Is a Beach Wedding in Honolulu / Oahu Right For You?

September 24, 2022

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Last Updated on May 1, 2024 by Karma Hill

The Top 5 Things to Consider Before Booking a Beach Wedding in Honolulu

When you imagine a wedding in Honolulu or anywhere in Oahu, you likely picture marrying on the beach. Endless pristine sand, scenic views, and serene water. It’s an idyllic picture, and your photos will likely embody much of that. 

After all, Oahu is a beautiful place, and it’s hard to find a bad spot to get married. But your wedding is more than photos – it’s an entire experience. 

There are two main choices for having a Honolulu wedding: marrying on the public beach or renting a dedicated venue. 

A public beach wedding is great for many laid-back couples who want a budget-friendly and no-frills event. A commercial wedding venue is a bit pricier but comes with more comfort and amenities than the beach, plus there are fewer restrictions.

Do you think a beach wedding is the best choice for you? Ahead, we’ll outline some key considerations so you can make sure you’re booking the best Honolulu wedding package for you. 

The Beach Crowds

A wedding at a public beach involves, well, the public. You don’t get exclusive access to any part of the beach, so you will be sharing your wedding site with swimmers, sunbathers, spikeball players, and day drinkers. 

This is where experience vs. photos really comes into play. Our photography partner, Karma Hill Photography, photoshops nearly all the people out of wedding photos. So while you will be joined by strangers on your big day, you don’t have to remember them forever in your photos. 

But how will these strangers make you feel during your wedding in Honolulu?

Couples often enjoy a quiet beach for their wedding in Honolulu and Oahu, but it’s a gamble. We try to predict the least crowded days by avoiding weekends and holidays as much as possible, avoiding peak hours during the day, and avoiding the most popular locations (sorry, that rules out a Waikiki Beach ceremony). 

So while we do our best to get each couple the most serene beach wedding experience possible, many unknowns could cause the beaches to be busier. 

The Wedding Plan

Each day is different at the best beaches in Oahu. Our team of experienced photographers and onsite coordinators are used to working in various conditions, but they have to make many calls only minutes before the ceremony.

What does that mean for your planning experience? We can plan many key elements ahead of time, but other things depend on each day’s unique circumstances. 

Here are some things we can plan for at beach weddings:

  • If the couple would like not to see each other until the ceremony begins
  • Timing the ceremony for the best photography lighting
  • A meet-up spot for guests
  • A point of contact in case you need help finding the meet-up spot
  • What will your officiant say, and if you’ll share your own custom vows

Here are things that your team will decide as they show up shortly before the ceremony:

  • Where on the beach we’ll have the ceremony
  • Where the entrances will begin and where guests will stand
  • What kind of photo backdrops are available based on beachgoers and the tide
  • If parking is full, we’ll direct guests to a backup lot, which could cause one of your guests to serve as a shuttle from a distant lot to the beach.
  • If the weather is turning bad, we’ll decide if we need to wed under umbrellas or if we can wait out a passing shower.

If you and your guests are ok with going with the flow and following the guidance of your trusty onsite coordinator, you could really enjoy a relaxed beach wedding. But if you get anxious over the unknown, you may be better off booking a commercial venue, where we have a set location and more certainty. 

beach wedding in Honolulu

The Risks of a Beach Ceremony

A commercial wedding venue in Honolulu or nearby will be a controlled space where we can manage seating, enjoy more privacy, and be in touch with a venue contact leading up to the ceremony. 

A beach wedding leaves more opportunities for things to go wrong. This could include rain, strangers in the background, permit enforcement checking for paperwork, wind, noise, and parking struggles. 

If you are so excited about a fun, relaxed beach wedding and hiccups like these won’t phase you, then go for it! But if you’ll be distracted on the day, or worried leading up to it, you may want to consider Oahu wedding venues instead. 

Your Guest Count Is Important

Did you know that you can only have about 25 guests at a public beach wedding in Hawaii? This includes a beach wedding in Honolulu and throughout Oahu. And that 25-count limit could decrease if you hire many vendors or if the state changes the rules at any time. 

There are no exceptions to the guest count cap, so you’ll definitely want to control your group size if you book a beach wedding. 

If there is any chance that you could have 25 or more guests, then you should book an Oahu venue, which will be more flexible with guest count and provide a more comfortable experience for your larger group. 

Based on our years of experience, we’ve actually found that guest counts of 15 or less work best at beach weddings. Most of this has to do with parking challenges at the beach and the fact that we aren’t allowed to set up seating. 

beach wedding in Oahu ocean front

Cost Of Oahu Beach Weddings

Having your wedding on the public beach does cost less than having it at a venue. This is because we don’t need to pay a site rental fee. Instead, we just need to secure a permit to have the wedding legally on the beach. 

Budget-minded couples will likely first consider beach weddings, and that could be an excellent choice for you. But if you have concerns about some of the risks and unknowns involved with beach ceremonies, then you may need to look at your overall wedding and vacation budget to see if you can swing for a lower-cost venue. 

What about couples with a larger wedding budget who really want to marry on the beach? If you have the funds for your dream wedding, then consider that a public beach wedding is the cheapest option. A beach on private/commercial property or any commercial venue could allow you to have a more elegant wedding while still being only steps away from the ocean. 

Choosing a Beach Wedding in Honolulu and Oahu

Oahu beach wedding at sunset

If you’ve considered these key factors and still think a beach wedding is perfect for your laid-back and scenic vision, then we are excited to plan that for you! Check out our Honolulu wedding packages here

If you think these elements could affect how you enjoy your wedding, from the planning to the day of to the memories of it, then let’s talk more! Contact our Honolulu wedding coordinators to see what options are available and how we can help create a simple yet beautiful wedding for you. 

There are so many ways to have a beautiful Hawaii wedding. You just need to narrow down the best option for you. Want more advice about choosing between the different wedding options? Check out our blog post to learn more about picking your perfect Oahu wedding location

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Karma Hill is the owner of Karma Hill Photography, Simple Maui Wedding, Simple Oahu Wedding, and Simple Hawaii Wedding, marking a significant presence in the Hawaii wedding community since 2007. With a wealth of experience and a vast collection of informative posts on weddings and photography in Hawaii, Karma Hill offers unparalleled expertise. Explore the world of photography and wedding planning across Hawaii by visiting Karma's websites.

Beach wedding in Honolulu

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