So, you’re thinking of getting married on the Big Island! (Or, you’ve been asked to officiate a ceremony!) Either way, you’ve come to the right place.
Less visited than popular Mauai or Oahu, the Big Island has a more authentic vibe that a more low-key couple will appreciate. But don’t confuse its mellow nature for boring. Locals say that each one of the Hawaiian Islands has a different energy. The Big Island is said to embody newness and life, as the youngest and most volcanically active of all its sister islands.
There is so much to see here, from the smooth, golden beaches, to the colorful mist of the countless waterfalls, to the lush rainforests in the south, to the Boiling Pots of basalt-lava in the east. This is an island that you’ll want to spend more than a few days on in order to truly soak in and experience what it’s all about.
If you’re planning a destination wedding, you may be feeling overwhelmed with all the different elements that you will need to organize (and tourist stops you want to hit while you’re there!) Don’t worry -- our guide is the perfect way to get started in planning your wedding. Let’s start with the hardest part: the legal to-do’s.
Let’s start with the ordainment process. According to the Hawaii Revised Statutes §572-12, a license to solemnize marriages may be issued to “any minister, priest, or officer of any religious denomination or society who has been ordained or is authorized to solemnize marriages according to the usages of such denomination or society.”
If you do not fall into any of these categories, no sweat. You can get ordained with AMM to become a minister! The process is free and takes just a few minutes.
In Hawaii, new marriage officiants are required to register online. After you apply with your new credentials from AMM, a username and password will be emailed to you, which you will need later.
Now for the fun part: writing the wedding ceremony script! We can help you with this part. Click through our wedding training pages, which will help get the creative juices flowing as you start to outline your first ceremony. Here you can find everything from sample wedding ceremony scripts, to brainstorming prompts, tips for preparation, and more.
It’s the couple’s responsibility to obtain their marriage license and have it approved and signed by an agent, but just be sure to double check that they have done so before you perform their ceremony.
Depending on the Department of Health’s current procedures, the couple may need your help filling out a marriage license worksheet that would have been issued to them by their license agent. Ask them if the agent issued them one and if it requires your signature on the day of the wedding.
After the wedding, your final task is to confirm the ceremony using your online account by following this link. Use the dropdown menu to select “Authorized User,” then click “Login.” (Your login info was issued to you when you registered your ministerial credentials online in Step 1.)
From there, you will need to confirm that you performed the couple’s ceremony so that they will be able to access their marriage certificate. You’re all done! A‘o ia! We hope you get the chance to use your ordination credentials again in the future.
Now let’s turn our attention to the couple’s responsibilities. There are a few steps to the process. It can seem a little complicated, but you’ll figure it out as you go by following these instructions.
After you have chosen your officiant and they have registered their credentials online, you’re ready to apply for your marriage license through Hawaii’s state website. It will just have you fill out some basic information about you and your partner and your officiant. Easy-peasy!
Once you’re done with this part of the process, you then need to go down to the Department of Health’s office to pick up the physical copy. BOTH you and your partner must be present in order to obtain it.
And when you go, remember to bring your IDs, like a passport or driver’s license, in case they ask you to present them, and payment for the fee of $65.
Once you have it in your possession, there’s another step before the “I do’s.” You will need to contact a license agent to make an appointment for them to approve and notarize your marriage license before your actual wedding ceremony. You can find a list of agents in Hilo here.
Also note that your ceremony must be performed within 30 days of your appointment with your agent. Again, remember to bring identification with you for this part. During this appointment, you will be given a marriage license worksheet that your officiant will help you fill out on the big day.
After the wedding, the ball is back in the officiant’s court. He or she will need to go online to the E-Hawaii website to confirm your ceremony.
Then, within three to five business days of confirmation, you will be able to go online to request your marriage certificate through the website by using the dropdown menu to select “Couples” and clicking “Check Status.” There, you will be able to access a temporary PDF certificate while you wait for your official certificate to be mailed to the address that you provide. (It will ask you for your locator ID, which is also known as your authorization code.)
Hoʻomaikaʻi! Congratulations, you’re officially married!
