Whether you’re dreaming of a lavish wedding surrounded by all your loved ones or an intimate elopement, there’s no better “I do” destination than Hawaii. Think white sand beaches, natural waterfalls, and towering mountains—the ultimate tropical oasis. And if this sounds like your ideal destination, it’s time to kickstart your Hawaii wedding planning. But where do you even start?
To make your wedding planning easy and stress-free, here’s a step by step guide to planning a wedding in Hawaii.
There are so many reasons why couples choose to tie the knot in Hawaii. The warm weather, beautiful scenery, and the six island choices. You heard that right, six! Each with something different to offer. You can choose between Oahu, Big Island, Maui, Kauai, Lanai, or Molokai. And with so many choices it can be hard to narrow it down to just one. But no matter which you go with, I guarantee there’s no “bad” choice.
Being one of the most populated and accessible islands, it’s no wonder why so many couples choose to say “I do” on the The Heart of Hawaii (aka Oahu). There’s no shortage of incredible beaches, waterfalls, and adventurous post-wedding activities. Plus it caters to couples that want both city and nature vibes on their big day. Just picture a sunset ceremony overlooking Downtown Honolulu or an adventurous Oahu elopement at an epic waterfall.
The Big Island is just that, the biggest Hawaiian island. And because of its size, it offers couples the most diverse round-up of wedding destinations. Want to tie the knot on a balck sand beach? You can on the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. Dreaming of couple portraits in front of an active volcano? Volcano National Park makes it possible. It’s perfect for wedding planning couples that want to go off-the-beaten-path for a truly unique celebration.
The second largest island, Maui, is known for its golden beaches, rich history, and jaw-dropping sunrises—hello golden hour portraits! It’s a dreamy location for unique couples looking to ditch tradition, in exchange for a wedding packed with adventure. Picture sunrise vows over the clouds atop Haleakala Volcano. How about a romantic, post-wedding whale waching excursion? This more secluded island is the complete wedding getaway package.
Kauai has been named the greenest of the Hawaiian islands. But, with lush greenery, towering cliffs, white sand beaches, and colorful canyons it might just earn “the most scenic island” award too. I’ll let you be the judge. You can plan a sunrise Kauai elopement on Shipwreck Beach. Or ditch the beach all together for a celebration at the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” (aka Waimea Canyon State Park). The possibilities are endless!
Lanai is the hidden gem of Hawaii. This smaller, secluded island gives couples the private island experience without having to sacrafice luxurious and adventurous amenities. Being the least populated, it draws in casual and laid-back couples looking to celebrate like locals.
Campared to the busier islands, Molokai is quite remote. Being one of the least visited island it’s known for its natural, untouched beauty. Picture long white sand beaches, tall seaside cliffs, and lush rainforest-like greenery. It’s an eloping couples dream location, but does require more preparation. Keep in mind this island isn’t designed for tourists which makes it difficult to hunt down accommodations.
Your budget, guest list, and ideal wedding date and season are important details to finalize first. These big decisions will be the foundation of your wedding planning process. They will come into play moving forward, especially when finding a venue, hiring vendors, and sorting out your catering options.
After finalizing your wedding date, budget, and guest list, you’re ready to build your dream team of vendors. And these aren’t decisions that should be taken lightly—especially your photographer. The only thing you should have to worry about on your big day is soaking up those sweet, soon-to-be memories with the people that matter most. And having a team of trusted wedding vendors by your side is the only way to do just that.
If you’re choosing to elope in Hawaii or have an intimate ceremony, odds are your vendor list will be quite small. Typically a photographer, officiant, and possibly a hair and makeup artist are the only vendors you’ll need to worry about. This means you can invest more of your budget towards experiences that matter most to you and your significant other.
There are a variety of venue options all throughout Hawaii. Pick a sandy beachfront venue, a mountain top “I do” destination, or even a modern, indoor space. Each island has something fit for every budget, guest count, and desired wedding theme. For couples in need of Hawaiian wedding venue ideas check out my best venues on Oahu, & here are a few of my personal favorites:
3. Sunset Ranch
For unconventional couples choosing to elope, you can cross “book a venue” off your to-do list. But, you still have to worry about picking an intimate ceremony destination and doing the research on necessary permits.
Now it’s time to sort out the not-so-fun details, permits. If you are booking a venue, you will not need to obtain a permit. If you are having a more informal, intimate ceremony outside, it’s safe to assume that anywhere that isn’t a private venue will most likely require one. Think public beaches, hikes, national parks—really anywhere outdoors. For more information, you can find the official website here.
When planning your dream wedding, it can be easy to forget about applying for your marriage license. But lucky for those tying the knot in Hawaii, the process is straightforward. All you need to do it fill out the online application, pay the license fee ($60 application fee + $5 portal fee). Set an appointment to meet with an agent once you are on island, ideally at the beginning of your trip. There you will pick up your marriage certificate that is valid for 30 days. Make sure both partners are present with valid IDs! Once the license is issued, you’ll have 30 days to tie the knot before the license is voided. Find the official website here.
It’s officially happening! The venue is booked, you’ve hired your dream photographer, and all that’s left to do is to sort out your travel and accommodations. Keep in mind the summer and winter months are typically the most expensive. Plus, hotels and Airbnb rentals book up quick, so make sure your booking well in advanced to save money and secure an epic spot to stay.
Not all weddings look the same. And if you’re ready to ditch the large traditional celebration, an adventurous elopement is calling your name. But where do you even begin? Kickstart your planning process by checking out the ultimate guide to planning an elopement in Hawaii.
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I’m Masha, a wedding, elopement and couples photographer based in sunny Hawaii, & often found serving couples worldwide.
If you're looking for a meaningful, cinematic and editorial approach to photography-something effortless but still iconic, you're in the right place. I am so excited to hear more about your story and create and collaborate with you.
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