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Wedding Planning, Where Do I Begin???


Lanai Ceremony

Congratulations, you have just become engaged to your soul-mate! Once the excitement of that calms down a  bit, the reality of the wedding planning details begin to overwhelm you.  The question most commonly asked by the couple is, “Where do I  begin?” Hopefully, it begins with the decision to hire a wedding coordinator, but sometimes the couple needs to go through some processes of planning before arriving at that conclusion. So, here is some advice on where to begin with your wedding planning.    

HIRE A WEDDING COORDINATOR:  A Wedding Coordinator will help you with the planning process. The coordinator will also facilitate and orchestrate the wedding day so that you can enjoy it!  Wedding planners know how to arrange and handle all of the details, including the important ones that the couple does not consider until it is too late.  Wedding planners may also be able to save you some money by offering their discounts and commissions to you. Most importantly, wedding planners are there to make executive decisions, troubleshoot and orchestrate ALL of the elements of the wedding day and help to make everyone feel at ease as much as possible. One of the biggest mistakes brides and grooms say they make is NOT hiring a wedding coordinator to  handle the many details and challenges that occur on the day of, including vendors and guests calling for information, confirmation, and direction. 

photo by Jessica Pearl, Pearl Wedding Photography

photo by Jessica Pearl, Pearl Wedding Photography

WEDDING STYLE: Your Wedding Style You must think very early in the process about what style of wedding you want, and how formal or informal an affair it will be.  Although your wedding will be in Hawaii, do you want a Hawaiian wedding, a traditional wedding in Hawaii, or a combination of the two? Is this going to be a casual affair with Aloha wear and flip flops (or what we refer to as slippahs), or is this going to be a more formal affair with cocktail dresses and suits/tuxedos? Is this a vintage wedding, a rustic wedding, an outdoor country wedding, a black tie elegant wedding, an all white wedding, a Great Gatsby wedding? You get the idea…This decision sets a tone for the entire wedding, and all decisions will be related to this choice. The tone of your wedding begins with your invitation, so it is important to decide how you want to convey your wedding style. The style and formality of the wedding will also influence your decisions about your attendants’ attire, your wedding decor, and presentation. The time of day that you hold your wedding ceremony and reception may also affect the level of formality that you select.  For example, a morning wedding and brunch reception will have a more casual style than an evening ceremony and reception. 


RECEPTION: How casual or formal do you see your reception?    Deciding your food service is important because it affects so many other decisions you will make regarding your reception, including the amount of staff you will need, the additional decor, the physical arrangement/floor plan, and more. Do you see tray-passed hors d’oeuvres and a plated meal, food stations, or a buffet? The next item to consider is if the wedding will be indoors or outdoors.  If it is outdoors, it is important to have an indoor back up or tent the outside. The weather, especially in Hawaii, is highly unpredictable. Although it is clear one moment, a passing shower can destroy a wedding exposed to the elements in a matter of seconds. Even if it only rains for 3 minutes, are you going to be able to replace all of the wet linens with fresh linens? Will you have towels to dry off everything? Will your guests mind their food being wet? Then you need to decide on what type of entertainment you want for your ceremony and reception? Do you need a dance floor, a stage, a sound system, stage lighting? Will children be included in the wedding festivities? These  preferences dictate the type of setting you will choose for your reception and  may increase or reduce certain limitations involved with the reception facility  (whether or not they provide food, service, etc). See more about Wedding Reception Types at this link

NUMBER OF GUESTS TO INVITE: This is always the tricky part.  If you are like most couples, you are avoiding a large wedding by hosting a destination wedding in Hawaii.  Already you have some leverage with your list because people will certainly understand your limitations. However, you will still need to draft an A list and a B list. The A list is comprised of the first choice guests, and the B list is comprised of people you want to invite, but can only invite when people from the A list are unable to attend. It is important to know the estimated guest count when selecting your wedding location and configuring your budget. Since Hawaii is a desirable place, many of your invited guests will try to turn your wedding into an excuse for an exotic tropical vacation. It is safe to predict at least 50% of your guest list will attend. Since most couples have financial control of their destination weddings, they have a lot of control of their guest lists.  Typically, however, family members divide the guest list based on the following percentages: the parents of the bride and groom each invite one-third, and the bride and groom invite one-third. Or perhaps one-third each for the bride and the groom, and the parents can invite the remaining number of guests.


HE WEDDING BUDGET:  A wedding in Hawaii is not cheaper than a wedding on the mainland because it costs less; it is only cheaper for you  because you typically have fewer guests and a less elaborate wedding on the islands than you would at home.  It is not realistic to plan a ceremony and reception for 40 guests at a private location, including officiant, location, coordination, flowers, entertainment, catering, decor, rentals, etc. on a budget of $10,000 unless you are calling in personal favors and doing most everything yourselves.  Does that mean you cannot get married in Hawaii? We say no. We say it means you need to adjust your vision to accommodate your budget, or adjust your budget to accommodate your vision. It is good to have a realistic overall budget, and expect to go a little bit over it. This is one of the areas where your wedding planner will prove to be very helpful.  Your wedding coordinator will be able to assist with suggestions that can help you stay within your budget by providing alternative, less-expensive options. You may want to have a credit card or checking account that is only used for the wedding costs. This will help you to easily place deposits for your wedding, as well as keep track of your wedding costs. 

TIME OF YEAR: This decision is especially important when planning your destination wedding because of costs and weather. It is more expensive to visit Hawaii during the holidays. In addition, the islands are more crowded during popular vacation times, like during the summer when most families are able to travel together. If you are dreaming of an outdoor wedding, then it is important to select a time of year when the weather will me more conducive for that. One of the benefits of a Hawaiian wedding is that an outdoor wedding in Hawaii can happen any time of the year! The time of year will influence your color theme of your wedding. For example, rich fall colors will be more appropriate during the autumn months, even in Hawaii.  

These are the elements of your wedding to consider when beginning your wedding planning.  If you start with some sort of vision of your wedding in your mind, and come up with a flexible, realistic budget, you are off to a good start. The most important decisions to make once you have established your decisions to these basics, reserve your ceremony and reception sites. It will be difficult to hire any professionals until the location(s) is/are determined. There are many other decisions to make along the way, but this will get you started and eliminate some of the overwhelming feelings you may be currently experiencing. 

Article written by Tori Rogers, Hawaiian  Island Wedding Planners, 12-20-05 and revised 2008, 2011, 2013

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