Issuance Office: 75 Aupuni Suite #105, Hilo
Waiting Period: None
Expiration: 30 days
Return: Officiant confirms online
Now that we’ve taken care of the legal to-do’s, let’s talk about the fun stuff: the features of the island and planning your wedding.
If you’re flying in from the mainland, you will be arriving in Kona. Hilo is located on the opposite (east) side of the island. You can use your Hilo-issued license anywhere on the island, so definitely check out all that the Big Island has to offer in terms of wedding locations and venues. We’ll help you break it down. Let’s start with talking about the weather patterns of the island.
The island has different climates -- tropical, arid, temperate and polar -- depending on your altitude.
The locals break down by the “sunny” side and the “rainy” side. The “sunny” side is the west side, where Kona is located. Waikoloa, between Waimea and Kona, the summits of the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes, and the most southern tip of the island also stay pretty dry. The “rainy” side is the east side, where Hilo is, which gets between 10 and 40 times as much rain as the driest parts of the island. The wettest months are between November and March, but showers can come up out of nowhere -- it’s just part of life on the island! And a little tropical rain never hurt anyone. But it’s something to keep in mind when choosing your location and wedding date.
Now, let’s talk locations! If you Google search weddings on the Big Island, you’ll be inundated with ads from the most popular wedding venues, which are great wedding locations, but don’t give you a full scope of your options across the island. Let’s break it down.
On the “dry” side of the island, if you’re thinking of a beach wedding, you’ll want to choose a resort location or think about renting private beachfront property in a block party style wedding in the Kelekeaua Bay area. Arranging a wedding on the private grounds guarantees you’ll have more control over the experience, as public beaches are crowded.
But if you’re having a small, simple ceremony and don’t want to pay the premium for a private location, a ceremony at Anaeho'omalu Bay (A-Bay) or Kikaua Point are your best bets, as they’re a little less crowded than the more popular beaches.
The east side also has a lot to offer -- don’t write it off just because it’s the “rainy” side!
The Queen Lili‘uokalani Gardens, known as the crown jewel of Hilo, is one of our favorite spots on the island. The grounds overlooking Hilo Bay, home to the epic, 80-foot Rainbow Falls, are nothing short of magical.
The gardens, located within Wailuku River State Park, are just a short drive from downtown Hilo and the viewing area of the waterfall is wheelchair accessible, so it’s convenient for any older guests you may have. To get married here, you’ll need to request a permit from the Hawai‘i State Parks District at least 45 days before your wedding date. You can find info on how to contact them here.
You may also want to contact Hawaii Forest and Trails, a little company that offers waterfall tours in North Kohala that can help you arrange for waterfall weddings in North Kohala or Hilo -- they know all the best spots and provide supplies like tents and catering. Their contact information is available on their website.
If you’re looking to go off the beaten path a little bit more, you can find ranches and farms speckled all along the coast and inland that host private ceremonies. This will require that you get a little more creative in coordinating the details, such as finding a caterer, florist, etc. But you’re in for a more unique experience and you might save a few bucks.
If you want to keep it simple and easy, there are plenty of resorts on both sides of the island that are experienced at hosting weddings and welcome the opportunity, so don’t be afraid to go with this option if you just want a smooth, easy experience.
There’s no getting around it. The best way to navigate the island is to rent a car, which you can easily do when you arrive at Kona International Airport. It’s a good idea to make a reservation before you arrive, but if you forget, there are plenty of car rental agencies around that will be able to hook you up when you get there (you just might not get the car of your choice.) If you’re heading to the “rainy” side of the island, make sure to fill up your tank before you go. You’ll have to take Saddle Road across the island and there are no gas stations on the way.
Yes, they are! But you do have to register with the state of Hawaii to enter their system of officiants before you can perform your first wedding.
Yes, it requires 30 days from the date that the license agent issues it, so don’t apply for a marriage license until a few weeks before you wedding date.
In some states there is a waiting period that you must abide by before you can hold your ceremony, but in Hawaii, as soon as the license is issued to you, you’re free to use it the same day!
After the wedding, your officiant needs to go online and “confirm” that the ceremony was completed. Then, after a few days, your temporary marriage certificate will become available to you online as a printable PDF. You can also request to have the Department of Health send you an official copy via mail.