Planning a Destination Wedding: Tips from a Hawaii Bride

I think it’s something every couple considers. Should we skip the stress of planning a wedding and just have a small intimate wedding at a destination on the beach or in the mountains? It’s totally understandable!

Last Fall, we had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii for Emily & Andy’s wedding. It was an absolutely beautiful day on the beach, overlooking the ocean. To top it off, it was a week long vacation that their closest family got to be a part of. We even took advantage of the trip and extended our stay to really enjoy Hawaii and all of its glory! (If you haven't already, check out our Hawaii Adventures blog and the Dreamy Destination Wedding blog now!)

After experiencing such a picture perfect destination wedding, we have to ask “why don’t more people do this!?”. Of course, we know it’s not that easy. There are a LOT of advantages to doing your wedding locally. We chose to stay local and celebrate with our family and friends and it was perfect. But that doesn’t mean Brooks didn’t question it at least 10 times. Running off to the west coast or the Bahamas might have been a lot easier (and probably cheaper).

So, for those of you who are weighing your options, we got some insider information. We wanted to find out why Emily & Andy went the route they did, how they did it, what they would do differently and more. Read their answers and let us know what you think! If you have had a destination wedding experience, share your story! If you want to find out more, comment below and maybe Emily would be so kind as to answer more questions :)

What made you decide to do a destination wedding?

I had never wanted a big wedding and that’s something neither one of us envisioned when we talked about our wedding so something small was always the plan from the beginning.

Why did you choose Hawaii? Did you have other destinations in mind, too?

We had been planning a Hawaiian vacation with family for over a year and the question of “why don’t you guys just get married while we're there?” was asked and we both were like hmm, I wonder if we could do that? So we decided that yes that’s exactly what we’re going to do and made sure that everyone would be ok with this. We didn’t want to impose on the vacation fun. I mean how many people have the opportunity to not only go to Hawaii but to get married there too? It was the perfect sized group for the small intimate ceremony that we wanted in the first place so it just all fell into place.

How did you find your vendors?

It all started with a simple Google search for wedding planners on the Big Island and I stumbled upon Vintage and Lace. I instantly fell in love with their wedding styles and all the different varieties of weddings that they’ve done. I knew instantly that I needed to work with them. Rachael was amazing and she helped me with everything that I needed. She was my guiding light in the Hawaiian wedding world and took care of every single detail.  

What were the hardest things about planning the Hawaii ceremony?

Being so far away and trusting someone you’ve literally never met was the hardest thing for me. There was a lot of letting go of control, and this is one of the biggest days in your life so you want to have a hand in everything and that's not easy when you’re thousands of miles away. Imagine not seeing or truly knowing what your wedding venue looks like until you get there! It was a new experience for someone like me who likes to know every single detail of something.

What were your favorite things about having a destination wedding?

The location was stunning. I mean you can’t beat being in Hawaii, right by the ocean at dusk. All of the trusting in others that I did paid off fully. It was absolutely perfect and everything that I wanted for the two of us. Our guest size was perfect for the setting as well. With a smaller size I felt like everyone was present and really in the moment right there with us. We could just feel the love around us and that’s all I’ve ever wanted in a wedding.

Do you have any tips or tricks for future brides planning a destination wedding?

If you think this might be for you or you want to do it, DO IT. We have absolutely zero regrets about being married in Hawaii and the choices we made. You will have such a special wedding that not a lot of people get to have and that’s worth it.

Don’t have guilt. Some people won’t be able to make it and that’s to be expected but if this is truly what you as a couple want then go for it. Don’t let others and their opinions and feelings compromise what you truly want. This is a day about you two and your love, it should be what you want it to be. You’ll find that no matter where you go in the world those that matter most to the both of you will be right by your side.  

Do research and know what you want. Being that far away you really have to know what you’re getting into. It always helps both you and the planner if you have an idea of what you want and you communicate that clearly. It’s going to make everyones jobs and lives easier if you all understand each other and keep in touch often.

With that said, Emily and Andy didn’t stop the celebration in Hawaii. They chose to bring it back to toledo for a small reception with their local family and friends.

What were your reasons for having a reception back home?

We wanted to celebrate and party with everyone. Our families and friends mean so much to us so to have a time to get together with everyone and party down was something we definitely needed to do.

What were the hardest things about planning the reception back home?

Having zero time to de-stress from wedding planning in Hawaii. We had most everything booked and reserved with everyone here in Toledo but once we got back it was actually time to discuss and make choices so it felt like I was stressed for years.

Are you glad you did the reception back home? What was your favorite part?

Yes! It was such a good time! Everyone was so happy to be there and celebrate our love and marriage. It was the exact feel that we wanted for everyone. A vintage, romantic evening but comfortable for everyone too.

Andy: Everything was perfect. It was exactly what we wanted and it was great to walk into the venue and know how great it looked and how well it was done and taken care of. The food was perfect. The DJ played all the right things. It was great.

Emily: Finally being able to relax and let loose. After all the stress of planning both the Hawaiian wedding and then the reception here, it was nice to let my hair down and just enjoy the night.

We really love your style for everything and especially love how you incorporated Hawaii into the reception in Toledo. Can you talk about how you chose the style, details, decor, food, etc?

I wanted to keep the vintage and floral feel from the wedding and thanks to Anchored Bridal I was introduced to Brigitta Burks at La Boutique Nostalgie. Her style was exactly what I wanted and we agreed that having small touches of Hawaii in the decor of the reception would be a great idea and wouldn’t take away from the vintage feel. Andy and I never wanted it to be Hawaii 2.0 but felt it was important to represent our time there. So we chose small things to put in that would work best. From using a suitcase for our card box, to having a collection of engagement photos and wedding photos from Hawaii at the gift table, gold pineapples to match all the mercury glass we used, and incorporating Spam and other Hawaiian style food into the menu, we wanted everyone to feel a hint of Hawaii even if they weren’t able to make it. These were all small touches but I think it made all the difference. Even though they were separate days, separate venues, and separate vibes I think all these things and the attention to detail really brought it all together.   

Do you have any general tips/tricks to help future brides/grooms with planning a destination wedding?

Be organized. Things move quickly when planning a wedding/reception and the closer you get to the date the faster things move. Being on top of meetings and emails and payments will help you out in the long run.

Be selfish but not a bridezilla. If this is something that you and your partner want then you have every right to do it but understand that no matter what choice you make, someone will have something to say about it. Again, don’t let other dictate your day. This is about you and eventually they will understand and support your choice.  Andy and I have zero regrets about having a destination wedding. It was the best choice we have ever made and we would make it over and over again.

Give yourself time to relax before and after your day. We book ended our wedding day with both engagement photos the day before and a trip to Oahu the day after the wedding. We are by no means complaining that we had the amazing opportunity to have our engagement session done in Hawaii but it was quite the adventure and we needed time to recoup. We didn’t get a chance to relax until a few days later and it was a bit draining to be exhausted for three days.  

We got to work with some amazing people in both Hawaii and Toledo. It was an awesome group of vendors that made Emily & Andy's destination wedding dreams come true...

Hawaii Wedding Planner: Vintage and Lace

Hawaii Ceremony Location: Kikaua Point Park

Hawaii Hair & Makeup Artist: Reghan

Toledo Reception Venue: Secor Ballroom at Registry Bistro

Toledo Makeup Artist: Makeup by Amy Lewis & Co.

Toledo Florist & Decor: La Boutique Nostalgie

Photobooth: Swatch Photobooth