Peruse all of our destination wedding planning secrets below. Tailored to fit your unique nuptials on these treasured Pacific islands, you’ll find everything from venue tips and tricks to culinary cues and legal to-dos.
Without further ado, here’s your essential guide containing everything you need to know to wow (or shall we say luau?) your guests and bring your wedding vision to life.
The alluring archipelago of Hawaii comprises six islands. That means you’ll have six unique places in which to plan a dreamy, bohemian wedding and six equally beautiful ways of complicating your decision. The good news, of course, is that you can’t really go wrong with any of them. Read on to discover what makes each island unique and to find out more about which one may be most suited to your style.
What do you get when you combine 50 shades of green and the oldest, northernmost island? Kauai. From kayaking to zip-lining, it’s brimming with adventure-filled activities for adrenaline seekers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Plus, it sets a magnificent backdrop for any wedding with miles of jagged, breathtaking cliffs, hidden waterfalls, and lush rainforests.
Oa-who wouldn’t love a seaside ceremony on this idyllic island? It masterfully blends modern city life with laid-back villages and welcomes surf-worthy waves on all sides. It’s also the most diverse island of the bunch, featuring a colorful fusion of Eastern and Western worlds, as well as the indigenous population that’s native to the island. Exchange vows at sunset on a Honolulu rooftop or along the shores of your favorite beach for an evening of unbridled magic.
Laid-back luxury is the name of the game on the island of Lanai. It boasts a number of white sand beaches, meandering trails that lead to hidden swimming holes, and even a few top-tier golf courses for your wedding guests to take advantage of on the morning of your wedding day. Just keep in mind that there are no direct flights from the continental U.S. to Lanai, so you’ll have to make a transfer from larger airports like those in Honolulu or Maui.
Maui is Hawaii’s second-largest island and one that gets a lot of attention and high praise from tourism magazines like Condé Nast Traveler. Couples getting married on this island will fall in love with its jaw-dropping beaches and the Haleakala National Park that’s home to the Haleakala Volcano, standing at an impressive 10,023 feet above sea level. Plus, it’s an island that’s easily accessible from the mainland, making it a stress-free travel choice for guests coming from all over the country.
If you and your partner are history buffs, Molokai is the island you’ll want to exchange vows on. A large percentage of its population is of Native Hawaiian descent and prefers to preserve as many of those traditions as possible. It may be one of the smallest islands, but it certainly is mighty. Make things official atop some of the highest sea cliffs in the world for a wedding ceremony that’s beyond-your-dreams beautiful.
Commonly referred to as Big Island, this is the largest locale of the bunch. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, but the Island of Hawaii has certainly earned its fair share of bragging rights. Here you’ll find the tallest volcano of all the islands, Mauna Kea. The volcano reaches 13,796 feet above sea level and extends even further below the ocean, making it the tallest mountain in the entire world. It’s easy to impress your guests with this kind of natural beauty—not to mention being able to claim it as a backdrop for your ceremony.
Once you’ve said “I do” to your island of choice, you’ll want to consider the style of the venue at which to celebrate your special day. However, before deciding on a locale, be sure to consider things like setup and cleanup services, all-inclusive packages, and guest capacity.
You can easily take advantage of Zola’s Vendor Search Tool to help you out in this regard. Select your destination, specify the type of vendor or wedding venue you’re looking for, and filter your search based on price, availability, capacity, and more.
From there, you can pick through the multitude of options to find one that matches your aesthetic and covers all of the logistical bases, too. Take some inspiration from the style types below and start filling out the corners of your mood board with unique ideas and thoughtful details.
Beachy and Bohemian: Ocean lovers, kick off your rhinestone-adorned flip-flops and take to the sea. No matter where you end up on the archipelago, you’ll be surrounded by secluded beaches and turquoise waters. Plus, you won’t need to overextend yourself in terms of decor for this venue, since the backdrop is beautiful enough all on its own. This is also an ideal venue for couples hoping for a small, intimate gathering with close family and friends.
Rustic Ranch: For those craving more of a rustic rendezvous, nestle yourself, your partner, and all of your guests in a cozy ranch overlooking the mountains and valleys that are effortlessly scattered across Hawaii’s islands. Exposed dark wood beams and dimly lit chandeliers will bring a touch of romance to a casual yet sophisticated barn event.
Seaside Farm: Find the perfect place to celebrate your love amongst the sweet-smelling mango and papaya orchards. It’s a casual yet sophisticated setting that gives you a first-hand glance at what foods are rooted in the islands’ fruitful agricultural scene. For eco-conscious couples, keep an eye out for sustainable venue choices that specialize in reducing plastic and hosting low-waste events.
If you want to honor the islands’ traditions, talk to your vendors about fusing a few local flavors into the dishes of the day. In addition to celebrating your love, you and your guests will be able to take a cultural tour of Hawaii. But be careful not to drool onto your task list—these top-tier dishes and sides are bound to tantalize your taste buds.
Poke: You may have tried poke on the mainland, but we’re confident enough to go out on a limb here and say that nothing will compare to what you’ll get in Hawaii. Commonly served with bite-sized cubes of tuna, onions, and seaweed salad, it doesn’t get much fresher or more mouthwatering than this. Serve mini poke bowls as appetizers during the cocktail hour, or add them as a menu option for dinner.
