Everything You Need to Know About Getting Married in Hawaii

Look to The Knot for local details about getting married in Hawaii, from choosing your wedding venue to getting your marriage license.
by The Knot
floral Hawaii wedding
photo by Wendy Laurel

Ultimate Guide to Getting Married in Hawaii

Aloha means more than just "hello"—in Hawaii, the "Aloha Spirit" is a way of life that encompasses a friendly, welcoming attitude. And there's a reason why these islands make such an irresistible destination: a Hawaii wedding will be effortlessly steeped in natural beauty, from its crystal-clear blue ocean waters and fiery lava flows to tall mountain peaks and crashing waterfalls. But aside from its breathtaking scenic beauty, the Aloha State is home to some of the friendliest, most relaxed people you will ever meet.

The 50th state is a popular vacation destination, but there are so many ways to make it your own. Hawaii offers a bounty of opportunities for elegance, privacy and intimacy, so you can enjoy your wedding with the people who matter. Planning a wedding in Hawaii provides you with an abundance of wonderful venue options. Each island offers its own unique hot spots and quiet areas, allowing you to choose the ideal setting for the ceremony you want, whether you prefer a party atmosphere on Waikiki or a tranquil ambience in a Kauai rain forest.

This guide to Hawaii wedding venues and logistics will help you plan for your tropical day—even if you're planning a Hawaii destination wedding without ever having visited the islands before. Follow these tips to make sure your wedding goes off without a hitch.

Top Wedding Trends in Hawaii

Hawaii wedding venue
photo by Ashley Goodwin Photography

When it comes to wedding styles in the Aloha State, semiformal or casual is usually the way to go. Forty-nine percent of the participants in The Knot 2015 Real Weddings Study reported having a semiformal wedding, and 39 percent had casual weddings, with only 6 percent of Hawaii weddings classified as black tie. As for wedding venues in Hawaii, the top choice is pretty obvious: a Hawaii beach wedding is the most popular setting for couples who exchange vows in this state. There are plenty of public and private beachfront locations on each of the islands, and you can find oceanfront space for just the two of you and an officiant or a whole party of guests to watch you exchange vows.

According to the Real Weddings Study, weddings in Hawaii tend to have the smallest numbers of guests on average, but that doesn't mean you can't have a big wedding here. There are a variety of different Hawaii wedding venues you can take advantage of, including resort hotels with ballrooms and private beach access. The major islands of Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island (aka the Big Island) and Kauai all have luxury resorts you can book to inject some traditional glamour into your Hawaii destination wedding. So, while a beach wedding in Hawaii with an outdoor reception may be the most popular choice, there are other options too.

Hawaii's wedding traditions stem from its native culture, and there are a variety of ways to respectfully incorporate them into a Hawaii wedding. Including traditional Hawaiian wedding flowers into your ceremony is one of the most subtle ways to pay homage to this cultural tradition. Lei garlands for you and your fiancé can help give your wedding portraits a special Hawaiian touch, and traditional island flowers such as orchids, pikake, haku and plumeria in a bouquet or boutonniere can add beautiful colors and scents. Your reception dinner also gives you a great opportunity to incorporate native Hawaiian culture into your celebration. Traditional celebratory feast foods such as kalua pig (roasted pork served with Hawaiian sauces) are delicious and suitable even for the picky eaters in your group. Many wedding venues in Hawaii cater specifically to these traditional elements, so incorporating them should prove quite easy.

Hawaii Marriage Rates and Wedding Costs

Hawaii Marriage Rates and Wedding Costs

It may not shock you to hear that Hawaii hosts a lot of weddings, and many of those weddings are pricy. After all, if getting married in Hawaii was inexpensive, it'd probably be an even more popular destination than it already is. With its remote location in the Pacific Ocean, it's not exactly feasible to get to Hawaii wedding destinations on the cheap. Even so, thousands of people travel here every year to get married, so it's not impossible to set your sights on a Hawaii wedding. Using The Knot wedding budget tool can help you see how realistic your plans are and help you start gearing up to save for the main event. With some smart planning and budgeting, paradise can be within reach.

Hawaii Marriage Stats

According to the State of Hawaii, 21,865 people tied the knot in Hawaii wedding venues in 2015. As a popular tourist destination, Hawaii sees tons of people travel from all over the world to get married here, and only 7,041 (about 1/3 total) of the total marriages were between two Hawaii residents. The islands host a small number of same-sex weddings every year too. In 2015, just more than 1,600 same-sex couples said "I do" in the Aloha State. Hawaii must be as romantic to live in as it is to visit, though, because the state's marriage rate, according to the CDC, was 7.8 in 2011, a full point higher than the overall United States rate of 6.8.

