With visions of sunset vows and fragrant orchid leis dancing in your head, you have a few practical decisions to make. Yes, Hawaii is very far away -- from everywhere. (That's six hours from Los Angeles, 11 hours from Houston, and 10 long hours from New York.) But the good news is that planning a Hawaiian destination wedding is probably easier than you think, thanks to those wedding pros and a wonderfully laid-back, no-worries attitude.
First of all, you can't go wrong. Choosing one of these islands for your wedding is like choosing one gem from a jeweler -- all of them are treasures. If you haven't chosen one particular favorite yet, well, research can be half the fun.
Oahu, is, by most standards, the liveliest of the six main islands of Hawaii, and not merely because that is where the most people live. This is the retro-Hawaii culture of Diamond Head and of that big, pink architectural dream we call the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. It is the home of Honolulu, the state's biggest city, and of Waikiki Beach, home of the islands' biggest entertainment district. If you are expecting lots of people to be traveling from the mainland, Oahu is convenient: it's got the biggest airport and direct flights from the mainland are readily available.
The island of Hawaii is called "The Big Island," in order to avoid confusion. It is, of course, the largest in the chain and as such it offers an incredibly diverse topography. In fact, 11 of the world's 13 climatic zones can be found on the island. (Yes, there is snow. It's on top of the mountains.) If you're into the lava thing (and why wouldn't you be) you can check out live ooze at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home of the active Kilauea Volcano.
Maui lives fondly in the memories of many travelers as the most romantic Hawaiian island. The island is home to several of the state's most luxurious resort hotels, as well as beaches that are considered to be among the best in the world. Active visitors will want to head for the west coast, known fondly as the "Golf Coast" to those in the know. Finally, the amazing Hana Highway is a jaw-dropping drive along a road that hugs cliffs, overlooks beaches and lush jungle, and contains over 600 twisty bends to make driving fun.
Although almost everyone includes a lei exchange in their wedding ceremonies in Hawaii, you can add other touches, like Hawaiian musicians and Hawaiian foods
Kauai, or "The Garden Isle" as it is known, is the lush, tropical backdrop you have probably gawked at in movies from Jurassic Park to Six Days Seven Nights. This island moves at a slower pace than Oahu or the Big Island, and most of the activity is outdoorsy and energetic. Mt. Waialeale is the wettest spot on earth (an average of 400 inches a year!), but fear not: the rest of the island is temperate and the south coast is perpetually sunny.
If it's good enough for Bill Gates' wedding, it might be good for yours. Yes, Lanai is where the world's richest man tied the knot. This small, exclusive, little island is known (have you noticed yet that the islands all seem to have nicknames?) as "The Pineapple Island," because it is the home of Dole Pineapple. This is the best choice for couples who really want to just lounge in luxe surroundings -- or for couples who want to ditch their paparazzi.
Molokai, naturally, has a little nickname, too. It's the "Friendly Island," and many locals will explain that it is the "most Hawaiian" of the islands, very much untouched by big hotels and things like golf courses, for example. The mood is mellow, and excitement comes from exploring the beaches and taking part in some of the offbeat tours of the many cultural and ecological sights by horse-drawn wagon, on mules, on foot, or in cars.
When to Go?
It sounds too good to be true, but again, you just can't go wrong. The islands of Hawaii are distinguished for their very consistent weather patterns, thanks very much to the temperate Pacific that regulates the air masses traveling thousands of miles over it to reach the islands. Temperatures year-round are in the 70s and 80s during the day. Summer, from May through October, is warmer and drier than the winter, which runs November through April. The bulk of visitors travel to Hawaii during those winter months, and don't even realize they are in the so-called "wet" season. This is partially due to the fact that if it is raining on your parade, it is likely to be a short shower followed by one of those legendary Hawaiian rainbows.
Still concerned about rain on your party? Hedge your bets by setting your wedding on the southwestern part of whichever island you choose: the trade winds blow in from the northeast, and their cool, moist air flows up the mountains where it turns to rain. So, most of the rain falls in the mountains and on the northeastern sides of the islands.
Hawaii has an amazing range of climatic aberrations, including deserts, rainforests, and snow-capped mountains. Tiny Kauai, for example, is home to the wettest spot on earth but also to dry, arid regions and sunny beaches.