Real Hawai'i Wedding Budgets
Here we'll compare wedding budgets for a traditional 40-person wedding, adventure elopements and simple beach weddings in Hawai'i. Plus, we'll give you a breakdown of average vendor and travel costs.
First things first, make sure you give back
Hawai'i is an amazing place to get married! Whether you're having a large wedding or an elopement with just the two of you - it has ideal weather all year round, a beautiful tropical setting and a honeymoon destination all in one. But if you thought planning a wedding in the continental US was expensive, try planning your Hawai'i wedding. There are a few reasons that make Hawai’i so expensive that we'll go through in more detail, but the first thing we want to address is that if you can afford to come to Hawai’i a portion of your budget should go toward a Native Hawaiian organization.
Hawai’i wouldn’t be Hawai’i without native Hawaiians.
Very little tourism or wedding industry revenues go back into the hands of the Hawaiian community. As Hawai’i works to impose a green tax we recommend giving $150 per person or 2-5% of your total wedding budget minimum. There are some amazing non-profit organizations and Hawaiian-led coalitions listed below.
The Average Hawai'i Wedding Will Cost More Than You Think
The average cost for an intimate wedding and honeymoon in Hawai'i for just the two of you will vary depending on the style of elopement you choose, whether you visit multiple islands, the number of guests you invite, the cost of your airfare, etc. An intimate wedding with 20-50 guests can range from $100-500 per guest plus airfare. However, elopements aren't necessarily a way to save money. Instead they are more often a way to get a different wedding experience. We only photograph elopements (aka intentional weddings with 25 people or fewer) and have found that our couples have budgeted anywhere from $11,000 - $90,000 for an intimate wedding.
"how much does it cost to get married in Hawai'i?"
Some basics about Hawai'i wedding costs
There are big companies that sell basic wedding packages with the same old decorations and flowers. The problem is they don't take into consideration your personal tastes, style, or vision, and we've been to more than one cheap wedding with a planner (and all venues in Hawai’i require a planner) that clearly had no idea what they were doing. Smaller businesses can offer you a more creative and original experience because they're able to work closely with you to create a one-of-a-kind event that reflects your style and personality. We worked with some of these cheaper vendors when we first started, and let me tell you - you can tell the difference, and more than one unprofessional vendor ruined a couples day. I'm not going to call those vendors out directly, but...
So, let's break down average vendor costs (scroll below to see our real 2019 budget - then how much it would cost to plan the same thing in 2022). Our budget was definitely on the low-end (and with lots of industry connections). We didn't have a DJ, opted against wedding rings (we both had engagement rings) and had several industry connections. Even still, we spent over 30k. You don't necessarily need everyone on this list (especially if you opt to elope!), but it will give you an idea of what you can expect to spend.
You're paying for a small army of talented small business owners to pull off your dream day. This includes photography, a private venue rental, decor rentals, catering, dessert, attire, and flowers. A rehearsal dinner, videography, officiant, and anything "extra" you want to include will just increase the cost.
You'll find a ton of people outside the wedding and event industry telling you that wedding pricing is a scam. It's not. Running a small business (especially in Hawai'i) is HARD WORK and costs so much more than you can even imagine. There is licensing, taxes, payroll, insurance, marketing, etc. These business owners need to pay themselves and their employees a living wage (Hawai'i is the most expensive state to live in). I think we can both agree that you don't want your cake baker or florist to be homeless or living below the poverty line. Wedding vendors have set rates and are not here to be bargained with. Don't like it? Then don't get married here. Far more goes into a wedding than say, a birthday party.
if you find a package deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Average Hawai'i Wedding Vendor Costs
Most venues in Hawai'i rent for between $4,500 and $15,000 for a day. This includes traditional venues like gardens or ranches or private yachts and restaurants. These costs have gone up significantly in the past few years. For example, our venue (Paliku Gardens at Kualoa Ranch) was rented for $2,500 in 2019 - the same space costs $4,500 in 2022.
Videography is a beautiful way to tell your story, and videographers are similarly priced to photographers. What's included in packages can vary wildly, but expect to pay an extra $4,000-$8,000 for videography.
The average starting price for a 6-hour wedding in Hawai'i is $5,000. Typically though, you'll want 8-12 hours of coverage. On average, most of the couples we work with spend between $6,000 - $8,000 (which includes all our planning help and their album).
You and your guests need to eat! Typically, the cost of wedding food is a "per plate" fee, and buffets are usually less expensive than seated dinners. However, this often doesn't include server wear, servers, plate, utensils, etc. In addition, most caterers or venues have an additional fee to haul away the trash. So expect to pay between $150 - $500 per plate.
