Eloping in Hawaii: 2020-ish Edition
June 23, 2019 5:25 PM   Subscribe

We became engaged a week ago-hooray! Prior to the engagement, we talked about eloping in Hawaii and now we're trying to figure out if this is actually a good idea.

Some background: coupled for 4 years, living together for over 2. He has been married once before, this is my first marriage. I'm 41, he's 39. Eloping in Hawaii appeals to us mostly because of cost and minimizing stress plus Hawaii! We plan to have local celebrations of some sort after our ceremony.

While this was initially my idea, I've had fleeting moments of wondering if I'd be sad if no one else was there. Based on past family interactions on my side (outside of my Mom), I have a tendency to be very independent, minimize family contact, and nope out of things (when I can) before the situation becomes too stressful or hurtful. This is only worrisome in that I wonder if for something this momentous, I'm isolating myself too much. My Mom, due to health issues, cannot make the trip but is totally on board; we need to talk to his Mom, who is an avid traveler. While my Mom said it's okay if his Mom attends, I feel weird about his Mom joining us and mine being exluded because we chose to plan a wedding that is inaccesible to her. We started talking about maybe covering the cost of best man plus one and maid of honor plus one to join us, but that is starting to feel expensive. My questions:

1. If you eloped, did you stick to just the two of you or did you expand to a small circle?
2. If you eloped in Hawaii, do you have any recommendations, horror stories, or helpful information you can share?
3. If you eloped and had a reception/party after, what did that look like?

As you may have guessed from this question, I'm excited but also a bit overwhelmed. I want this to be a joyous occasion for us that doesn't break the bank. I also don't want to alienate the family I'm joining or exclude my Mom who is thrilled but being very chill about the whole thing. This question is a bit of a mess, but I'm eager to hear advice about eloping, eloping in Hawaii specifically, and how to manage expectations while maintaining/nurturing good family relations. Thanks so much in advance!
posted by katemcd to Human Relations (10 answers total)
I'm sorry I can't give direct elopement advice, although I did get married in a foreign country where many of my family and old friends could not attend (though all of his family and many other of our friends could), and it doesn't seem to have scarred anyone too much. My parents eloped to Las Vegas, just the two of them, with strangers in the town hall to witness, and told their families afterwards. My mother was disowned for about two years, until children started being produced, at which point all was forgiven. After my wedding she did say she understood better how her mother had felt and felt a little guilty that her father hadn't been able to participate in marrying her, but y'know by that age we all carry around pangs of guilt and regret for various things we have or haven't done. If it were me (or if I were to redo my own wedding), I'd probably just do the two of us and strangers signing the paperwork and then enjoying our time off together without having to be concerned about dresses and music and locations and feeding people and for god's sake flying them out to our exotic locale, but ymmv. If you're worried about your mother, I'd say make sure to take lots of pictures and keep souvenirs and make a big ol' scrapbook or box of things to go over with her and ooh and ahh over together after you get back and tell her all about it. Oh, and congratulations!
posted by Hal Mumkin at 5:49 PM on June 23, 2019

We got married at the county courthouse (just us and the judge) and told our families afterwards. We had already been partners for something like five years, and in a way getting married was just a formality. We still celebrate the date of our first kiss as our anniversary, rather than our "actual" wedding date. Sometimes we tell people that we only did it for health insurance reasons -- we lived in the U.S. then.

My parents were ok with it because they had done essentially the same thing back in the day (their excuse was to get out of their dorm contract). My husband's parents were not entirely pleased, but the one who was really upset would have found things to be upset about no matter what we'd done.

Two things that we encountered was that there was a one-week "waiting period" between getting the marriage permit together in person at the county clerk's office and the actual marriage in front of the judge, and that at least one of us had to be a resident of the county in which we were getting married. These things vary from state to state, so it's a good idea to check the legalities in advance.

Afterwards we went out for lunch. Probably not quite the party you have in mind. :)
posted by heatherlogan at 6:15 PM on June 23, 2019

We eloped, just the two of us, and had a casual family party/reception for a few months afterwards at a park lodge that was a convenient location for the majority of family (but was far away from where we lived). We let our families know of the elopement plans in advance. I enjoyed the reception far more than I would have liked my own wedding, and more than a few guests let me know on the down low that they had more fun at the party than they would have if we'd done the whole ceremony and photos thing. I am certain planning a more traditional wedding is something I would have been miserable doing and don't regret eloping. We didn't do any wedding reception stuff or have speeches, it was a buffet with pie and then we all went outside to drink and have s'mores around a bonfire later. At the party I was a lot more relaxed and had time to talk to family members I don't get to see often, I wasn't worried about my appearance and I wasn't being pulled away from conversations to have photos taken or cut a cake. We didn't ask for or expect gifts but some people gave them. I came away feeling more connected to my family. Congratulations to you!
posted by Miss Matheson at 6:21 PM on June 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

We eloped to HI in 1991. All the hotels have wedding coordinators that will do all the work for you. We got married at Waimea Falls on the North Shore. We pretty much just had to go to the government building a couple of days before the wedding to do the paperwork, then be dressed and downstairs at our hotel at the appointed time and the limo picked us up. They took care of the cake, champagne, preacher, photos, videographer, witnesses, etc. for one flat fee. It was as stress free as any wedding could be.

