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- A Guide to Getting Married in Hawaii
- Hawaiian Wedding Ceremony
What could be more romantic than a beach wedding in Hawaii, followed by a honeymoon in Hawaii? Find resources for tying the knot in Hawaii and learn more about the islands of Hawaii.
Hours from the US mainland by air, Hawaii isn’t the easiest place to stage a wedding — although it is certainly one of the most beautiful.
For those who marry elsewhere, Hawaii remains the destination of choice for a honeymoon, and there is little wonder why.
With a perfect climate, top resorts, beautiful beaches, and an economy that is geared to make every tourist’s visit memorable, Hawaii, no ka oi – Hawaii is the best.
The Hawaii advantage: Romantic Hawaii combines the exotic pleasures and beautiful beaches of Polynesia with the ease of having a wedding in the U.S. Top-rate hotels, fragrant indigenous flowers woven into leis, and the gracious aloha spirit continue to lure couples in love to these islands.
A Guide to Getting Married in Hawaii
Each year, many couples choose to hold their wedding ceremonies in Hawaii. Even more, choose to honeymoon in Hawaii. In fact, Hawaii remains the top honeymoon destination in the world.
Hawaii is also a top vacation destination for couples, hosting many of the world’s top resorts and hotels. In the 2020 Gold List by Condé Nast Traveler, many of the most highly rated resorts in the world are found in Hawaii. In the same survey, when voting for the best island in the world, four of the Hawaiian islands are listed in the top ten with Maui, once again being selected as the top tropical island in the world.
Whether you plan to marry in Hawaii, honeymoon in Hawaii, or just spend a truly romantic vacation, Hawaii has much to offer you.
In this feature, we’ll get you started with some key sources of information on weddings in Hawaii, honeymoon planning, romantic places, and we’ll even suggest a couple of books to help you plan your visit.
Hawaiian Wedding Attire – What to Wear to a Beach Wedding in Hawaii
10 “Do’s and Don’ts” on What to Wear When Getting Married in Hawaii
You’ve decided to get married in Hawaii, you’ve selected your locale, looked into the marriage license, and now it’s time to choose your wedding attire. A general rule of thumb when it comes to what to wear to a Hawaii wedding “I do’s:” Less is more. After all, it’s warm, sunny, and your feet are likely to be in the sand.
Here are suggested “do’s” and “don’ts” that can make your big day as comfortable as it is memorable:
- Choose lightweight styles and fabrics: For the bride, that means simple silhouettes in airy materials-think strapless, spaghetti-strap, one-shoulder, or halter gowns in chiffon, charmeuse, silk georgette, crepe, cotton, linen or organza. For the Hawaii beach wedding groom’s attire, traditionalists can don a suit in beige or ivory linen or crisp seersucker, or forego a suit altogether for a white cotton or linen shirt and khaki trousers.
- Embrace casual chic: Leave the long gowns and jackets at home. Many Hawaiian wedding parties look fabulous in less fussy attire: Bridesmaids exude a tropical glow in elegant above-the-knee or calf-length dresses in rich tropical hues such as magenta, turquoise or mango, while groomsmen look old-school cool in khaki or linen trousers topped with a classy Aloha floral print shirt in subtle beige or breezy blue with leis to match the bridesmaid’s dresses or bouquets.
- Keep the dress code simple: I don’t know of many wedding guests who’d want to lug a ball gown and tuxedo all the way to Hawaii. As much as you’d love to have a formal affair, relax the rules a bit and inform guests that the dress code is “island elegant.” That means chic sundresses for the ladies and long-sleeve shirts but no jackets or ties for the men.
- Consider going traditional: In traditional Hawaiian ceremonies, the bride wears a loose, flowing white gown that billows in the breeze (don’t think muumuu-the same effect is chicer with a sleek empire-waist gown) and a crown of flowers (Haku) instead of a veil.
- Her groom wears all white, too, typically a linen shirt and pants, with a colorful sash (often red) around his waist.
- Offer guests flip-flops for a beach ceremony: Trudging through sand in high heels and wingtips is not fun. If your ceremony is on the beach, place baskets of flip-flops where the walkway meets the sand, so guests can slip them on and get to their seat without ruining their shoes or breaking an ankle. They can also go barefoot if the sand isn’t too hot.
