Story by Heidi Pool | Photography by Graham Chappell
As owner of White Orchid Wedding in Wailuku, Carolee Higashino has been helping couples create successful destination weddings for more than twenty years. We asked her to walk us through three different types: a beach wedding, a resort wedding, and a ceremony at a private estate, and tell us what to consider with each.
Small, Simple, with Sand
When it comes to pure island romance, few settings compare with a crescent beach nestled between verdant mountains, the sun burnishing the ocean to hammered gold. If your wedding plans are modest, your style breezy and casual, a ceremony on the sand can be an unforgettable delight.
As a venue, the beach is also the most affordable—even though the State requires a permit ($25) and liability insurance (which most professional wedding coordinators carry).
But because all beaches in Hawai‘i are public, some restrictions apply. For example, while you’re welcome to incorporate flowers, music, photography and videography into your ceremony, chairs, tents, arches and other structures aren’t allowed. So it’s wise to avoid scheduling the ceremony during the heat of midday. Bring water and sunscreen—and save the dressy heels for the reception. Nobody walks gracefully in heels on sand.
The most important restriction? Wedding parties are limited to twenty-five people, and that includes the bride and groom. No wonder “we only recommend beach weddings if the ceremony is simple,” says Carolee.
Then again, where better to indulge in the latest day-after-the-wedding craze—trashing the dress? “The bride and groom go into the ocean and do a From Here to Eternity thing, with the photographer taking photos,” says Carolee.
Let Romance Flower
What could be more natural than a garden for bringing a man and a woman together? It’s been a tradition since Adam and Eve. Carolee and her staff work with about a dozen private estates—from oceanfront mansions to country manors, from balmy sea level to cloud-cooled mountain slopes. Scenery is one reason to choose a particular location. Another is the weather. Windward sites are subject to prevailing trade winds and frequent showers—which is also why they tend to be naturally lush and green. Maui’s mountains shelter the island’s leeward areas from most inclement weather; days are typically warm and sunny, though afternoons may be breezy.
Regardless of location, one advantage to getting married at a private estate, says Carolee, is the control the bride and groom retain over the arrangements.
“A garden-party wedding gives you the most freedom; you can bring in your own vendors, food, alcohol, and enhancements without having to pay a markup. And you can do fun things like romantic lighting and lanterns, fabric canopies, photo booths, ice luges and bars, signature cocktails, and lounge seating.”
Some properties can accommodate the wedding party with overnight stays, a priceless convenience for getting dressed on the big day and for pre-wedding photographs.
Most estates are located in residential areas, so some restrictions apply, like a ten o’clock curfew on live music. To avoid a problem with parking, Carolee and her staff employ a shuttle service to transport guests to and from the wedding.
An Elegant Tradition
Most resort hotels on Maui have their own coordinators, caterers . . . even onsite chapels. Interview several to find the one that best fits your style and budget—or let an independent wedding coordinator do the legwork for you.
The benefits of a resort wedding are many, not the least of which is the convenience of having everything in one luxurious location: accommodations, a variety of ceremony sites and reception venues—plus an in-house spa for pre-wedding pampering and day-of hair and makeup design. Valet service makes parking easy for guests, and some resorts offer a significant discount on blocks of ten rooms or more.
Carolee likes to arrange the ceremony “in an incredible garden or lawn setting . . . then move the wedding party to a restaurant terrace for a sunset soirée with cocktails and appetizers . . . followed by a formal, sit-down dinner in a private dining room or ballroom,” where music and dancing can continue into the wee hours.
To ensure quality, most resorts use preferred vendors, and contract directly with them on food, beverages, staffing, and sometimes lighting and sound. It costs more, but if your dream wedding is big, beautiful and opulent, this is the option to say “I do” to.
Before you Decide. . . .
One last piece of advice on choosing a venue, says Carolee, is to see it in person. “About half our clients come to Maui for a scouting trip with us that includes food tastings and site visits. Often it’s the couple who come, but many times it’s the bride and her mother, a sister or close friend. They make it a girls’ weekend.”