Cost Information for Real Weddings in Hawaii

The Knot 2015 Real Weddings Study indicates that Hawaii is one of the 25 most expensive states to get married in, but it may surprise you to know that it isn't in the top 10 or even the top 20. The average cost for a Hawaii wedding in 2015 was $28,212. The chart above helps break down what brides and grooms paid to get married in Hawaii in 2015. While you can use this information to help estimate what your Hawaii destination wedding cost may be, remember that things like plane tickets and hotel reservations may vary in price at different times of the year.

One important thing to keep in mind while planning a wedding in Hawaii is that the Aloha State has one of the highest average cost-per-guest rates reported in the 2015 study, which makes sense given that it's one of the most expensive states to get married in and hosts some of the smallest weddings. The total duration of Hawaii weddings tends to be longer than in other places too, with the mean duration clocking in at three days in 2015, which may also impact the overall cost.

Top Places to Get Married in Hawaii

As for typical Hawaii wedding locations, the entire state is chock-full of amazing places to get hitched. Brides and grooms tend to gravitate toward these islands:

Making It Legal

newlyweds showing wedding rings
photo by ONELOVE PHOTOGRAPHY

While the emotional and spiritual aspects of your wedding ceremony are in many ways the most important part of the whole event, it's important to make sure you've got all your legal and procedural bases covered to avoid headaches and stress later on. Luckily, the requirements for legal marriage in Hawaii are pretty straightforward, so as long as you follow your wedding checklist and make sure everything's done on time, you'll have one less thing to stress out about as your wedding day approaches. Some details, such as whether or not either or both of you will be changing your names, are up for negotiation, while others are absolutely necessary for your marriage to be legally valid.

Basic Legal Requirements for Getting Married in Hawaii

The State of Hawaii issues marriage licences and has a handy online system that makes it easy for out-of-state couples to fill out and pay for their marriage license application. This way, you can get the ball rolling on the license requirement before you even arrive to your Hawaii wedding location. You'lll have to finalize your license in person with a state marriage license agent, though, so make sure you build in time for that before your wedding ceremony. Make sure you comply these requirements for marriage license applicants, which apply to the majority of couples getting married in Hawaii:

  • Both applicants must be at least 18 years old; younger applicants may be ineligible or require official consent from a legal guardian
  • Both applicants must appear before the marriage license agent at the time of application
  • Official proof of age, such as a certified birth certificate (age 18 and under) or a driver's license (age 19+), must be provided
  • Applicants must pay a $65 fee for the license and processing

There are a few other requirements for special groups such as applicants whose previous marriages ended by death or divorce within 30 days of application. Your license will be valid anywhere in the state within 30 days of obtaining it, meaning you can apply for your license on a different island than your intended Hawaii wedding location. Island Departments of Health are one option for finding a license agent, but the state also allows non-government employees to serve in this role. There may even be a license agent working at your hotel.

As for who officiates a Hawaii wedding, the state's guidelines are similarly straightforward. Ordained ministers and other religious officials, in addition to active and retired federal and state judges serving in Hawaii, may register to obtain an official license to perform marriages. Performers may file marriage licences with the wedding venue island's Department of Health online or via postal mail and must do so within three business days of the ceremony.

Permits and Other Rules for Hawaii Weddings

Hawaii beach weddings that take place on a shoreline not occupied by a state or federal park must have a state permit. The intent of the system is to prevent crowding on beaches and to allow everyone maximum enjoyment of the state's beaches, which are all public, even if they are in front of a private home. A Hawaii wedding planner will be able to obtain a permit for you and can help you understand the various rules and regulations associated with the permits. You can get a permit on your own, but you need liability insurance in order to do so. The state also has a number of specific rules restricting how you can conduct a beach wedding, so it's probably a good idea to hire a local Hawaii wedding planner who has insurance and is familiar with these rules. Rules associated with Hawaii beach weddings include:

  • Two-hour time limit
  • Events with more than 25 to 30 guests may require additional permissions
  • You may not ask beachgoers to move to make room for your ceremony
  • No structures or large decorations are allowed
  • Chairs are only permitted for elderly or disabled people who cannot stand
  • You may not block off an area of the public beach for your ceremony

Changing Your Names

If either or both of you plan on changing your names after the wedding, you can get the ball rolling pretty quickly thanks to Hawaii's simple rules. You can take the first step toward changing your name(s) while filling out your license application for a Hawaii wedding. Each member of the couple will write the middle and last name name he or she intends to use after marriage on the marriage license application. You'll sign the marriage license with your new legal signature if you decide to make a change.

Your marriage certificate will have your new name on it, which will make it easier for you to do things like change your name on official government identification. If you want some help with that aspect of the process, try HitchSwitch—a name changing service that allows you to take a more hands-off approach.