- Go into full princess mode: A ball gown with layers of tulle skirting or a formfitting satin mermaid dress is overkill. Unless you are marrying inside (and you’ve traveled all the way to tropical Hawaii, so why would you want to do that?). You’ll end up sweating during the ceremony and longing to change into something cooler and more comfortable before the first dance.
- Overdo the bling: If you’re getting married on the beach, a few crystals or sparkles at the neckline or waist will reflect the sunlight and look lovely, but too many can, quite frankly, be blinding.
- Layer on the makeup: Too heavy makeup and bright sunlight and humidity do not mix. Plan for your wedding day makeup to err on the side of natural: a sheer liquid base; a dusting of blush and bronzer; not-too-dark eye shadow, eyeliner, and mascara (or you could look like a raccoon); and soft rather than severe lips.
- Insist on black: That means no black dresses for bridesmaids or female guests and no black tuxedos or suits for groomsmen or male guests. Encourage guests to embrace a flowing tropical palette that will create bursts of joyous color in your wedding photos.
- Import your bouquet: Even if you adore roses, create a bouquet using indigenous Hawaiian blossoms. Flowers such as orchids, ginger, plumeria, heliconia, hibiscus, and birds of paradise are vibrant, fragrant, and abundant.
Hawaiian Wedding Ceremony
Embrace the Aloha Spirit With Traditional Matrimonial Elements
Anyone marrying in Hawaii can have a familiar western-style wedding ceremony, presided over by a justice of the peace or local minister. But some couples choose to embrace their marriage locale by incorporating a traditional Hawaiian wedding ceremony. Elements may vary, and couples can choose to incorporate all or just some of them, but here is basically what that entails:
- Hawaiian music: Guests arrive at the ceremony locale to the sounds of ukulele music.
- Officiant: The local minister, often called a kahuna pule or Kahu (Hawaiian holy man), sings a chant (or mele) as he walks the groom (who, if he wants to adhere to tradition, should be dressed in white with a colored sash often red, at his waist) to the front of the ceremony.
- Mothers: The mothers of the bride and groom are honored and escorted to their seats by members of their family.
- Processional: The bridal party (bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girl, ring bearer) walks the aisle to the ceremony.
- Bride’s arrival: The bride is announced by the blowing of a conch shell (or pu) to call the earth, sea, air, and fire as witnesses. Only then does the bride, who wears a flowing white gown and a crown of flowers known as a haku, begin her walk down the aisle as her groom turns toward her.
- Exchange of leis: The bride and groom exchange leis, a symbol of their eternal love. Traditionally, it’s a maile lei or maile-style ti leaf lei for the groom and white ginger or pikake lei for the bride. Then the couple’s parents present leis to them (either the groom’s parents offering a lei to the bride and vice versa or each set of parents offering a lei to their own child). Then, the bride and groom each present leis to their soon-to-be in-laws, as well as to their bridal party.
- Ceremony: As the “Hawaiian Wedding Song” (Ke Kali Nei Au-“Waiting for Thee”) is played on the ukulele and slack-key guitar and interpreted by hula dancers, the Kahu leads the couple in a recitation of vows.
- Ring blessing: Before the couple exchange rings, the Kahu dips a koa wood bowl into the sea (koa wood, native to Hawaii, represents strength and integrity). A ti leaf, which represents prosperity and health, is dipped into the water and then sprinkled over the rings three times as the Kahu recites a traditional chant.
- Circle of love: As the couple marries, they stand in a circle of fragrant tropical blossoms.
- Pouring of the sands: The bride and groom pour two different colored sands into a single glass container, mixing them and symbolizing that two have become one and cannot be separated.
- Lava rock offering: A lava rock, symbolic of the moment you made a commitment to each other, is wrapped in a ti leaf and left at the ceremony site as an offering commemorating your union.
Tips for Planning the Perfect Beach Wedding in Hawaii
These Seven Basic Strategies Will Help Make Your Dream Day a Reality
For many brides, Hawaii is the ultimate destination wedding location. But with a half dozen islands and a wide array of resorts to choose from, planning the perfect wedding here can seem overwhelming. Should you wed on popular Maui or quiet Lana’i, on a Big Island beach at sunset, or next to a lush waterfall on Kauai? Or maybe bustling Waikiki on Oahu is your ideal.
