Planning your destination wedding from the mainland isn't as difficult as you might think. Often it's as easy as making a few calls and sending a few emails. Many resorts now include the services of an experienced and knowledgeable wedding coordinator, and there are many more available for hire throughout the islands. If you want to go at it alone without the help of a coordinator, be prepared for extensive research, preliminary trips (hey, there are worse things!), and perhaps some timing snafus.
Q. How do we know which island to choose?
A. While it's true that each of the six main Hawaiian islands offers breathtaking scenery and near-perfect weather, each island also has its own individual character, one often very distinct from the next. Oahu, known for its lively party scene, is ideal for couples that like the nightlife. Adventure aficionados, on the other hand, may want to consider Kauai, and seclusion seekers love Lanai. Explore what each island has to offer and you're sure to find the perfect match.
Q. Who do we invite?
A. For obvious reasons, the guest lists for destination weddings are typically substantially smaller than those for weddings close to home. Who do you absolutely want to attend? Lots of couples invite just family and a smattering of close friends -- and then throw a big reception for everyone else when they return. But others feel it's essential to invite everyone they normally would, leaving no one out. If you're considering a sizable guest list, send out invitations three months in advance, as opposed to the standard eight weeks. Be prepared for a few surprise acceptances -- some of your friends or coworkers might be just dying for an excuse to party in paradise. On the other hand, don't be upset if some of your closest friends or relatives aren't able to attend. Expenses for travel, hotel, and incidentals can really add up, especially for a family on a budget. And while your wedding is hopefully a minivacation for you and your guests, Hawaii might not be everyone's #1 choice -- although we can't imagine why!
Q. Is it a lot more expensive to have a destination wedding than to have one at home?
A. Not necessarily...in fact, it can end up saving you money in the long run. Think about it: You're inviting fewer people, presumably just family and close friends. And obviously, you'll spend a lot less money if you get married in the off-season (September to mid-December -- don't worry, Hawaii's weather's still just as gorgeous this time of year). Plus, and this is a big one, the honeymoon is often included in your wedding package. This, on top of the fact that wedding consultants make it so easy, is why destination weddings are becoming more and more common among budget-conscious and time-constrained brides and grooms.
Q. Are we responsible for our guests' expenses and activities?
A. Most couples that go the destination-wedding route do not have the means to pay all of their guests' ways but if you do, it's a wonderful gesture and of course they will appreciate it. Most of the time, though, guests expect to foot the bill for their own airfare and hotel accommodations. That said, they are committing themselves more financially and time-wise than they would for a wedding closer to home -- they're probably treating this as a vacation. This is one type of wedding you will need to plan further in advance if you're inviting lots of guests, and save-the-date cards are crucial (for more save-the-date info, click here). It's also a nice gesture to place a gift basket in each room before everyone arrives. This can include essentials for the trip (sunscreen, flip-flops...) and goodies that will remind them of the setting -- a fresh orchid lei or delicious local fruit, for example. Most importantly, act as their hosts and see that they are kept entertained. Many of Hawaii's fine resorts are great resources for this, and will help you plan itineraries for your guests. Encourage your guests to participate, but don't be demanding. Realize that their idea of a good time might just be hanging out at the resort by the pool and relaxing.
Q. After the wedding, we want to enjoy our honeymoon by ourselves. What do we tell our guests?
A. Most guests look at a destination wedding -- especially one in Hawaii -- as the kind of vacation they take once a year, or less often even. Expect that they will want to extend their stay beyond your wedding weekend, perhaps for a week or more. This is why you should think carefully about whom you invite -- make sure these are people you'll want to spend time with. We can tell you right now that after flying far distances and taking time off work to celebrate your special moment, they will not want to be told to get lost. Fortunately, they will likely be mindful of the fact that this is your honeymoon too and allow you all the alone time you desire.
Q. When is the best time, weatherwise, to get married in Hawaii?
A. Any time! The weather is unbelievably gorgeous in the islands year-round. We're talking daytime temps in the 70s and 80s (nighttime temps are usually about 10 degrees cooler). Just find a time that everyone can agree on. Check with guests far in advance to see when they can make it -- be aware that you probably won't be able to accommodate everyone's schedule, but that's the case with any wedding.
Q. We want to incorporate a little Hawaiian culture without having a theme wedding. Any ideas?
A. One of the most alluring aspects of a wedding in the islands is the number of ways to infuse your celebration with local flavor. In a Hawaiian ceremony, the ancient gods are summoned with the blowing of a conch shell. Traditionally, the bride wears a holoku (formal wedding gown) and the groom can wear a white shirt and pants with a brightly colored sash. Many weddings here culminate in the exchange of leis, the flower garlands that symbolize love and respect. For the reception meal, couples often choose a luau, a Hawaiian feast complete with cultural music and dancing. Work with your wedding consultant to include the intriguing and inspiring Hawaiian customs in your special day.
Q. If we want a more classic, modern style rather than a tropical-theme wedding, are there other options for us?
A. Many couples choose Hawaii for a destination wedding to take advantage of the beautiful beaches and other lush surroundings. But that doesn't mean it can't be modern. You can have a very sophisticated, classic wedding in Hawaii complete with a traditional wedding chapel. Plus, many resorts offer banquet facilities that resemble what you'd find closer to home.
For more information on Hawaii and to search for the perfect resort for your destination wedding, be sure to visit our Honeymoon channel at TheKnot.com/honeymoons.
Niche Knot: Destination Weddings
Hawaii, Asia + Pacific