Destination Weddings: Hawaii
Get married in the islands, and have the ultimate honeymoon too! The secret to cutting costs is to do the legwork yourself.
For the rest of your life, you'll remember how the golden reflection of the setting sun painted everything in a warm, rose-colored hue. And the intoxicating aroma of tropical blossoms wafting through the balmy air, and the whispering melody from the waving palm fronds as the officiant said those magic words: "I now pronounce you husband and wife." Hawaii's gentle climate and exotic ambiance create the perfect romantic atmosphere for a wedding to remember and a great setting for the honeymoon you've always dreamed about.
But equally important, it is possible to get married in the islands without spending a fortune and enjoy an inexpensive honeymoon without depleting your new joint bank account. You just have to be willing to do a little of the legwork yourself.
THE PAPERWORK TO MAKE IT LEGAL
For the legal paperwork, contact the Honolulu Marriage License Office, State Department of Health Building, 1250 Punchbowl St., Honolulu, HI 96813 (808/586-4545 or 4544, state.hi.us/doh/records/vr_marri.html; open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Hawaiian standard time). They'll mail you their brochure, "Getting Married," and direct you to a marriage licensing agent close to wherever you'll be staying in Hawaii. And who are these agents? They range from private individuals working out of their homes to government employees in a state office building who will help you with the required paperwork.
When you arrive in Hawaii, you and your prospective spouse must go together to the marriage licensing agent to get the license. It costs $60 (cash) and is good for 30 days; if you don't have the ceremony within the time allotted, you'll have to pay another $60 for another license. The only requirements for a marriage license are that both parties be 18 years of age and not more closely related than first cousins. But contrary to what you may have gathered from the media, gay couples cannot marry in Hawaii. The state supreme court ruled last year that a marriage license can be issued only to an opposite sex couple.
FINDING SOMEONE TO PERFORM THE CEREMONY
The local marriage licensing agents are usually friendly, helpful people who can steer you to someone who's licensed by the state of Hawaii to perform the ceremony, whether you're looking for a minister of a certain denomination or a plain ol' justice of the peace. (However, some marriage licensing agents are state employees and under law cannot recommend anyone with a religious affiliation; they can only give you phone numbers for local judges to perform the ceremony.)
Another option is to look in the local newspapers on the island where you want to have the wedding. People willing and qualified to conduct weddings often advertise in the classifieds. They're great sources of information, as they know the best places to have the ceremony and can recommend caterers, florists, and everyone else you'll need. Contact the subscription or circulation departments of the following local newspapers for the latest classifieds:
On Oahu, write or call the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterford Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana, Honolulu, HI 96813 (808/524-4700); or the Honolulu Advertiser, 605 Kapiola Boulevard, Honolulu, 96813. On Maui, get a copy of The Maui News, P.O. Box 550, Wailuku, HI 96793 (808/244-3981); on the Kona side of the Big Island, look in West Hawaii Today, P.O. Box 789, Kailua-Kona, HI 96745 (808/329-9311); on the Hilo side of the Big Island, check with the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, P.O. Box 767, Hilo, HI 96721 (808/935-6621); and on Kauai, contact the Garden Island, P.O. Box 231, Lihue, HI 96766 (808/245-3681).
Another resource is online: the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau's site, gohawaii.com, has a section on weddings and honeymoons in the islands that includes a honeymoon planner, a wedding service fact sheet, and a list of related vendors (coordinators, photographers, florists, etc., who are members of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau).
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
The best way to save money on your ceremony is to do all the paperwork yourself and negotiate a fee with the person licensed by the state to perform the ceremony. Fees range from a donation (let your conscience be your guide, but most "suggested" donations range from $50 to $150) to specific fees set by the marriage officiant.
If you need a little help planning the festivities but can't afford a fancy wedding planner, here is our pick -- on every island other than Kauai -- of the people licensed to perform marriage ceremonies (some have their own wedding consulting companies). For a minimal fee (note: the $60 licensing fee is extra), they'll officiate a low-cost ceremony and help you out with the paperwork. (Note that we scoured the island of Kauai but couldn't find anyone who meets these criteria charging less than $150.)