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Hawaii is a great place for a wedding. The islands exude romance and natural beauty, and after the ceremony, you're already on your honeymoon. And the members of your wedding party will most likely be delighted, since you've given them the perfect excuse for their own island vacation.

More than 20,000 marriages are performed annually on the islands, mostly on Oahu; nearly half are for couples from somewhere else. The booming wedding business has spawned more than 70 companies that can help you organize a long-distance event and stage an unforgettable wedding, Hawaiian style or your style. However, you can also plan your own island wedding, even from afar, and not spend a fortune doing it.

The Paperwork

The state of Hawaii has some very minimal procedures for obtaining a marriage license. The first thing you should do is contact the Honolulu Marriage License Office, State Department of Health Building, 1250 Punchbowl St., Honolulu, HI 96813 (www.hawaii.gov; tel. 808/586-4545), which is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm. The office will no longer mail you the brochure Getting Married; you can download it from the website or contact a marriage-licensing agent closest to where you'll be staying in Hawaii (also listed on the website).

Once in Hawaii, the prospective bride and groom must go together to the marriage-licensing agent to get the license, which costs $60 and is good for 30 days. Both parties must be 15 years of age or older (couples 15-17 years old must have proof of age, written consent of both parents, and written approval of the judge of the family court) and not more closely related than first cousins. That's it.

As of January 1, 2012, gay couples can get a license for a "civil union" ceremony. It's not a marriage license, which only heterosexual couples can obtain.

Planning the Wedding

Doing It Yourself -- The marriage-licensing agents, who range from employees of the governor's satellite office in Kona to private individuals, are usually friendly, helpful people who can steer you to a nondenominational minister or marriage performer who's licensed by the state of Hawaii. These marriage performers are great sources of information for budget weddings. They usually know wonderful places to have the ceremony for free or for a nominal fee. For the names and addresses of marriage-licensing agents on the Big Island, call tel. 808/974-6008; on Maui, tel. 808/984-8210; on Molokai, tel. 808/553-3200; on Lanai, tel. 808/984-8210 (Maui); and on Kauai, tel. 808/241-3498.

If you don't want to use a wedding planner , but you do want to make arrangements before you arrive in Hawaii, my best advice is to get a copy of the daily newspapers on the island where you want to have the wedding. People willing and qualified to conduct weddings advertise in the classifieds. They're great sources of information, as they know the best places to have the ceremony and can recommend caterers, florists, and everything else you'll need. If you want to have your wedding on the Kona/Waimea side of the Big Island, get West Hawaii Today, P.O. Box 789, Kailua-Kona, HI 96745 (www.westhawaiitoday.com; tel. 808/329-9311); for the Hilo/Puna side, try the Hawaii Tribune Herald, P.O. Box 767, Hilo, HI 96720 (www.hilohawaiitribune.com; tel. 808/935-6621). On Maui, get the Maui News, P.O. Box 550, Wailuku, HI 96793 (www.mauinews.com; tel. 808/244-3981). On Kauai, try the Garden Island, 3137 Kuhio Hwy., Lihue, HI 96766 (www.kauaiworld.com; tel. 808/245-3681). And on Oahu, check out the StarAdvertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-500, Honolulu, HI 96813 (www.staradvertiser.com; tel. 808/525-8000); and MidWeek, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-527, Honolulu, HI 96813 (www.midweek.com; tel. 808/235-5881).

Using a Wedding Planner -- Wedding planners -- many of whom are marriage-licensing agents as well -- can arrange everything for you, from a small, private outdoor affair to a full-blown formal ceremony in a tropical setting. They charge anywhere from $95 to a small fortune -- it all depends on what you want. On the Big Island, contact Paradise Weddings Hawaii (www.paradiseweddingshawaii.com; tel. 800/428-5844 or 808/883-9067); on Maui, The Maui Wedding Planner (www.mauiweddingplanner.com; tel. 808/891-8765); on Kauai, try Coconut Coast Weddings & Honeymoons (www.kauaiwedding.com; tel. 800/585-5595); on Oahu, contact Rev. Toni Baran and Rev. Jerry Le Lesch at Love Hawaii (www.lovehawaii.com; tel. 808/235-6966), which offers wedding services starting at $95. The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, Waikiki Business Plaza, 2270 Kalakaua Ave., Ste. 801, Honolulu, HI 96815 (www.gohawaii.com; tel. 800/GO-HAWAII [464-2924] or 808/923-1811), can provide contact information for other wedding coordinators, and many of the big resorts have their own coordinators on staff as well.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.