Last week, I talked a little bit about how Garrett and I chose the location, venue and guest list for our wedding in Oahu, Hawaii. Today, I’m diving into how we found our vendors. I’ll also share a little about what it was like for us to plan the wedding from far away!
If you’re reading this blog post, it’s either because your considering planning your very own destination to Oahu or you think the idea sounds wonderful. Which it does – and it was! But even if you’re not planning on getting married in Oahu or Hawaii at all, I think some of these bits of information will be helpful!
Finding Our Planner
As a wedding vendor myself, this was the part of planning I was most excited for. I know so many industry pros in Atlanta, but I knew zero in Hawaii. I truly felt like any average bride, searching online and scoping social media channels.
The first vendor that we booked was our planner. I’m sure that you can plan your destination wedding without one, but I would never recommend it. Melissa was instrumental in helping us find other vendors, as well as orchestrating our entire wedding! Before selecting Opihi Love, I researched and reached out to several others. Most planners will have a form for you to fill out that asks some specific information like budget, number of guests, dates, venue if you found one, and maybe a few other questions about style and preferences. They also may have some information on their website that tells you what their typical budgets look like.
I found an editorial that Opihi Love created for Natalie Franke, a photographer I admired. I loved their style and vision, but their typical budget range far exceeded our budget. Even though I knew we weren’t the best fit financially, I still reached out to them through their website and asked if they had any recommendations for wedding planners in our price range. As a wedding vendor myself, I knew that a lot of vendors love to refer out weddings that aren’t a great fit for them. Thankfully, Melissa got back to us saying that she’d be happy to work within our budget for a wedding of our size. Bonus points for having only 20 guests! After a FaceTime meeting, we made it official!
Finding our other vendors
After finding Melissa, pulling the rest of our vendors together was easy. Melissa provided vendor recommendations from hair and makeup to venues to florals, and even found us a caterer who could work with our smaller budget. This was the most difficult decision! Initially, Garrett and I wanted to do tacos and guacamole, family-style on the table. Fish tacos are a shared favorite for us, and we even had them on our first date, so it was a sentimental choice. However, everywhere we looked, tacos would costs us about $3500 for 20 people. At the end of the day, we just couldn’t justify spending that much money on tacos. Even though we loved them!
Instead, we found Nicole Scharer Events. Melissa had a personal connection to Nicole, and they were able to coordinate together and give us a plated dinner within our budget. It was lovely! Nicole’s menu was delicious and loved by all of our guests. I do have to note that I did get a touch of food poisoning that evening and was up for a couple of hours at 2 am (not even joking). To this day, I still haven’t said anything to Nicole because the food was so delicious and no one else got sick! I believe that my piece of chicken just wasn’t cooked all the way through, and accidents happen.
Melissa also helped us find our florist, Passion Roots, and our hair and makeup team, REVEAL Hair & Makeup. I loved these gals! Allison and her team were professional, on time, and so much fun to be around. I scheduled a hair trial the day before the wedding to see what I wanted to do. She came to our Airbnb for the trial and put me at ease with her talent and fun personality.
Before hiring any of these vendors, I highly recommend reading lots of reviews and testimonials. These will give you great insight into how they work and how great of a job they do!
Finding our Photographer
As a photographer, this was the biggest vendor hire for us. Knowing me, Garrett said that I was allowed to choose any photographer I wanted. He’d go with the flow! While I appreciated that, I still wanted to include Garrett in any interviews and meetings I set up. I reached out to so many photographers! On the island, in Atlanta or in a completely different destination, I inquired with probably 10-15 photographers. This decision was the most difficult because while I value photography and had planned a large budget, I didn’t have the budget necessary to hire my dream photographers (in the $10-15k ranges). Our budget for 4 hours of photography was between $3-5k, travel included.
Thankfully, I connected with Natalie at 4 Corners Photography. She is a local Atlanta photographer and was able to capture our engagement session at Arabia Mountain. We paid for her travel to Hawaii, and she even met up with us for dinner a couple of nights before the wedding! She fit our budget and captured our day beautifully.
Planning from a distance
Planning any wedding is stressful. Between budgets, finding vendors and dealing with guest and family leading up to the date, any wedding can add lots of stress. However, add to it travel and a new destination you’ve never been to, and it’s even more difficult. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
However, it’s worth it. It absolutely is.
Our wedding wasn’t just a day. We had an entire wedding week. This was exactly what Garrett and I dreamed when we planned our destination wedding. We wanted to shower our closest friends and family with an amazing, one of a kind experience. Prior to booking anything, we reached out to all of our guests to make sure that May 16th would work for them. Between school schedules, work schedules and other important events, we found that this week was a unicorn date for everyone. We chose the 16th because it was mid-week which gave us a venue discount and other discounts with vendors.
After we secured our date, we set to work on helping our guests plan their travel. From helpful articles and tips on booking flights to where to stay on the island, we helped them plan while also planning our own. Garrett and I ended up booking an Airbnb in Kaneohe with our close friends. And it was perfect!
My favorite wedding detail
My favorite vendor that I worked with was my dear friend Amanda at The Impressionist in Atlanta. Since most other vendors needed to be on site for the wedding, I had to book local Hawaiian vendors (except my photographer). But Amanda could create our invitations from anywhere! And I was excited that I could use one of my friends from Atlanta.
She created the most beautiful invitation suite for us! I’m obsessed with letterpress invitations, but Amanda included a small detail that set my heart on fire: a small map of Oahu with some of the important locations for our wedding. Included on the map: Paliku Gardens (our venue), Pearl Harbor, Sunset Beach, North Shore, Mokulua Islands and Diamond Head. I loved that we could include some iconic locations for our guests to visit during their stay!
Working with vendors from a distance
Collaborating on our designs and working with my vendors through email was super easy! In fact, I think it felt totally normal compared to any other wedding. While I would have loved to have seen Paliku Gardens before the wedding, I felt at ease knowing that Melissa had worked there before and knew the area. While email took a few days back and forth, she was always helpful in her responses. She was our main contact regarding the wedding day, so she coordinated with all other vendors on our behalf, and that made the process that much more enjoyable!
10/10 would always recommend a wedding planner. Because she could handle the vendor side of things, we were able to focus on our guests and planning those other details for travel. This was so helpful!