There are a lot of things to love about Hawaii – gorgeous beaches, perfect weather and friendly people. Plus, who can fault a location where it’s not only possible to have a drink served in a coconut – it’s encouraged! So it’s no wonder so many people pick the islands to say “I do.”
When we got married, Hawaii was the obvious choice. Not only was it where we met, but it’s almost an exact halfway point for our families. Plus, we love to travel, so a destination wedding was almost a given! Planning a wedding 5,000 miles away wasn’t easy and required a lot of organization, but it was so worth it.
I have so much to say, so I’ll be breaking up my Hawaii wedding tips into a few posts. If you have any specific questions, we are more than happy to help on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picking an island
A lot of people will tell you the first step to picking a venue should be to pick an island, and if you have a clear vision for what you want your wedding to look like, that’s great advice. (Though you know how we feel about unsolicited advice!)
For us, we were open to any of the four major islands (Maui, Oahu, Hawai’i and Kauai) and just wanted to have a wonderful time with our loved ones – in a beautiful spot.
After months of perusing Pinterest, only to find that locations were too remote, expensive or otherwise impractical, we sat down to make two lists: one of our non-negotiables, and another with our wish list. And if you’re planning a wedding, I would urge you to do the same thing!
Some of the key items from our list – Non-negotiable items
- A hotel venue with on-site catering. We were all about reducing stress and having a great time. While I had a look at some amazing boutique venues, the transportation element was just too impractical! Similarly, we felt using an on-site caterer would minimize stress on the day and help avoid any catering disasters!
- A family-friendly venue. If you’re at a boring dinner party and want to spark a lively debate, just bring up the topic of kids attending weddings! Being a destination wedding, we really wanted our friends with families to feel welcome, so we wanted a hotel that singles, couples and families would all enjoy.
- On-site or nearby shops and restaurants. Between some of our Aussie guests feeling uncomfortable driving in the US, and the majority of our guests indulging in a few adult beverages, it was important to make sure there were restaurants and shops for every budget nearby or on-site.
- Budget-friendly accommodation options. Most of the venues we looked at were reasonable by Hawaii standards (i.e. $200 a night for a 4-star hotel), but between the conversion rate and flights, it was an expensive trip for everyone, so we wanted to make sure there were other options. Condos and house rentals are typically the most budget-friendly option in Hawaii (especially for groups) so we picked a venue that had a few other options nearby.
- Non-committal group discounts. This was one we didn’t actually add until we started talking to venues. It’s pretty easy to secure a room discount for your guests, but some hotels have a minimum number of rooms and require you to pay the difference if those rooms are unfilled. Unfortunately, with destination weddings, things can change – and people often drop out when the time comes to book, so we didn’t want that stress.
- A venue that allows late-night functions. When we started making wedding inquiries, a lot of venues required everything to be wrapped up by 10pm due to local noise ordinances. For a bunch of 20- and 30-somethings on vacation, that was a big no! My understanding is the ordinance varies by county, but while it’s only applicable to outdoor venues, some venues enforce it anyway.
Beyond our non-negotiables, we also had a wish list of things that were a bit more flexible
- A major hotel chain. If you know us, you know we are all about points and loyalty programs, so we looked at a lot of major hotel chains (in addition to boutique locations). We figured if we were going to be spending upwards of $25,000 on a wedding, we may as well get some points or status out of it!
- A baker that would make a donut cake. To be fair, this is the only wish list item we weren’t able to achieve, but it was mildly devastating.
- An on-site luau. A lot of hotels in Hawaii do luaus a few times a week and, with everyone traveling so far, we thought it would be nice to treat our friends and family to an evening of cocktails and hula dancing. Bonus points for luaus with an open bar.
- A grassy venue to say ‘I do.’ Even though it was in Hawaii, our wedding was a fairly formal sunset affair. While beach weddings are gorgeous, we didn’t want everyone feeling like they had to kick off their shoes and clean sand out of their toes to attend.
One we had an idea of what we did and didn’t want, it made it a lot easier to narrow down our choices. Rather than go through a planner, we started with www.trivago.com – which allowed us to narrow down by room price, location and hotel chain. From there, we ended up with a handful of venues to research further and contact.
In the end, we decided on the Hilton Waikoloa Village and were so happy with our decision (as a bonus, we got plenty of Hilton Honors points for future adventures!) Beyond being gorgeous, the venue ticked off ALMOST every item on our wish list. (To be fair, I didn’t push the donut cake too much, so perhaps I could have won that battle if I’d tried harder).
There is so much to write about planning a wedding, so keep checking back for our top runner ups, a review of the venue and our experience and our tips for picking a honeymoon spot.
In the meantime, if you have questions about planning a destination wedding, please email us on email@example.com!