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A Hawaiian wedding planner shares 4 insider tips for planning a wedding on the pricey island

 Aleenah Ansari   

A Hawaiian wedding planner shares 4 insider tips for planning a wedding on the pricey island
  • Over half the weddings in Hawaii in 2023 were destination weddings between non-resident couples.
  • A Hawaiian wedding planner from O'ahu shares what couples should know before booking their wedding.

With wedding season around the corner, there are a number of decisions to make about the theme, guest list size, and, of course, location. In 2023, 62% of weddings in Hawaii were between non-residents, according to preliminary government data. The state is a popular destination wedding spot for its luscious greenery, picturesque views, and beautiful weather, but how do you decide if it's right for you?

Getting married in Hawaii is more expensive than in most American states. The average wedding cost in Hawaii in 2023 was $28,000. The cheapest US state to get married in is Alaska, with an average cost of $12,083. Hawaiian weddings are more costly because anything not produced or grown in Hawaii must be shipped in, raising the prices of flowers, food, and decor.

"I tell my clients to look at the average price of weddings in New York City, San Francisco, and L.A. because those are more similar in price point," says Zabrina Zablan-Duvauchelle, the founder and owner of queer-owned wedding and event planning business The Gay Agenda Collective.

She has worked with dozens of couples to plan weddings and events in their home in O'ahu and beyond, and she has a few tips to keep in mind for couples considering having their nuptials on the islands.

Be clear on why you want to get married in Hawaii

The first step when deciding to get married in Hawaii is to educate yourself about the state's history and understand why it would be meaningful to get married there.

"One of the first questions to ask yourself is, 'Why Hawaii?'" Zablan-Duvauchelle said. "If you have a familial connection or fell in love here, that's great. That reason will guide you in the process of planning your wedding in an intentional way, which starts with connecting back to the local land and people."

Zablan-Duvauchelle encouraged couples to think about ways to give back to the island, whether by having guests donate to local organizations in lieu of gifts, sharing a list of local businesses that guests can support during their visit, or even having a volunteering day with guests.

Support local vendors whenever possible

The wedding industry is incredibly lucrative, and a huge economic boost for Hawaii. Couples should honor this and support local vendors as much as possible. Zablan-Duvauchelle said couples can find local photographers and wedding planners, as well as buy guest favors from local businesses.

"Having a local wedding planner can help you identify local vendors," Zablan-Duvauchelle said. "You can also use social media to find vendors that align with what you're looking for," she added.

Choose a venue space that makes sense for you — and the weather

Hawaii has many microclimates to consider. For example, the Waikiki side of O'ahu and Poipu to Waimea on Kauai tend to be drier than the mountains and valleys on the other side of the island. Rain is always possible regardless of where you are, so Zablan-Duvauchelle encourages couples to plan and budget accordingly.

"If you're at a venue that's really green, know that it's usually a product of rain," Zablan-Duvauchelle said. "In Hawaii, every day could be the rainy season with the most rain from November to April, so you'll want to factor a tent into your budget or look for a venue that has a contingency plan."

There are no private beaches in Hawaii. According to Zablan-Duvauchelle, locals and visitors alike may be passing by and enjoying the shoreline. She added that couples should check local laws before choosing a specific beach because most have restrictions and require a permit for weddings.

The planner said couples wanting a more private waterfront should look for secluded beaches with harder-to-reach access points, estates, or hotels.

Start planning early

Planning as early as possible is true for all weddings, especially in Hawaii, according to Zablan-Duvauchelle. Many popular and high-profile venues in Hawaii can book out a year in advance, with weekend dates often filling up first.

If you have a specifc special date in mind, Zablan-Duvauchelle encourages you to book your venue no later than 15 months in advance to help guarantee your spot. Choosing a venue can also be a helpful exercise in selecting a final guest count since some venues have much lower capacities.

You can start booking your preferred vendors seven to twelve months in advance. They will use your wedding date to confirm their availability and any travel costs that may be needed.

If you want to meet some of your vendors for hair and makeup trials or catering tastings, Zablan-Duvachelle suggests booking a wedding planning trip to help guide your decision-making.

It's the small things that count

No matter where you decide to have your wedding, Zablan-Duvauchelle said the details make a wedding sing.

Many of her couples request personalized touches such as seating charts made of friendship bracelets or 3D-printed centerpieces. These small things make a wedding feel unique to the couple and are as important as the destination.

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