It was just the two of us, although about 30 people that were visiting the park gathered around for the ceremony.

We never got around to planning any sort of reception or party back home.
posted by COD at 7:02 PM on June 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

We pulled off a surprise wedding while both immediate families happened to be holidaying in HI. We planned to get married there but didn't tell our families until everyone was there, because I did not want any fussing or pressure or anything.
The wedding planning itself was the easiest thing ever because there's such a large wedding industry there. We were in HI for a week before the wedding and we gave ourselves 3.5 days for wedding planning and then 3.5 days for relaxing on the beach. The only things we planned in advance were rings and my dress. It was easy peasy and affordable to line everything else up in the space of a few days.
I think we recorded the ceremony on a phone and facetimed with my grandparents because they weren't in HI. I felt a little sad to not have them there, but I also know that planning and having a wedding at home would have been really stressful for me and not at all what I wanted. Nine years later I still shudder at the idea of being the bride in a big family wedding; it's just not my jam at all.
In retrospect I feel like it would have been fine for us to have eloped with just the two of us and the officiant. It probably would have been more meaningful to us. Having the immediate family there was a concession to them, more than it was something that we really wanted.
About 6 months later we had a reception in our hometown. My family gladly took on all the fussing over venue, food, decorations etc. It worked out great because they got to do the fussing they wanted to do for the reception and we got the low-key, no fuss ceremony that we wanted.
posted by bluebelle at 7:46 PM on June 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

For people who can't make it for whatever reason but would want to celebrate with you, can you set up something like a good camera for a video link or Facetime or something?
posted by erst at 8:32 PM on June 23, 2019

We got married at the county courthouse (just us and the judge) and told our families afterwards.

Us too! It was the right decision for us; some family members were upset but nothing would have made everyone happy. We were not in Hawaii so the paperwork requirements were probably different but it was all pretty easy to arrange.

We just went down to the local courthouse, we didn’t even consider the possibility of traveling somewhere nice. In retrospect, I wish we would have considered that, it sounds really nice. We still would have told family after, though.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:02 PM on June 23, 2019

My husband and I got married at the local courthouse just the two of us. I liked that it was something special that only the two of us share. Our families were upset for like a minute, but I think they were relieved after what they had gone through with my sister and SIL who also got married the same year. My parents did end up throwing us a big luau about a month later, and our relatives still talk about that party. We had it in my parents backyard, and family and friends chipped in with food and drink, flowers (supermarket and home grown), decorations (string lights, table vases), and even a wedding cake. We were lucky to have family friends to play live music and dance hula. We rented a tent, tables, and chairs and put up a bunch of hanging strings of light. Attire was casual aloha wear. It was the best of both worlds and we got the low stress, high fun celebration with loved ones that we wanted. We've been married for 24+ years and we have no regrets!

Also, we didn't get married in Hawai'i (although I am from there), but many hotels have staff that specifically take care of vacation weddings. It is a common thing.

Congratulations and best wishes to you!
posted by jraz at 8:11 AM on June 24, 2019

Sadly I've never been to Hawaii so I can only speak to your last question: If you eloped and had a reception/party after, what did that look like?

My wife and I did a courthouse wedding largely for logistical reasons, I was on a long-term work assignment in Europe at the time and my wife couldn't get visa sponsorship (or get any of my other work-related benefits, such as health care or moving assistance) without being married. It was just us plus a photographer friend of ours for the ceremony and it went great, fortunately our family was pretty understanding of the circumstances. Only regret was that we did this in January so the weather was not at all cooperative (visa processing, etc took several months so we couldn't delay), at least being in Hawaii you'd avoid that issue :)

We did do a wedding celebration two months later - basically a reception/party at a restaurant we rented out - and invited all our family and friends for that. The celebration worked out great, particularly as we're not really the church/religious type, not to mention that doing the formal marriage/legal part earlier did take a lot of the stress off. Everyone had fun and we still got to have a very memorable experience with friends+family and nice wedding photos, a cake, etc. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
posted by photo guy at 11:19 AM on June 24, 2019

we eloped. well, kind of. we had a civil ceremony with a judge and two witnesses, then went around the big island. we regret nothing. none of our friends or family could really afford to travel, and we could not afford a big wedding. eloping is great as it reminds you that the marriage is about the two of you, no one else. I still treasure memories from that trip. just wear sunscreen, and keep water in the car.
posted by evilmonk at 1:02 PM on June 25, 2019

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