If you’ve been dreaming of a tropical destination wedding but don’t know where to begin, Lorrie Betsill Neilson, the founder and creative director of Unveiled Hawaii is here to give you a head start. She plans beachside nuptials on all of the Hawaiian Islands, which are among the most popular destination sites for American couples – due to the beautiful views and overseas feel without the need for a passport.
Read our Q&A below for tips on having your vow exchange somewhere far from home:
Photo by Chris J. Evans Photography; Planning & Design by Unveiled Hawaii
Inside Weddings: Why should you choose a destination wedding?
Lorrie Betsill Neilson: A destination wedding is a great choice when you wish to host an intimate affair in a unique environment. To come to these islands to celebrate such a special day is more than just celebrating a wedding; it is celebrating an experience, as this bride and groom are at the forefront of their entire trip. Some guests who have never been to these islands so naturally experience once in a lifetime moments. A destination wedding is also a great choice if a bride is looking for a creative way to reduce her guest count.
IW: When people think destination weddings, they usually picture a ceremony on the beach. Do you recommend a beach wedding?
LBN: A beach elopement is perfect for the bride who wishes to have a “toes in the sand” ceremony, as well as one who is looking for something fairly simply, usually with a guest count of 10 or fewer. Anything above that guest count, I highly recommend utilizing our amazing venue spaces that are on the oceanfront, and then afterwards taking photos on the beach should they wish to do so.
IW: For those who need to marry at a house of worship or simply have a larger guest list than a ceremony on the sand allows, how do you keep the destination vibe when hosting a wedding at a more traditional venue?
LBN: Easy, we have the wedding in the church or venue of their choice, and then follow with a reception elsewhere. Logistically, most times in this instance, I will recommend transporting the guests to and from the ceremony venue, and then afterwards to the reception venue so that they do not have to navigate from one venue to another. We have many traditional brides in this sense, regardless of guest count, so if this is their dream and of great importance to them, we make it happen.
IW: How far in advance should you book?
LBN: Personally I feel that one year out from the wedding date is a perfect timeline as one year allows just the right amount of time for facilitating the key details. However, if a bride and groom are “planners” and want to begin say two years prior, again, we will make it happen and organize any details we can before that one year mark. Once you choose your venue and date, everything always falls into place.
IW: How often should a couple visit the venue/meet with vendors in person?
LBN: I would say that only 40% of our clients actually make it out to our islands prior to their actual wedding week. For most, many have already visited Hawaii and have a good idea of what they are looking for. As well as in this day and age with online wedding blogs, magazine features, photography portfolios, transformation videos, Facetime/Skype, etc., we really are able to paint a great visual and show these brides and grooms what they can expect. For the client who has never been to Hawaii and are not able to visit the venue site or meet with vendors prior, well what a great leap of faith and a testament to the trust they have in their planner. Can you really go wrong in Hawaii though? I think not!
IW: Do you offer anything different when planning a destination wedding as opposed to planning a celebration for a local couple?
LBN: Because we are a full-service wedding planning and design organization, most of our clients are destination-wedding brides, meaning they are not from here. I would say only about 5% of our clients are actually from Hawaii, unless of course they grew up here and are now living elsewhere and so desire our full-service offerings.
IW: What aspects of planning should destination couples take care of in their hometown?
LBN: I always encourage brides to consider details that can “personalize” their event and make it uniquely their own. So tasks such as creating their own custom favors, finding decorative frames and placing photos of themselves, or even loved ones on their wedding days, shopping for welcome bag items and mailing them to us so we can organize them here in a customized tote, creating a custom slideshow to present to guests after or during toasts... These are just a few ideas; however, certainly a few examples they will enjoy doing themselves, as well as their guests will appreciate.
IW: What is the best way for couples to bring items for their wedding to the destination?
LBN: Many of our clients mail us items, which we highly encourage (within reason!) as we hope this alleviates them from traveling with 12 suitcases.
IW: What are the most popular trends you see when planning?
LBN: As far as a location, it’s definitely the ocean. We’re always hearing from couples: “We want to be on the ocean, see the ocean, close to the ocean, OCEAN!” As far as a “detail,” this last year we saw many clients desiring signage for their events. Welcome signs, bar signs, directional posts, thank-you signs, etc. Signage really personalizes events and makes them uniquely their own. As far as design, we have seen quite a bit of custom dip-dyed runners for the reception tables as well as ribbon and hemstitch napkins in a variety of colors.
IW: What are your tips for planning a wedding long distance?
LBN: Hire a wedding planner! We live here, we have the contacts, we know which vendors are best for which brides, we know the logistics, we know the island, we know the weather, etc. If you choose to do the planning from more of a DIY standpoint, at the least entrust some of the key details to someone that lives here, a friend of a friend, etc. It is enough planning a wedding over 2,000 miles from ANY land mass; however, to organize details on your own and not physically be here is a recipe for unnecessary stress. A wedding website is also a great way to share information with your guests, provide maps and directions, discuss pre- and post-wedding events, share with guests your “journey to love,” hotel recommendations, activity recommendations, etc. For some of your guests this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so educating them and providing information is always helpful.