silhouette of bride and groom on lava rocks in hawaii

Hawaii is a really unique destination wedding location and, believe it or not, things work a bit differently out here than they do on the Mainland! Planning your Hawaii wedding has lots of ins-and-outs

1. Be realistic with your budget

I’m sure you were already thinking of this. But weddings in Hawaii will cost you up to 20% more than on the mainland. But everything is more expensive here – food, places to stay, car rentals. You and your guests will be paying more.

According to the Wedding Report the average cost of a wedding in the state of Hawaii in 2018 was $37,827. I did some more digging and data found on The Knot indicated that the average cost for a Hawaii wedding is $27,730 based on a 2016 report.

Of course, this doesn’t really factor in elopements or intimate weddings. But if you’re looking to have a full wedding day with a venue, dinner, and all the pretty things, this is the kind of cost you’re looking at.

The biggest influencer of your budget? Guest count and venue.

That being said, I’m happy to help you navigate how to save money! I have lots of tips and tricks and can connect you with the right people to make your Hawaii wedding epic and budget friendly!

So it’s more expensive than the Mainland but the payoff? I mean, c’mon, it’s Hawaii. You’ll get a beautiful backdrop and a week-long party with your closest friends and family.

Actually one of the things I wrote about it my article If I Could Re-Do My Wedding was to make it a destination wedding. A destination wedding not only makes it extra special for you and your sweetie, but also for the people you share the destination with. You create an experience for your family and friends.

Tips for planning your maui wedding bride and groom portraits on rocks at white orchid beach house epic mountains at olowalu plantation house father of the bride speech at west maui

2. Take it easy on all things Hawaii

Sometimes I think couples are talked into different aspects of Hawaiian culture integration into their wedding day.

Traditional Hawaiian chants, lei exchange, fire dancers, hula dancers – as enticing as it all is, don’t feel like you have to include all of it.

Choose aspects of the Hawaiian culture that resonate with you and integrate it into your day. And, even better, learn the history behind it!

Just because you’re getting married here, doesn’t mean you have to do all the things. Be sure your day is authentic to you and your fiance. Even if that doesn’t include a lei and a buff hula dancer with fire 🙂

fire dancing at hawaii weddingbride and groom recessional at olowalu plantation housegroom looking at his bride at Ritz Carlton Kapaluabride and groom walking back down aisle at Olowalu Plantation Housebride smiling after wedding at hyatt maui

3. Look at the small print for wedding venues

Some venues are not upfront with their couples about vendor lists or access to certain places in proximity to their property.

Be sure when you’re booking a venue that you ask if you can bring your own vendors (photographers and videographers) – and if you can’t, know exactly how much the venue is going to charge you (yes, this is a thing).

Also, be sure to ask them if the beach or other portrait area is accessible! And will you be the only bride on the property (sometimes you won’t be because the venue is so large that it won’t take away from your day)?

For example, Kaanapali Beach in West Maui is not open to commercial photography. Sometimes that fact isn’t made known to the bride and groom until I tell them. It’s a $10,000 fine to do commercial photography on that beach – so it’s definitely not worth the risk.

If you can,  it’s always good to visit your venue ahead of time, but if you can’t, ask your coordinator or your photographer about their experience with that venue.

Oh! And check out my article about my Top 5 Maui Wedding Venues for my picks!

sunset portraits at white orchid beach house speeches at the five palms maui restaurant  bride and groom under rubber tree at olowalu plantation house

4. Time of Year: it kind of matters

Busy season, slow season – wedding season is year-round here in Hawaii. Looking at data from 2018, the slowest month for weddings is February while the busiest is May.

This means that if you’re tying the knot in May, you should book as far out as you feel comfortable (though I wouldn’t suggest more than 1.5 years in advance). Really popular venues such as Olowalu Plantation House book up to 2 years in advance! So if you fall in love with a venue, book it NOW.

While vendors don’t give discounts for different times of the year, you may find that a Tuesday or Wednesday wedding will have more availability during the high times.

I actually don’t book half day packages on weekends in May and October, as those are our busiest months in Maui and I have to keep those open for full day weddings!

So book early. I suggest one year in advance, though because of our flexible wedding season, 8-10 months out is acceptable as well!

Other things to keep in mind are Hawaii-specific holidays.

  • The Merrie Monarch Festival begins Easter Sunday and affects mostly just Hawaii island.
  • The Ironman World Championship happens in October and affects Hawaii island.
  • Big Wave Surfing competitions happen throughout the winter (December-February) and mostly just affect Oahu and Maui

The weather:

Chances are, you’re going to be OK. Our rainy season is November through March, but much of it depends on where you’re getting married. Each island has a dry side so if you’re super worried about the weather, just get married where it doesn’t rain! Isn’t island life awesome?

It’s also important to note that September/October are historically very hot and July/August we tend to have some tropical storms move through.

bride looking at groom with sunflare tips for planning your maui wedding

5. Find a Photographer that knows how to shoot in Hawaii light

Of course, I have to plug this one because I’m a photographer. And I’ve seen how it looks when Mainland photographers come here and don’t know how to handle our harsh conditions!

Let me tell you: It’s tough. And photography is all about light.

On the mainland, photographers are graced with gorgeous backlight, clouds aplenty, and a large variety of scenery.

Here in Hawaii, it’s different. We have to work with really tough lighting situations. The glare of the sun off the ocean, exposing for the colors in the sky AND the subjects (tough both with and without flash), and the lack of backlight are all incredibly challenging as a photographer.

Moral of the story: hire a Hawaii wedding photographer that knows how to shoot with a multitude of different lighting situations (ya know, like me)!

bridal portrait at Olowalu Plantation House

So there ya go! I hope this article was helping in planning your Hawaii wedding!

I’m actually willing to let it go one step further – check out the link below and I’ll happily chat with you about planning your Hawaii wedding!

Schedule time with me

And if you’re looking for a Hawaii wedding photographer while you’re planning your Hawaii wedding, let’s chat!

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One Comment

  1. Hello,

    I am planning a small intimate wedding in May or June. I am working on fixing a date with the venue. I really like your photos and was hoping you can provide me with more details. I will be picking a place from your list of top 5 venues. I was also wondering if you do videography or work with someone closely.

    Thank you so much.

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