I'm not aware of a single Hawai'i venue that doesn't require a wedding planner. Why? Because weddings are a production and there are multiple vendors to manage the day of. From tents and rentals to flower deliveries. You'll need a planner on-site to help. Some day of planners (no pre-wedding planning, just day-of execution) can be included for as low as $2,000, but remember- you get what you pay for. Our favorite all-inclusive planner is $13,500!
There’s nothing more special than the moment you slice into your wedding cake, so why not make the centerpiece of your dessert table something that tastes as wonderful as it looks? Whether you want a three tier beauty or a custom mini cake. Expect to pay between $5-25 per serving. Alternatively, if you elope you could grab malasadas, shave ice, acai bowls, or whatever other sweet your heart desires!
RENTALS & DECOR
ATTIRE & ACCESSORIES
DRINK SERVICE & ALCOHOL
If you’re eloping, you probably won’t spend any money on rentals or decor (although you totally can). But, especially in Hawai’i, you’ll probably drop a couple of grand outfitting your venue. Most venues do not include chairs, bar set-ups, tents, tables, etc. Venues that do have all-inclusive packages typically run from $15,000 - $30,000 (costs will depend on the number of guests). Candle, lighting, dance floors, and even table linens can quickly run up a bill! Plus, the reason weddings can't start until the afternoon is so your planners and team can have the morning to set-up!
The average cost of a wedding dress hasn't changed drastically over the years. According to The Knot the price of a wedding dress was $1,600 in 2019 - but you can easily drop a couple of grand on a dress. Suits (especially custom ones) can also be a couple of grand! However, many of our couples opt for much cheaper options, and you definitely don’t have to wear white. But, please, whatever you do, make sure that you get your suit or dress altered! A baggy suit or ill-fitting dress isn’t something that can be fixed with photoshop.
Alcohol can be wicked expensive. A 150 person wedding can easily have a $12,000 bar tab at the end of the night! If a fully stocked open bar is breaking your budget, consider offering beer and wine or hosting just a champagne toast. Think about serving only coconuts, mocktails, or teas and juices. Just remember, that in most cases, you'll be paying for the physical bar, servers, server ware, and all the supplies. It adds up FAST! Of course, if you elope you can just budget for a bottle of bubbly or some cocktails at dinner.
TRAVEL & MISCELLANEOUS
Getting a marriage license in Hawai'i is really easy. It's just $65 and you'll need to go in person together with your IDs before the ceremony. The cost isn’t huge, but it’s best if you put this on your itinerary for the first few days of your vacation! So, it can easily add a few days to your trip to ensure you have enough time to get it before your ceremony! If you work with us we'll guide you through all the steps.
According to The Knot, the average cost of an engagement ring is currently $6,000 and wedding bands will run you another $1,600 on average. But many of the couples we've worked with opt not to have any rings, or they both have engagement rings and no wedding bands. Don't feel pressured into a diamond. There are great jewelers who use recycled metals and ethically-sourced gemstones, epic vintage rings, and so many custom options. Choose what you both love, whether it's a unique family heirloom or an affordable option from your local jewelry store.
Make sure you have a big enough travel budget to thoroughly enjoy your vacation, give back to the community, and offset your travel footprint. And budget for experiences, not things. 40 years from now you’ll remember the epic helicopter ride you took and not the more expensive table linens. Travel budgets are listed below, but expect to pay between $5,000-$10,000 minimum. And don’t forget to budget for unforeseen circumstances (you would be truly surprised by how many of our clients get their cars towed)!
BUT WHY ARE WEDDINGS SO PRICEY?
Some people LOVE big weddings and wouldn't dream about eloping. But before you plan, let's give you some insight into costs.
Here are some things you might not realize you're paying for.
real budget examples
Traditional Hawai'i Wedding Budget Examples
Budget for 40 person wedding in Hawai'i
click to see budgets
A note about our costs - we didn't have several vendors (like a DJ or expensive wedding rings and minimal travel costs since we live on island).
The same wedding in 2023 would cost tens of thousands of dollars more!
Essentially you have between 7 pm and 10 pm to interact with your guests. This is between eating, dancing, cake cutting, speeches, etc. Even still, that's 3 hours, so 180 minutes, divided by 40 guests… that's 4.5 minutes a person.
Cost breakdown of a 40 person wedding
Why 40 people? Because we think this is the perfect amount of people. Chances are you don't actually like more than 40 people, and we're huge proponents of only inviting guests you like. I give you full permission to uninvite your racist uncle or your mom's friend that you haven't seen since you were seven. Obviously, if your family is paying for the wedding, you might need to compromise. But these big weddings have gotten out of hand. And I'm going to show you a little math to prove my point (as an aside when I say "big wedding" I'm referring to anything with more than 10-20 guests). 40 people is a big party, 150 is just a bigger one.