There are many factors to consider as you plan your big day in a place that, let’s face it, is pretty far away.
Getting the actual marriage license is relatively easy, but here are seven planning tips to get you started:
Tip #1. Do Your Research
- Start Googling! This is the best way to get an instant overview of the breadth of wedding locales in Hawaii – from large-scale resorts with ballrooms to intimate villas offering unparalleled privacy. Hawaii also offers plenty of non-traditional settings, from secluded waterfalls and beaches reached only by helicopter to romantic catamarans sailing at sunset.
- Play the loyalty card. If you have a favorite resort brand – one you’ve vacationed at before and loved – check to see if it has properties in Hawaii. Most of the majors, such as Hyatt, Hilton, Sheraton, Westin, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Fairmont, and St. Regis, are there and offer wedding details on their websites.
- Know your islands. While all of Hawaii’s islands make a lovely backdrop, each is a bit different and offers a unique ambiance for your big day.
Tip #2. Decide on a Budget
Once you have an idea of the kind of wedding you envision – say, a beachfront blowout for family and friends or an intimate ceremony for just the two of you – figure out what you can spend.
You can get married in Hawaii for as little as several hundred dollars (for a simple ceremony for two with a photo package and romantic dinner) or for as much as $100,000-$250,000 (for a luxurious multi-day extravaganza). Most weddings here fall somewhere in between.
- Estimate guest count. Due to the distance and expense, a wedding in Hawaii will likely draw one-third to one-half of the guests than one held in your hometown.
- Create a proposed three-day schedule. While a smaller guest count theoretically cuts down on expenses, you’ll have to get to Hawaii, spend three or four nights and pick up the costs for more than just the ceremony and reception. Couples typically host a welcome dinner (or luau) and a post-wedding-day brunch for all guests, not to mention a rehearsal dinner, the welcome amenity (such as an in-room gift bag of local products) and a sightseeing outing.
Tip #3. If You Can Afford It, Hire a Wedding Planner
Planning a wedding thousands of miles from home is a challenge, so any large-scale reception (say for 75 guests or more) could probably use some expertise.
- Start with your resort. Most Hawaiian resorts have a wedding team on staff who’ll work with you via email and phone – although how much they can diverge from the property’s wedding packages varies by the resort; many will gladly customize while, depending on the wedding size, others may be more restrictive.
- Personalize. If you’re not feeling the love after the initial resort contact, hire an outside wedding planner to give you the customized wedding you desire, perhaps even at a location, you may not have known about. Hawaii has a number of experienced planners, while many planners based in California (and even Chicago, New York, and other cities) regularly work in Hawaii.
Tip #4. Consider Your Guests
If you want a good turnout, do the following:
- Pick a date at least a year in advance. Then, send out Hawaii-themed “Save the Date” cards to alert potential guests to the long-distance festivities and give them time to schedule vacation and save for the trip.
- Set up a wedding website. This should detail the date, venue, and planned itinerary as well as tips and links for booking flights, hotel rooms, and rental cars. Include the URL on your “Save-the-Date” card.
- Be a savvy traveler. Monitor airfares and alert your guests via email if they drop. If you book 10 rooms or more at your resort, you’ll get a group rate for your guests.
- Offer options. If your resort’s rates are on the high side, also provide more affordable lodging options nearby.
Tip #5. Make Your Priorities Known
Is a killer sunset during your vows a must? Will a little rain ruin your wedding parade? If you have any “must-haves” or “oh no’s” make them known from the start. A few general FYIs:
- Onlooker alert. Hawaiian beaches are public, so you are apt to have crashers (often in bathing suits) gawking at your ceremony. Many brides don’t mind the attention, but if you want a less-public ceremony, choose a setback gazebo, garden or terrace for your “I do’s.”
- Mind the weather. It rains in Hawaii. Some months (such as December through March) are rainier than others, as are some sides of islands (generally the windward side). Most rain occurs at night, but showers have been known to dampen sunset weddings. Have an indoor back-up just in case.
- Check the sunset. Not all beaches face west. If a full-on sunset ceremony is your dream, ask where it sets in relation to the beach or terrace where you’ll wed.
