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, as 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 (tel. 808/586-4545; www.state.hi.us/doh/records/vr_marri.html), which is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm. The office no longer will 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.

Gay couples cannot marry in Hawaii. After a protracted legal battle, and much discussion in the state legislature, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the state will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Planning the Wedding

Doing It Yourself-- The marriage-licensing agents, who range from state employees 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, addresses, and telephone numbers of marriage agents in the rural and suburban areas of Oahu, call tel. 808/586-4544.

If you don't want to use a wedding planner , but you do want to make arrangements before you arrive in Hawaii, our 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 and know the best ceremony sites, caterers, florists, and so on. Check out the Honolulu Star Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd. #7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813 (tel. 808/529-4747; www.staradvertiser.com); and MidWeek, 45-525 Luluku Rd., Kaneohe, HI 96744 (tel. 808/235-5881; www.midweek.com).

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. The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (tel. 800/GO-HAWAII [464-2924] or 808/923-1811; www.gohawaii.com) can supply contact information on wedding coordinators.

If you want to get married at sea, call Capt. Ken Middleton, of Tradewind Charters, based in Honolulu (tel. 800/829-4899 or 808/973-0311; www.tradewindcharters.com), for a private wedding and reception on the ocean waves.

If you fantasize about being wed in an exotic setting, such as near a waterfall, on the beach, or in a garden chapel, AAA Above Heaven's Gate (tel. 800/800-2WED [800-2933] or 808/259-5900; www.hawaiiweddings.com) can arrange it. The company has garnered rave reviews for their attention to detail in putting together the perfect Hawaii wedding.

Other wedding planners include: Love Hawaii (contact Rev. Toni Baran and Rev. Jerry Le Lesch at tel. 808/235-6966; www.lovehawaii.com); Affordable Weddings of Hawaii (tel. 800/942-4554 or 808/923-4876; www.wedhawaii.com); and Aloha Wedding Planners (tel. 800/288-8309 or 808/943-2711; www.alohaweddingplanners.com).

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.