All of the dos and don'ts of being a wedding guest in paradise.

By Erin Lindholm
May 30, 2019
bride and groom hawaiian beach ocean front walk
Credit: KT Merry

Whether you've been invited to a toes-in-the-sand ceremony at a beachfront resort, a more formal affair with a decidedly tropical twist, or something in between, attending a destination wedding in Hawaii promises to be a memorable experience. If you're planning to travel that distance to celebrate with the happy couple, make sure you're remembered for all of the right reasons-and not a destination-wedding faux pas. Kimiko Hosaki, founder and creative director of Elements by K.H. & co., a bespoke wedding and event-planning company that specializes in Hawaiian weddings, offers a few tips for wedding guests who are Hawaii-bound.

"Beachy" Doesn't Necessarily Mean Casual

"Even though the couple chose a tropical location, it is not appropriate to wear shorts and t-shirts-unless it is specifically noted on the invitation that this casual style is welcome," says Hosaki. "Make sure to check the invite for how formal the wedding will be, what location they are hosting the ceremony and the reception at, and whether you'll have time to change in between. Lighter, breathable fabrics like silk or linen are advisable in soft summer palettes or prints and sandals are appropriate-but skip the rubber flip-flops."

How to Dress for a Black-Tie Wedding in Hawaii

"If the invitation dictates a black-tie dress code, you do not have to take this literally for a tropical destination wedding," says Hosaki. "You can never go wrong if you reach for a suit and tie in a navy blue, gray, or emerald green since a black tux can often look out of place at a destination wedding. Not to mention, leave you quite uncomfortable in the heat and humidity!" For women, Hosaki suggests upgrading your accessory choices by incorporating gold, pearls, or jewels, all of which "enhance your summer dress and make it more formal for the occasion."

What to Do If You're Not Invited with a "Plus-One"

As an invited guest, it's important to pay attention to whom the invitation is addressed, notes Hosaki. "If the invitation does not offer a plus-one, just accept the fact that you are flying solo and will be spending some great quality time with friends and family," she says. Of course, if you have a significant other or best friend that wants to tag along in paradise, there's no reason they can't join you-so long as it's outside of anything wedding-related. "Bring a guest to share your room, but do not ask if they can attend any of the events!"

Make Sure to RSVP for the Wedding…

"I can't even count the number of times that guests have been counted as not attending, thinking they would surprise the couple," Hosaki says. "Believe me, it's not a welcome surprise in most cases it ends up causing stress for the couple instead, including added costs for vendors and having to rearrange their dinner seating, when they should be relaxing with their guests by the pool."

…But Don't RSVP for Brunch If You Won't Make It

RSVPing to the events you're attending is so important, but don't commit yourself to something you're not sure about. "If you are not a morning person, do not RSVP for the day-after brunch," Hosaki says. "Your hosts will appreciate not paying for your plate to just have you not show up. Don't feel obligated to go, the couple knows you are all on vacation!"


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