It's All About Timing

organized pink desk accessories
photo by iSTOCK

Hawaii is typically warm, picture-perfect and bustling with tourists all year-round, but you may still find some months more suitable than others for your event. Summer and fall are the peak seasons for marriage in Hawaii, though the spring period from March through May is also popular.

The Four Seasons in Hawaii

If the idea of a winter beach wedding in Hawaii is appealing to you, you won't need to worry about cold weather. Thanks to Hawaii's tropical location, winters here aren't all that much cooler than the the rest of the year's temps; the island's "winter" technically lasts from October through April and sees more rain and cooler temperatures than the rest of the year, but not by much. Really, Hawaii only has two seasons—winter and summer—but the difference between the two is not dramatic.

This means that, as far as weather is concerned, Hawaii destination weddings are a great idea at any time of year. Lows even in the dead of winter typically bottom out in the low 70s, with summer highs usually topping off in the upper 80s. The tropical location near the Equator means steady day lengths and even ocean temperatures, but each island does tend to have its own microclimates thanks to the wind patterns off the Pacific Ocean and elevation changes across mountainous terrain. However, a Hawaii wedding has as good of a chance of being sunny and warm in December as it does in July.

Hawaii Wedding Dates to Avoid

Even though the weather is lovely year-round, the islands have an ebb and flow of tourism that correlates with popular travel seasons on the mainland. People love experiencing Hawaii's lovely winter weather when it's cold on the mainland, so you aren't likely to get a good bargain on accommodations or airfare for a Hawaii destination wedding from December through April. Your best bet for lower prices and smaller crowds is to consider going in May, June, September, October or November. Major holidays and popular travel times are likely to bring large crowds and inflated costs, so check out our wedding date selection guide before setting a date.

People tend to flock to Hawaii for its beautiful beaches and amazing outdoor activities rather than for cultural events such as festivals, but there are some annual events that bring out even more crowds than usual, including:

  • Japan's Golden Week holiday (late April–early May, mostly affects Oahu)
  • Merrie Monarch Festival (begins Easter Sunday, mostly affects Hawaii Island)
  • Ironman World Championship (October 14, 2017, affects Hawaii Island)
  • Big wave surfing events (typically held December–February, mostly affects Oahu and Maui)

Great Guest Experiences

The Knot personalized wedding website
photo by Alison Conklin Photography

If you and your wedding guests live on the mainland, your Hawaii destination wedding is going to be a vacation for everyone involved. Even if you and your fiancé live on the islands, you'll probably be inviting guests from other parts of the world. Getting married in Hawaii gives you a great opportunity to share a once-in-a-lifetime experience with your friends and family. The idea of traveling so far for a wedding may be daunting or even financially impossible for some, but you can help make the prospect a bit easier by creating a helpful wedding website packed with info and suggestions.

Around Town: What to Do and See in Hawaii

As one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet, we could write an entirely separate guide on everything you can see and do here. Luckily, each of the Aloha State's islands offers a variety of different outdoor activities, including snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, hiking, boating, golf and seasonal whale watching. These popular attractions are just the tip of the iceberg to get you started:

  • Maui Nui (Maui, whale watching)
  • Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii Island)
  • North Shore (Oahu, surfing)
  • Waimea Canyon (Kauai, photography and hiking)
  • Road to Hana (Maui, driving)
  • Iolani Palace (Oahu, tour)
  • Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour (Molokai)
  • Na Pali Coast Hike (Kauai)
  • Pearl Harbor (Oahu)

Finding Your Way: Traveling to and Around Hawaii

It's important to decide what island you want to treat as your primary Hawaii wedding location. Hawaii's islands are quite far apart, separated by the Pacific Ocean, so there's no road system connecting them. You only can travel from island to island by plane (unless you have access to a private yacht), so unless you and your guests can afford multiple plane tickets, you probably want to stay put on one island.

Luckily, travel to each island is pretty simple if you're coming from the mainland. Oahu is home to the Honolulu International Airport, which is the state's major hub. If you're flying to one of the other islands on the cheap, you'll probably fly into Honolulu and connect to your final destination. Maui, Hawaii Island and Kauai all have large airports that can accommodate planes from the mainland, but these flights aren't common. The smaller islands of Lanai and Molokai have smaller airports that can accommodate connecting flights from Oahu.

Once you're on the island of your choosing, your means of getting around will depend on what's available. On each of the five main islands, you can rent a car, use bus tours or shuttles, and even take public transit. On the smaller islands, including Lanai and Molokai, taxis and shuttles are probably your best bet. You can get to Lanai and Molokai from Maui using a ferry system.

