basic requirements you must meet in order to legally marry in the state of Hawaii.
- You and your finance must be at least 18 years old (official proof of age must be provided)
- You and your finance must appear before the marriage license agent to pick up your application
- You must pay a license and processing fee
The State of Hawaii makes it easy to apply and pay for a marriage license application with its electronic registration system. I recommend starting this process before you arrive on the island.
Remember: both you and your finance must meet with a state marriage license agent before your wedding to finalize the application.
Once you obtain your license, it’s valid anywhere in the state (on any island) for 30 days.
Choose Your Hawaii Wedding Venue
Close your eyes and imagine the perfect Hawaii wedding venue: what do you see? A white sandy beach? Hotel ballroom with an ocean view? A tropical garden? If you can dream it, you can probably find it here in Hawaii.
There are so many wedding locations to choose from. Narrow them down by thinking about the number of guests you’ll have, how casual or formal you want the wedding to be, and the type of views you’d like to enjoy throughout the ceremony and reception.
If you opt for a wedding on the beach, there are a few legalities you’ll need to keep in mind.
Beach Wedding Restrictions
You must have a state permit to hold a Hawaii beach wedding on a shoreline not occupied by a state or federal park. You’ll need liability insurance in order to obtain this permit. There are also specific rules about how you can conduct a beach wedding, including:
- Weddings must be less than two hours long
- Additional permissions may be required for weddings with more than 25 to 30 guests
- You cannot ask beachgoers to move or make room for your ceremony
- You cannot block off an area of the public beach for your ceremony
- Structures or large decorations are not allowed
- Chairs are only permitted for elderly or disabled people
Working with a wedding coordinator to plan your Hawaii beach wedding can be a huge help. A Hawaii wedding planner will understand all beach wedding rules and regulations and have liability insurance to help you obtain all necessary permits.
Opt For A Hawaii Photographer
Some couples select a mainland wedding photographer only to be disappointed in the outcome of their photos.
Photographing weddings in Hawaii is unlike photographing weddings in any other location. The bright sun and water, unruly tradewinds, and vibrant colors can throw off even the most experienced mainland photographer.
Your island wedding is something you want to remember forever. Make sure you choose a professional photographer who is experienced, knows the area well, and understands how to take stunning Hawaii wedding photos.
Incorporate Local Traditions
Consider adding some Hawaiian culture to your wedding. There are many ways to respectfully incorporate Hawaiian wedding traditions into your ceremony and reception. Here are a few ideas to consider.
The lei is a symbol of love and aloha. It’s common for a wedding ceremony in Hawaii to begin with a the bride and groom exchanging lei. Additionally, the groom may want to wear a garland of green maile leaves while the bride wears a haku lei (flower crown).
Your Hawaiian wedding won’t feel complete without some ukulele music. The ukulele is the regional instrument that makes Hawaiian music so recognizable. Hire a local band or ukulele player to serenade you during the ceremony or help you celebrate during the reception. You can also hire hula dancers to interpret the songs.
When planning your reception meal, consider highlighting traditional Hawaiian and Polynesian foods. Whether it’s a traditional luau feast with kalua pig, poi, and laulau or incorporating local foods like fresh seafood, fruits, veggies. Hawaii has so many fascinating flavors and foods to experience.
Plan For Your Guests
A Hawaii destination wedding is an exciting and memorable experience for all your guests. It’s also a big investment. Respect the time and money your friends and family are spending to celebrate with you by ensuring they have everything needed for an enjoyable experience.
Consider creating welcome baskets for your guests and include wedding information, activity options, and maybe even some helpful beach supplies. Here are some ideas:
- Printed wedding event schedule listing times, dates, locations, and important phone numbers
- Restaurant brochures and local Hawaii activity guide
- Sunblock, beach towel, beach bag, sunglasses
- Local snacks and fruit like macadamia nuts, local coffee, pineapples or mangoes
Ready To Get Married In Hawaii?
Hawaii is one of the most spectacular places in the world. Celebrating your vows surrounded by palm trees, turquoise beaches, and the warm aloha spirit is an experience both you and your guests won’t forget.
As a Hawaii destination wedding photographer, I love helping you capture the magic of your big day. Growing up on Oahu, I have first-hand knowledge of the Hawaiian islands that I happily share with my clients to help them get the best photos.
Contact me with any questions. I would love to talk with you and hear about your upcoming destination wedding!