Story by Katie Dohman
It’s 9:30 in the morning, and I’m perched at the top of the stairs, arm in arm with my dad. My orchid bouquet, petals aquiver, gives away my trembling.
We’re about to start down the stairs and cross a short stretch of sand to where the Pacific Ocean kisses Maluaka Beach. There, in front of our guests, my fiancé and I will become husband and wife.
As I move toward the first step, my wedding coordinator grabs me. “Wait! Brides always run down the aisle. This is your time. Take in the moment.”
Because of her advice, I can still see, nearly a year later, my husband-to-be turning around to see his bride. Our family and friends. The minister summoning the spirits with a conch. The sand beneath my feet, my hair floating in the breeze, my eyes squinching in the sun, my racing heart.
Twenty minutes later: After tears, smiles, promises and giggles, and the exchange of sparkling rings, William is officially my husband. The minister declares us ‘ohana, family, to each other and to Hawai‘i.
Our final kiss is met with applause, and I am so relieved that I hoist my bouquet into the air as though victory is mine.
After the ceremony, we dine in the backyard of our rented house, then don our swimsuits and go to the beach, letting the waves crash over us, soaking up the most beautiful day of our life together.
William asked me to marry him one night on K–a‘anapali Beach, a year and a half before our ceremony. I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to afford a Maui wedding, or if the people most important to us would be able to be with us. Most of all, though our wedding would be on a budget, we wanted it to have all the elements that would make it our ideal day. It was a tall order.
I wasn’t sure how to plan such a momentous occasion from nearly 4,000 miles away, but through the magic of Google, we found a wedding planner and a photographer who jibed with our vision: Jo and Arien of Aekai Beach Weddings. Compared to the time we spent figuring out our wardrobe, color schemes and the like, coordinating our wedding barely took any time at all.
Jo helped us construct a superlative ceremony: photographer, musician, minister, flowers—everything but the cost of travel—for the price of a decent wedding photographer in Minnesota. You read that right. We spent about $3,000 on everything for our day, aside from airfare—which would have been factored into the honeymoon portion anyway.
To be fair, when we married last summer, use of the beach was free. The State of Hawai‘i now requires a permit for a beach ceremony, along with liability insurance. You can obtain them on your own, but most Maui wedding consultants and many officiants will supply those services as part of the package.
We had only one major snafu, when the airline my family had booked from St. Paul to Seattle went bankrupt. Panicked, I called the connecting airline, which at first asked triple the cost of the original ticket price. It wasn’t until I said, “This is for my wedding! You have no idea how important this is. . . .” that their attitude changed. Suddenly, the operator only cared about the details of the wedding. I got her back on track, secured the tickets, and then we dished about the wedding. I’m eternally grateful to that woman, wherever she is.
Aside from that obstacle, we discovered that planning a Maui wedding from 4,000 miles away was simple. A snap. Affordable. Gorgeous. And most of all, memorable.
I know a lot of married women who spent a ton on their weddings without getting exactly what they wanted. I am so happy I’ll never be one of those wives, sighing longingly at the wedding they might have had. I only sigh longingly because I want to go back! What a perfect excuse on our anniversary, to relive our fairy-tale day.
I hope our experience inspires other couples to go for that Maui wedding. Here are some pointers to help you decide.
First, a reality check. Be honest with yourself about your expectations and your finances. Do you want (and can you afford) a big church wedding and reception hosting 250 of your nearest and dearest? Or would you be happy with a few friends and family joining you on the beach?
Consider your guests. You’re asking them to travel a long way to share your day. How will you feel if they can’t come? (Our solution was to host a backyard reception, complete with mai tais and pupu, when we returned home.) A word of advice—plan far enough in advance so that those who want to attend can save for the trip.
Find a wedding planner. Seriously. There are legitimate concerns with planning an important event from thousands of miles away. Local wedding consultants can arrange packages that fit your taste and budget. They know the reliable vendors and can help with the million questions you’ll have. To find one who’s right for you, start by contacting the Maui Wedding Association (mauiweddingassociation.com).