Go Local: Food and Favors

Hawaii wedding favors
photo by Visionari Photography

There are so many wonderful local food traditions you can incorporate into a Hawaii wedding. Many of the restaurants that serve traditional Polynesian and Hawaiian foods are more casual and may not be suitable for a wedding reception. This is where the traditional luau feast comes in. A luau can be a great choice for your wedding reception—you'll get seating for a large group, entertainment thanks to live music and dancers, multiple courses and waiter service in one go. If you want to have a low-key experience without having to deal with a lot of logistics, a luau reception is a great way to include an iconic Hawaiian experience into your wedding. You and your guests can enjoy classic Hawaiian dishes, including poi, a taro root starch that's a staple of the Native Hawaiian diet.

Do Your Guests a Favor

Wedding favors are a fun way to say thanks to your guests and give them a special souvenir to remember the trip. If you and your guests are traveling to the islands for a Hawaii destination wedding, you can kick off the wedding trip by presenting guests with a beach tote or basket that includes useful items for the trip and a few treats, such as:

  • Sunblock and aloe lotion
  • A printed event schedule
  • Brochures about local restaurants and activities
  • Tea and coffee from local Hawaiian growers such as Hawaiian Island Tea Company and MauiGrown Coffee
  • Chocolate-covered macadamia nuts from Hawaiian Host or Big Island Candies
  • Locally grown fruit such as pineapples and passion fruit


You can personalize your favor basket or bags by having them custom printed with your wedding logo. Other items, such as personalized sunglasses or waterproof bags for valuables, can also be included to give your favors a more personal touch. Remember to make whatever you give portable, though, so your guests don't have to worry about getting your favors back on the plane. That's a big part of the reason why tote bags and useful items make such great favors for a Hawaii wedding. For more wedding favor ideas, check out The Knot Shop.

Hawaii Island Guides

From the volcanic fires of the Big Island to the rain forests of Kauai, Hawaii's islands each have something special to offer. Though any of the islands in the state will make your wedding feel like paradise, most brides and grooms choose Oahu, Maui or Kauai as their Hawaii wedding locations. With so many great Hawaii wedding destinations to choose from, it may be helpful for you to check out our wedding vendor marketplace to see if anyone catches your eye in a specific location. The information below can also help you make an informed decision about three of the most popular places for a Hawaii wedding.

Oahu

Oahu beach
photo by iStock

As the home of Honolulu, the biggest city in the state, Oahu is Hawaii's most urbanized island. It's the only island with a major highway system and an international airport, but there are still plenty of beautiful locations for a Hawaii beach wedding on the island.

Oahu is easy to get to and travel around, and it has some of the most iconic Hawaiian locations, including Waikiki beach, and a ton of affordable lodging options, making it an excellent choice for a Hawaii destination wedding with a lot of guests. Given that the island's nickname is The Gathering Place, it seems tailor-made to host your Hawaii destination wedding. There are beautiful beaches, luxury hotels, museums, religious buildings and more on this small island, all of which can serve as the perfect Hawaii wedding venue for you.

These local Oahu wedding professionals can help turn your dreams into reality:

Maui

Maui waterfall
photo by iStock

Known as the Valley Isle, Maui is the second largest of Hawaii's islands and is in close proximity to three small adjacent islands, including Lanai and Molokai. From the bustling tourist town of Lahaina to the lava fields at the island's southern reaches, Maui offers just about anything you could possibly want from a Hawaii destination wedding, including beautiful beaches for your ceremony, excellent restaurants, tons of outdoor activities and great hotels.

With so much to offer, Maui is in many ways the ultimate vacation destination, and it's a great place for a Hawaii wedding too. You can take your wedding photos on a beach or at the peak of Haleakala before enjoying some of Maui's delicious cuisine and retiring to a romantic hotel.

Get started planning your Maui wedding by checking out some local vendors:

Kauai

Kauai Hawaii
photo by iStock

Kauai, Hawaii's Garden Isle, is set farther north than the rest of the islands in the archipelago, and it's also the smallest of the four major islands in the state. This gives Kauai a bit of an off-the-beaten-path feel, lending a sense of intimacy and wonder to your Hawaii wedding event. There are plenty of opportunities for you to enjoy the great outdoors here, from flatwater river kayaking on the Wailua to exploring the depths of Makauwahi Cave. Kauai easily earns its second nickname as the Island of Discovery thanks to its many lovely and awe-inspiring attractions.

There are miles of unspoiled coastline for you to use for your Hawaii beach wedding as well, so don't forget to check that out while you're exploring all Kauai has to offer. Kauai is a special place that not all visitors to Hawaii get to experience, and it's a magical setting for the most important day of your life.

Start planning your Kauai wedding celebration with these vendors:


Check out more Hawaii wedding inspiration here.


Don't forget to download The Knot Wedding Planner app—it's a must-have for on-the-go planning.

Download for iOS: Wedding Planner App by The Knot

Download for Android: The Knot Wedding Planner

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