KAUAI, HAWAII — If you’re not in love when you come to Kauai, you will be when you leave.
Kauai is Cupid’s playground, tailor-made for romance. Kauai’s allure as a romantic destination is proven time and again, not just by Hollywood filmmakers, but also by the couples who return year after year, often with children and grandchildren in tow. Whether planning a wedding and honeymoon, anniversary or vow renewal, this is an island where couples create joyful memories for a lifetime.
Kauai has many experienced wedding coordinators who are unflappable in planning the details. There are also independent licensed wedding consultants, available through an organization of professionals on the island. The planners know the island, the process, the locations, and the details. What about the marriage license, officiant, lei, flowers, photography, entertainment, rehearsal dinner, reception? The wedding coordinator is the go-to person who can even arrange a pre-nuptial spa date. All these details can be seamlessly worked out before the couple’s arrival, so the time spent on Kauai is stress-free.
Location is paramount, and Kauai does not disappoint. Fantasy is real on this island—just look at the movies. Elvis got married on a tropical lagoon in the movie Blue Hawaii, and South Pacific’s Mitzi Gaynor couldn’t wash her leading man out of her hair. On this island, cathedrals take many forms, and some couples never leave.
GETTING READY — Kauai resorts offer wedding and honeymoon packages that are lavish and wide-ranging. Top-to-toe pampering is the norm. The independent Kauai Wedding Professionals Association can also be helpful: www.kauaiwedpro.com.
Weddings held in public settings require a state or county permit, depending on the location. A resort wedding planner or independent professional planner can obtain the permit for you. Marriage licenses are a must, also obtainable by a professional planner. For more information on marriage licenses, go to www.hawaii.gov/doh.
WHERE TO SAY, “I DO” — Some couples favor sunrise, others the blazing sunset. Some opt for a boat cruise, others a tropical waterfall. Possible venues for Kauai weddings are as numerous as the island’s beauty spots, limited only by access and the imagination. Weddings and water are natural partners: waterfalls, rivers, beaches, saltwater lagoons, and mountain pools. And tears of joy, naturally. At a 30-acre tropical garden in east Kauai’s Coconut Coast, couples can exchange their vows on the banks of a river revered for its cultural sites. The tropical garden is on the banks of the 21-mile Wailua River, a silky-smooth waterway favored by Hawaiian royalty and now a scenic favorite of Hollywood filmmakers.
The Wailua River is lined with hau trees with heart-shaped leaves. Up the river, the Fern Grotto is another popular wedding site, a geological wonder drippy and covered with ferns. After the boat reaches the dock, the wedding party takes a short walk through a jungle garden to a deck at the entrance to the grotto. A Hawaiian trio sings “The Hawaiian Wedding Song,” their voices wafting through the garden of bamboo, gingers, banana plants, ti, and other lush tropical foliage.
The gardens of the Garden Isle are natural locations for weddings. A guided tour of Limahuli Garden in Haena, in the shadow of the mountain named Makana, made famous as “Bali Hai” in the movie South Pacific, is a great way to celebrate a honeymoon or anniversary. On the south shore of Kauai, a tour of the Allerton Garden brings a cocoon of beauty on this most beautiful day.
Also on the south shore, on a hilltop in charming Kalaheo, the Kukuiolono (“light of Lono”) Park is hidden near the end of easy-to-miss Papalina Road. The Hawaiians made fires of kukui nut (candlenut) and placed them on the hillside to guide Hawaiian mariners, hence the name Kukuiolono.
Walter McBryde donated the park to the people of Kauai in 1919, and it remains a quiet Kalaheo treasure next to a 9-hole golf course. Bonsai trees and a small footbridge are part of the Japanese rock garden, shaded in Zen-like tranquility by ironwoods, eucalyptus and Royal Poinciana trees. Butterflies flutter, and the air is perfumed with laua‘e ferns. Bird of paradise, vandal orchids, and ti leaves add color, and a short (0.8-mile) loop trail reveals the view. Couples will find this is a romantic setting perfect for an intimate wedding before dark; the gates close at 6:30 p.m.
Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, on the north shore in Kilauea, has a range of romantic environments within its 240 acres: garden, waterfall lagoon, beach and meadow, and hardwood plantation. There’s also a maze to entertain the party after completion of the ceremony. The garden’s non-profit foundation supports many community and environmental efforts.
With more than 50 miles of white-sand beaches, weddings and honeymoons are naturally beach-bound. State and city beach parks are abundant (permit required), and most of the resorts located on the shoreline have their own ocean settings to suggest and the coordinators to plan them.
PEERLESS PAMPERING — Resort settings are romantic and offer every possible amenity. In addition to full-time wedding coordinators, resorts have facilities and services for the receptions and private dinners that are part of the celebration. Banquet rooms and services, gazebos and chapels as locations, a quiet beach or a festive wedding luau—the wedding choices can be customized.
Wedding packages often include a honeymoon suite, complimentary champagne or sparkling wine upon arrival, and a festive welcome of flower petals and special amenities. Couples can customize their weddings with torch lighting and the sounding of a conch shell, a Hawaiian chant and hula. Orchid showers and fireworks, or a Chinese lion dance before or after whale watching. An oceanside couples massage before or after the wedding. A sunrise ceremony or a sunset cruise—and why not both? The master stroke is in the details.
One Poipu resort offers a honeymoon package that includes a 15% spa discount. Imagine a couple’s massage in a private bungalow with a lava rock shower and steam grotto. After a treatment with the healing Kauai clay, a couples massages and facials, who wouldn’t want to get married or renew a wedding vow?