Tip #6. Stay True to the Locale
You’re getting married in paradise, so why would you want to ship in hundreds of pink roses when the local flora is so fabulous?
- Think tropical. Orchids, frangipani, hibiscus, heliconia, ginger, and birds of paradise all make gorgeous bouquets and centerpieces, not to mention leis and floral crowns.
- Incorporate Hawaiian instruments. The ukulele and slack-key guitar are guaranteed to bring smiles to your guests’ faces. Even if your wedding song is a rock classic, have a local band interpret it and watch the fun begin.
Tip #7. If You’ve Never Been to Hawaii – Pay a Visit
Don’t make your once-in-a-lifetime wedding your first visit.
- Treat yourself to a scouting trip. Before you book a venue, see it in person. Online photos may look amazing, but the real beach or ballroom may not live up.
- • Comparison shop. By visiting several resorts/venues, you can compare the pros and cons and rest assured that your Hawaiian beach wedding will be every bit as wonderful as you dreamed it would be.
Beach Wedding Wear for Hawaii – How to Dress for a Beach Wedding
Destination beach wedding dresses are a bit different from wedding dresses worn at hometown events. Typically beach wedding wear for Hawaii has a smaller silhouette, are packable (or at least can be easily revived once you reach your location), and are fabricated from lighter materials. These are some of the prettiest beach wedding dresses around, and all of them can be ordered directly online.
Sarong-Style Beach Wedding Dress
I’m pretty sure I saw “Sex in the City’s” Sarah Jessica Parker wear a dress similar to this; the big flower on the shoulder is definitely a Carrie Bradshaw tip-off. Short, bold, and sexy, with a slit up the front and ruching across the body, this is one of those tropical beach wedding dresses that ensures no one’s eyes will leave the bride.
Strapless Beach Wedding Wear
The sweetheart neckline on this beach wedding wear tops an elegant gown. Strapless and sewn of woven silk georgette, it’s one of those destination beach wedding dresses designed so the bride won’t break a sweat even in the warmest climes.
Short Maternity Beach Wedding Wear
Although it’s not billed as a maternity dress, this short, cape-style number can conceal or minimize a baby bump if you so desire.
More Beach Wedding Dresses
If none of the dresses described above is exactly what you’re looking for to wear to a beach wedding in Hawaii, check out tips on how to dress for a beach wedding at Islanderweddings.com. It will take you to “How to dress for a destination wedding in Hawaii” to see some great tips for destination wedding dresses.
Hawaii Wedding Planner Tips
Should you use a Hawaii wedding planner?
Unless you are familiar with what Maui has to offer, a full-service wedding planner is highly recommended. Besides making all the arrangements for you (something to consider if you’re trying to make phone calls from a different time zone and racking up huge long-distance phone charges to Hawaii in the process), the coordinator will be able to keep an eye on costs.
How do you choose?
It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of wedding companies in Hawaii. How do you choose? To be honest, the final choice will probably come down to pure, gut instinct. Below are a few tips for finding the best Hawaii wedding planner for your event.
Choose 2-3 wedding companies to contact:
Visit the web sites of a few of the planners to get an idea of their services and prices.
Questions to ask:
- Ask the prospective wedding planner if you can contact previous brides to check their references (email is the least intrusive). Try to get references from couples that received roughly the same wedding services you are considering. For example, if you are considering a Hawaiian wedding package on the beach, ask for the email addresses of other wedding couples who booked this same package… even better, the same beach!
- If you are planning an outdoor wedding, inquire about the possible added cost of a backup location in case of rain. A backup location is not included in the price of a typical beach wedding package.
- Ask who the Officiant will be and whether you can receive some ceremony samples.
- Ask the coordinator you are speaking with whether they personally will be present at your wedding. Sometimes there is an added cost for this, and other times it is not possible due to scheduling, and they will have a colleague attend in their place. You should know this in advance and have the opportunity to meet and/or speak with the colleague before your wedding.
- Ask who they use/recommend for photography, floral design, etc. Many companies providing Hawaii wedding services are online now, and you can view samples of their work.
Your choice of Hawaii wedding planners will ultimately come down to the personal relationship between you and your prospective planner. Some brides-to-be even fly out to Hawaii to interview potential candidates. For most, this is a cost-prohibitive option, so be sure you use your phone time constructively and follow your instincts.