The Complete Guide to Getting Married in Hawaii
An authentic Hawaiian wedding experience is a combination of six components: You'll want a stunning ceremony location, an officiant who can speak in Hawaiian for your blessing, fresh tropical leis to exchange at the ceremony, florals for your table, Hawaiian music, and dance for the reception, aloha wedding attire, and Hawaii-inspired libations and menu.
But how can you make all of this possible for your Hawaiian wedding day? You've come to the right place. Our complete guide to getting married in Hawaii will walk you and your love down the aisle stress-free and with all the Hawaiian authenticity and natural beauty you seek, complete with advice and inspiration from the local Hawaii wedding experts.
From the best season to get married to the best food to serve, here is everything you need to know to plan an unforgettable Hawaiian wedding.
Hawaii Wedding Cost
Per Julie Aragaki, owner of The Best Hawaii Wedding, Hawaii's marriage licensing statistics claimed 21,000 weddings were held on the islands in 2019, with an average wedding spend of $38,000. This figure, however, does not include airfare, wedding attire, hair and make-up, rings, guest experiences, or accommodations.
â€śCost, of course, depends on the circumstances, location, and so many variables,â€ť adds Carolee Higashino, president and founder of White Orchid Wedding. "But here is a general overview based on my experience: Elopements, including beach ceremony, musician, photos, flowers, on-site coordinator, and dinner (for two), start at $2,500. For 50 guests, $45,000 and up for a ceremony and reception including venue, flowers, musician, photos, video, rentals, catering, lighting, sound, dance floor, etc. For 100 guests, figure $75,000 and up.â€ť
When to Get Married in Hawaii
â€śWe design weddings 365 days a year with the largest request for weddings from May to September," says Stuart Y. Kotake, associate Director of Catering & Event Management for Marriott Waikiki Complex. "Because of the beautiful weather and the tendency for Waikiki to be drier than the mountains and valleys, weâ€™re a great location year-round. But to be on the safe side, we always have a backup space on hold."
You can be married all year on the sunny side of each of the larger islands. On Oahu thatâ€™s Waikiki and Ko Olina, Mauiâ€™s Kaanapali to Wailea shores, Poipu to Waimea on Kauai, and Hawaii Islandâ€™s Kona coast to Kohala.
How to Get Married in Hawaii
To be legally married in Hawaii, you'll need to apply for a marriage license and your officiant will have to register with the State of Hawaii, both of which come with fees. Hiring a local officiant is easier and more authentic than bringing your own. For info on applying for a marriage license and registration for a "marriage performer," visit Hawaii State Department of Health.
Hawaii's beaches are open to the public, so many people are under the impression that you can show up on a beach with your entourage, plant your wedding arch, park your chairs, decorate, and have your ceremony with 100 guestsâ€”but that's not the case. Aragaki explains, â€śBeaches have many restrictions. No chairs, arches, or amplified music. And don't forget that you need to get a permit. Many beaches will be busy, so don't expect privacy. If you are looking for something private, consider an estate rental, chapel, or hotel venue."
Your ceremony on the public beach or other public lands will require a "Wiki Permit" for commercial activity. The permit allows your photographer to take your pictures and your officiant to perform your ceremony on the beach legally. Check the Department of Land and Natural Resources for their list of ceremony beaches.
Many officiants and photographers will obtain your Wiki Permit for you as part of their fee. Ask them when you book.
With so many ceremony and reception venues to choose from, your only consideration is fulfilling your unique vision and how many guests youâ€™ll have. Suites, chapels, and beachfront venues are perfect for elopements, vow renewals, and small weddings. Depending on specific protocols at the time of your wedding, most hotels will be able to provide larger spaces to accommodate more guests.
Beachside weddings in Hawaii require a casual elegance. Choose easy, light fabrics. A white shirt or designer aloha shirt from island designers Manuhealii, Manaola, or Sig Zane is incomparable. Brides should select a simple yet elegant flowing dress and accessorize with a floral head lei. If you have not purchased your gown at home, try Casablanca Bridal in Honolulu or Ellys Formal Wear on Maui.
In Hawaii, food is regarded as an important part of any Hawaiian wedding. Hawaiian-inspired regional cuisine will bring the bounty and spirit of the islands to your celebration. â€śHawaiian weddings for us represent the whole experience. Rather than traditional luau food, we offer Hawaiian regional cuisine using mostly local ingredients and the unique fusion of our people and culture. Itâ€™s a combination of Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, and Filipino [flavors] using classic French cooking style,â€ť notes Chef Chai Chaowasaree, owner of Chef Chai. â€śFood may be a big part of Hawaiian culture, but Hawaiian hospitality is like no other.â€ť
Kotake adds, â€śI always mention local traditions and inspiration [to engaged couples]. One particular wedding focused on a signature item from each island for appetizers (pupus), plated dinner, dessert, and wedding cake. Items ranged from Kauai Shrimp, Kona Lobster, Niihau Clams, Kahuku Corn, Waimanalo Radish, Kula Strawberries, and Maui Lavender. The menu was a highlight of the best from land and sea."
The cocktail and pupu hour is another opportunity for Hawaiian inspiration when fresh tropical juices and liquors are combined to make island libations. â€śMy favorite is KoHana Pineapple and Coconut Rum Punch. Perfect with Ahi Poke our sashimi-grade Yellow Fin Tuna, with Maui Onions, Kukui Nut oil, shoyu, green onions, and fresh Limu a local seaweed. We also do a vegan version with tofu. As we say in Hawaii, 'broke da mouth,'' Kotake shares.
One of the best things about a wedding in Hawaii is the opportunity to share the culture and natural beauty with your guests at planned activities. Bring your guests to the sea with a sunset catamaran ride along the coast of Oahu or tour a cacao farm (including a chocolate tasting!) on Maui.
Luau-style welcome dinners or receptions are also popular on the islands. You can even learn how to make an authentic floral head lei with your wedding party or guests. The Hawaiian Agricole rum tasting and tour at KoHana Rum Distillers is a fascinating look into native Hawaiian sugarcane growing 800 years before the plantations. Explore the process and taste small-batch bottlings from heirloom varieties. Or taste flights of wine blended with tropical fruits like yellow guava and the exotic jaboticaba berry at Volcano Winery.
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Editor's Note: While we recognize the proper use of the Hawaiian language, we have omitted the unique punctuation marks for this online version for readability by those unfamiliar with the written language.