If you dream of getting married in Hawaii, but fear that the cost of a tropical destination wedding will exceed your means, here are tips for keeping to a budget but still having a truly memorable day.
Do a Destination Wedding for Two
It used to be called eloping, but these days more and more budget-conscious couples are flying to Hawaii and enjoying a private sunrise or sunset ceremony designed for two.
Many resorts, as well as wedding planners in the islands, offer "Just the Two of You" or "Wedding & Honeymoon" packages that make it easy and affordable to get married in Hawaii.
Start by searching for such packages on the major hotel websites (Marriott, Hyatt, Sheraton, Westin, Hilton, Outrigger). You can also search for an air-hotel deal online (I like Kayak since it searches many of the main online travel agent sites). If you plan very last-minute or about four to five months in advance, you should be able to get a flight from Los Angeles and seven nights at a three- or four-star hotel on Waikiki Beach on Oahu, along Ka'anapali on Maui, the Kohala Coast on the Big Island or near Po'ipu on Kauai starting at about $2,100 for two.
Once you have booked your stay, contact the hotel and ask about their most basic wedding packages, which typically include the ceremony set up, minister, flowers, champagne, cake and sometimes photography and a romantic dinner for two.
You can also marry offsite (at a waterfall, garden or secluded beach) by contacting a local island wedding planner (do a Google search for "affordable Hawaii weddings" and you'll find plenty of options) or check the vendors listed on Hawaii Convention and Visitor's Bureau database of wedding planners.
After you say "I do," you can spend the rest of the stay on your honeymoon.
Keep the Guest List Small
If you can't imagine excluding your closest family members from your big day, keep them to just 10-12 guests. As a result, you may qualify for many resort and wedding planner basic wedding packages (for ceremony, champagne and cake). Then, rather than hosting a lavish reception, you can all dine at a large table in the resort's restaurant or in a nearby secluded area in a garden or on the beach.
Keep Flowers and Decorations to a Minimum
You are in Hawaii, surrounded by natural beauty, so it's easy to save money by keeping floral costs to a minimum. If you are having a traditional Hawaiian ceremony, spring for the most basic bride and groom leis, plus a bouquet. The beach has a naturally stunning backdrop, especially at sunset, and many Hawaiian resorts have beautiful wedding chapels and gazebos-all you need for decoration is a pathway of flower petals for your aisle.
Do a Wedding Brunch or Lunch
If you are having a wedding for up to 20 people (namely close family and friends), keep the festivities simple and sweet by getting married in the late morning and hosting a wedding brunch or lunch. This will keep costs down (no band or DJ required and probably less alcohol) but is still be a beautiful venue for your special day.
Use Airline Miles or Hotel Points to Offset Costs
If you are members of an airline frequent flier program, most U.S. carriers have flights to Hawaii. If you have a lot of pre-wedding expenses (for example, if you are decorating a new apartment or house, charge those expenses to a credit card affiliated with an airline to help boost your points total (and pay the balance as quickly as possible to avoid hefty finance charges). If you, or your future husband or wife, travel a lot for business and stay at major hotel chains such as Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Sheraton and Westin, join their frequent stay program to rack up points you can use to get free nights at their resorts in Hawaii.
Ditch the Big Dress and Tuxedo Rental
If you're getting married on the beach, think Hawaiian wedding attire. You'll be more comfortable in a lightweight, less constructed gown (which tend to cost less) and no veil (they just get blown around in the wind), an your guy will look island cool in a crisp white linen shirt and khakis rather than a formal tuxedo.
Don't Go Overboard on Professional Photos
Hire a great photographer, but keep the photo package on the modest side. Have him or her capture what's important: the ceremony, the sunset portraits, the key aspects of the reception or wedding lunch/brunch. But also enlist the services of some of your more tech-savvy guests (brother, sister, best friend) to capture their own take on the festivities with digital cameras and recorders. Sometimes it's your guests who get the best and most memorable candid shots of your big day.