There's much to do when you're planning a wedding in Hawaii. But as with any destination wedding, a special wrinkle is that you'll need to take care of many details from far away. And perhaps you've never been to Hawaii before. All this can pile some frustration onto your planning, but in the end, there are few places in the world that can compare to the Garden Isle of Kauai, Magic Island off Waikiki, or Oahu's Paradise Cove, just to name a few of Hawaii's many jewels.
Here's a quick checklist of things to do and remember when planning a wedding in Hawaii:
1) First, find a location. This is the fun part. Pour over coffee table travel books at the bookstore -- try the "From the Skies of Paradise" series, for example. Eventually you'll settle on an island.
2) Next, you have a second decision to make: should you go with a resort, a wedding planner, or do it all yourself? For most brides, the best bet is to choose a resort package, or book a local wedding planner that specializes in destination weddings.
An on-site planner should help you pull together every aspect of your wedding. They'll recommend vendors, let you know whether that hotel really looks as beautiful as it does in the brochure, and help you work out murky but important details, such as how to seat your guests at the beach, or how transport your guests from the hotel to the ceremony site. An experienced local planner can make a huge difference, but you'll want to research her carefully before choosing one. The last thing you want is to hire someone who "goes dark" on you.
It's impossible to tell from a web site or a photo whether a planner is responsive and professional. The best way to find a great one is to visit destination wedding boards and ask newlyweds for their recommendations.
3) Next, you'll want to consider your budget. Can you pay for close family and friends to attend your destination wedding, or will they need to pay their own way? If the budget's tight, one option is to have a very small wedding on the island and throw a larger reception later, at home.
You'll also need to look at the other aspects of the budget, and consider the fundamental costs of things like ceremony locale, reception locale, lodging, catering, your cake and flowers, and any other services involved in your wedding. For very constrained budgets, a small resort package might be both cheapest and most stress-free choice. If you have more wiggle room, a good wedding planner will help you make the most of your money.
4) Another important item on your checklist is the marriage license. Fortunately, Hawaii makes this easy. You'll only need to arrive a few days in advance, and the only major requirement is that both the bride and groom appear in person. Hawaii doesn't have a waiting period or require a blood test, but you'll need enough time to apply in person on a weekday before the wedding.
5) You'll also need to research lodging and airfare for your entire party. That means you'll need to manage a pleasant location that offers a fair price for not only for the bridal couple, but for guests as well. Be sure that your planner or other former brides give the thumbs-up to your lodging before you book it.
Airline tickets are another major cost, especially if you're footing the bill for friends and family. You can buy tickets up to 11 months in advance, and the sooner you buy them, the cheaper they are. With airfare on this scale, try to take advantage of other money-saving tactics such as flying in on a weekday and staying over on a Saturday night.
6) Finally, don't forget that the whole charm of a destination wedding lies in not having to obsess over details. Be sure to research a great wedding planner, but after that, be willing to roll with the punches and take what comes. With a destination wedding, you can often actually relax enough to enjoy and remember your day, which isn't always true with more elaborate productions.
From choosing your favorite Hawaiian island to picking out foot jewelry or beach-style invitations, there's plenty to do when it comes to planning a wedding in Hawaii. While a destination wedding is much like any other, they tend to feel more complex simply because of the huge distance involved. The good news is that you can easily get it all done, especially when you choose a resort package, or hire an experienced local wedding planner who can be your eyes and ears and guide you through the requirements and on-site issues.