In Hawai'i, the average time for gusts to arrive is between 3:30-4:00 pm, ceremony until 4:30 or 5:00. If you're following a traditional timeline, family photos will take anywhere from 30-45 minutes (this is also the most hectic part of the entire day) which usually happens right after the ceremony. And, you aren't interacting with your guests yet. Typically, your photographer will steal the two of you away for sunset portraits, and at some point, you'll also take a few pictures with the bridal party. So, let's say you get back to the reception for dinner, toasts, and dances at 7 pm.
This is a VERY typical timeline - it's may vary slightly, but for the purpose of this demonstration, we'll stick with it. Venues close at 10 pm typically (some hotel/ballroom venues let you stay open later - but I would ask why you come to paradise if you're going to have an indoor wedding…?)
40 guests =
50 guests =
75 guests =
100 guests =
150 guests =
You get the point. And I can hear some of you now saying, "but my guests are there for six hours, not three." I hear you, I do, but we've been to SO MANY WEDDINGS. Trust us; you are not seeing and interacting with these people, let alone your spouse, for most of the day. Again 4 o'clock -7 o'clock is your ceremony and photos. Chances are you'll miss most if not all of cocktail hour. So what's the point in inviting so many people in the first place? This is the core of why you'll hear from so many people say, "I wish we had eloped."
50k is an insane amount of money for just one day when you'll hardly see the people you're spending all that money for. So, don't delude yourselves into thinking a big wedding is for you - it's not. If you have the money and want to spend it on your friends and family having a fantastic party, absolutely go for it! But you can instead spend a fraction of that amount (10 - 20k) and have a romantic and intimate day that's all about the two of you, not your guests, the production that is a big wedding.
Elopements aren't just to save money, and most of the couples we work with spend between 10-20 thousand dollars on their entire honeymoon and wedding in Hawai'i. But they're spending money on amazing photos & videos (the average investment for our packages is 8k), their attire, and their experience. Many couples we work with don't have any other vendors (no flowers, venue, officiant, cake, etc.). But we've also worked with couples that SPLURGE and wear three dresses, have three bouquets, and rent a private venue all for themselves.
When you elope, you can splurge on your honeymoon, give back to the community, and prioritize the experiences that mean the most to you. Whether that’s a sailboat ride to see whales, a rapelling adventure down a waterfall, or just a mellow afternoon at the beach that ends with a personal chef making you a custom meal in your unique Airbnb.
Spend Money on experiences & new memories
Eloping to Hawai'i sounds like a dream. Who wouldn't want to wake up with their spouse in paradise, surrounded by beautiful beaches and majestic mountains? It's easy to imagine how that could cost less than a traditional wedding back home. But most of the couples we work with just reallocate that budget towards amazing experiences that create new memories. Instead of table and chair rentals you can go whale watching, land a helicopter at a private waterfall, horseback ride on a cliff overlooking the ocean, AND say your vows with your toes in the sand.
When a couple comes to us and says they want to elope, they might not know how much it costs to elope. And perhaps friends and family have told you it’s the much cheaper option (and on average it is). But, there is no way to have an unforgettable wedding in Hawai'i without spending at least $10,000. If you don’t have that much or more budgeted, then Hawai’i is probably not the place for you. I know that comes off as harsh, but I'm doing you a favor now by saving you the headache and hassle you're sure to experience later. Many couples are happy just to visit their hometown courthouse or have a ceremony in their local park instead. That's okay too! Don't feel like you have to do anything I or anyone else says to you! There is honestly a wedding style for every budget. And at the end of the day, your marriage should be about the two of you starting a new chapter of your lives.
Whatever your dream wedding day is, we encourage you to look at your budget and really think about how you want to prioritize the day -
whether that's 100 guests or just the two of you.
real budget examples
Hawai'i Adventure Elopements
Real budgets from our past clients
click to see budgets
A note about costs - you can include all the vendors on this list or just us! When you prioritize your experience there is an elopement option for every budget.
But, you can expect to pay at least 5k for travel to Hawai'i. Scroll below to see travel budgets.
A note about travel
I wanted to cite a source about the average travel costs for coming to Hawai'i. But everything seemed too unrealistic! We travel inter-island (from O'ahu to other islands) every month. We travel cheap, don't eat out, stay at more affordable Airbnb rentals, and know where to get some great deals. If we were paying for flights from the continental US, the only way we could afford a week's stay for under 5k is if we were staying in really shitty hotels or a hostel. So I also calculated what we think travel to Hawai'i would cost.
You might find flights cheaper, but even still, the Airbnb/hotel cost we list is SUPER low. The nicer experience Airbnb's will cost $450 - $700 + per night. This also has a pretty low daily activity amount. If you wanted to do anything special while on vacation (helicopter, horseback, zip line, sail, dive, etc. expect to pay a lot more). Don't forget to budget for unforeseen circumstances too - you'd be surprised how many of our past clients had their rentals towed.
Expect to pay 5k minimum when traveling to Hawai'i