Saimin: Another appetizing selection for dinner is traditional Hawaiian saimin. It starts with dashi, a Japanese broth commonly found in miso soup, and develops into a full-flavored affair by adding egg noodles, kimchi, green onions, pork, and more. In fact, there are a number of ways to personalize this dish. Swap the dashi for coconut broth to build a delectable base for a vegan-friendly dinner option.
Taro Chips: Looking for a light snack to serve before dinner? Look no further than taro chips. Although it doesn’t lead the agricultural industry like it once did, this root vegetable has a subtly sweet flavor that thrives in Hawaii’s tropical, humid climate. Plus, it’s a nutrient-packed snack that’s likely to be a hit with everyone at your wedding—even the kids.
Laulau: Instead of using the taro root itself, this Hawaiian staple is made with its leaves. When prepared according to traditional methods, pork is wrapped within the taro leaves and placed in an underground oven with hot rocks or coals and left to cook slowly until tender. Stick to this recipe for your Hawaii beach wedding, or change it up by having it prepared with fish or chicken instead.
Assorted Fruit: Decorate your venue with a colorful fruit crudité featuring an assortment of fruits grown, perhaps, in the very backyard of your reception site. From passion fruit and pineapple to coconuts and mango, you’re sure to find fresh fruit available year-round in Hawaii. Serve a platter of fruit at cocktail hour or, if you really want to impress your guests, set up a fruit-filled dessert station complete with a chocolate fountain.
On the day of your nuptials, wedding guests will likely be kept busy dancing, dining, and drying their tears during the ceremony. However, in the days surrounding the event, you can provide your attendees with a list of a few fun activities to fill up their trip itineraries so that they can experience all that the islands have to offer.
Post your suggestions somewhere everyone has access to—like a wedding website. Customize yours with Zola by adding the story of how you met, all of your most adorable photos, event details, and of course, these must-do activities in Hawaii:
Book a Snorkeling Tour: There’s just as much, if not more, to explore under the sea as there is on land in Hawaii. Encourage your animal-loving guests to book a snorkeling session with a local tour company. They’ll be able to swim alongside everything from dolphins and manta rays to sea turtles and sharks.
Visit a Black Sand Beach: Hawaii is known for breathtaking landscapes decorated with fiery hot volcanoes. Because of this, you’ll find black sand beaches that get their unique color from eroded volcanic matter. This isn’t something you’ll be able to find just anywhere on the map, so be sure your guests carve out some time in their schedules for this one-of-a-kind beach experience.
Chase Waterfalls: Sorry, TLC, but where’s the fun in sticking to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to? When you’re in Hawaii, go chase all the waterfalls. Hopefully, you and your partner can find some time before or after your wedding ceremony or vow renewal to check them out for yourselves, but you’ll definitely want to include this as a recommended activity for your guests.
Visit a Coffee Farm: That first sip of coffee is certainly divine, but learning about how it got from a plot of land to your mug might be even cooler. If you’re hosting your wedding event on the Big Island, don’t miss out on exploring the Kona region, which is a prime agricultural setting for coffee plants. Another idea: Include small bags of locally-harvested beans as a wedding favor for guests.
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Consult with the wedding experts at Zola about everything from invitation wording to building your registry. And for all other questions, direct your attention below.
When applying for your marriage license in Hawaii, you need to bring all of the necessary documents along with you to your appointment. For starters, you’ll have to fill out a marriage license application form. This can either be done online or in print.
After scheduling your appointment with a marriage license agent in Hawaii, gather all of the additional materials including:
Proof of Age: This includes a license or valid form of identification for anyone 19 years old and older. Applicants 18 years of age or younger must present a certified copy of their birth certificate.
Minor Consent Forms: You’ll need this if you’re under the age of 18.
Death Certificate: Widowed applicants must present a copy of their spouse’s death certificate.
Divorce Decree: Previously divorced applicants whose marriage has been terminated 30 days or less before the date of their scheduled ceremony must supply a copy of their divorce decree.
Whether you’re from Washington, Wyoming, or anywhere else in the United States, you’ll have no problem making things official in the state of Hawaii. There are no residency requirements in place that would prevent you from doing so.
Nope! Some states may require couples to pump the brakes after they’ve received their license and before the scheduled date of their ceremony. The reason? Usually to prevent couples from making any hasty, spur-of-the-moment decisions regarding a legally-binding union. In Hawaii, however, you’re free to pick up your license and say “I do” immediately after.
Yes. Most states in the United States will require couples to pay a fee of some sort when applying for their marriage license. In Hawaii, you’ll need to pay a fee of $60 plus an administrative fee of $5 upon submitting your application. This can be paid both online and in person.
Yes. The window of validity is different in each state, but marriage licenses can expire, rendering them null and void. In Hawaii, you’ll need to make sure you use your license within 30 days of the date of issuance for your marriage to be considered valid.
Have access to wedding planner tools easily. Whether you’re just starting out on the wedding planning journey or are right in the thick of it, say aloha to Zola, your online space for all things love and logistics. We’ll help turn your wedding in Hawaii into an event that’s been curated to your specific style and taste.
Set up a gift registry with flexible and free shipping, announce the date and details of your event with a customizable paper suite, and take care of all of your vendor needs, from the wedding florist to wedding photographer—all alongside Zola.
The white-sand pathway to your dream Hawaiian wedding starts here.