Tips For Debt Free Wedding


Don’t feel pressured by wedding magazines and celebrity weddings to put on an elaborate wedding celebration filled with “traditions” that are meaningless to you.  Focus on having a meaningful wedding day rather than a spectacle. It is very simple to create a beautiful meaningful wedding focusing on the love of the couple without adding the burden of wedding debt to the marriage. Some of the tips below are specific to Oahu, Hawaii but many tips can be useful no matter where in the world you are!


Pick a venue so beautiful you don’t have to decorate. Parks, Botanical Gardens, Beaches, and Lakes are filled with natural beauty with no or low usage cost. Homes and backyards are also inexpensive alternatives to more formal venues which can come with usage fees ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

State Parks and Beaches: Hawaii has over 12 miles of beautiful beaches and parks which make beautiful backgrounds for wedding ceremonies! A permit is required by the State of Hawaii to hold any type of gathering including weddings and or receptions at State parks and beaches. I can assist couples in getting the required permit for city and county beaches.
Click to view Resource of Oahu Beaches and some Oahu wedding venues.

Botanical Gardens: There are beautiful botanical gardens around the island of of Oahu. They are filled with lush assortments of tropical plants, trees, and flowers which make a spectacular backdrop for weddings and vow renewals. There is a usage fee on some and some are free to use, you need to apply at the garden for a usage permit in advance.

Wahiawa Botanical Garden (Wahiawa) FREE
Foster Botanical Garden (Downtown Honolulu) FEE APPLIES
Lili’uokalani Botanical Gardens (Downtown Honolulu) Has a waterfall. Apply for permit at Foster Botanical Garden. FREE
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden (Kaneohe) Has a fresh water lake. FREE
Lyon Arboretum (Manoa) Has garden options for ceremonies as well as offers indoor facility rentals for ceremonies or receptions.  FEE APPLIES
Senator Fong’s Plantation and Gardens (Kaneohe) FEE APPLIES

Backyards and Homes: Use your home or backyard or one of a family member or friend to have your ceremony and/or reception. A yard or living room can be transformed into a beautiful wedding site very inexpensively.

Intimate Wedding With Sand Unity Ceremony At My Home

Officiant’s Home: I am Kim Crinella and I am a Licensed Officiant on Oahu, Hawaii. I offer my home in Kapolei for intimate wedding, elopement, civil union and vow renewal ceremony services with the couple and up to 2 guests at no additional cost. I do my best to accommodate last minute and same day requests at my home. I also perform officiate services for traditional and same sex couples anywhere on the island of Oahu and am willing to officiate themed or costumed services in unique locations.
Contact Me For Additional Wedding Minister Services Information.

Wedding Rings

If you choose to exchange wedding rings many couples are opting wedding rings made from Sterling Silver, White Gold, Stainless Steel, or Titanium over Gold as they are just as beautiful but much less expensive. Amazon has a beautiful selection of Hawaiian style wedding rings,  traditional wedding rings, and engagement rings at affordable prices that you wont have to go into debt for.

How to measure for ring size
Take a strip of paper or string and wrap it around your finger below the joint of your finger and close to your knuckle. Mark the spot where the ends meet and measure the distance with a ruler. Below are US ring sizes (half sizes are typically available for measurements in between):
Size 4: 1 13/16 inches
Size 5: 1 15/16 inches
Size 6: 2 1/16 inches
Size 7: 2 1/8 inches
Size 8: 2 1/4 inches
Size 9: 2 5/16 inches
Size 10: 2 7/16 inches
Size 11: 2 9/16 inches
Size 12: 2 5/8 inches
Size 13: 2 3/4 inches
Size 14: 2 7/8 inches

Announcements and Invitations

Engagement announcements, save the date announcements, and engraved wedding invitations can be costly for the printing and the postage. Digital alternatives such as texting, Facebook event, and online invitation services like Paperless Post are free or low cost and get a faster response rate. If you want to send a physical wedding invitation preprinted tropical themed wedding invitations or traditional wedding invitations are more affordable than having custom printed invitations.


Pandora and other subscription music services have “Wedding Music” channels which makes for great background music during your wedding and reception. You can play it through a computer or smart phone and connect it to a portable speaker. Another option is create a playlist using iTUNES and put it on a midi player and connect it to a portable speaker. Amazon has a large selection of wedding music in a wide variety of themes from traditional, to modern and ethnic including Hawaiian wedding music that can be downloaded or purchased as a cd of wedding music. My personal favorite Hawaiian themed music for weddings are:

Hawaiian Wedding Song – performed by Elvis Presley

Ke Kali Nei Au – The Hawaiian Wedding Song performed by Makaha Sons

Love and Honesty – by The Hawaiian Style Band

Ku’ulei Awapuhi – by Hapa

I’ll Weave A Lei Of Stars For You – by the Royal Hawaiian Serenaders

Stuck On You – by Ekolu

Honestly – by Ekolu

Better Together – by Jack Johnson

My Best Friend – Keahiwai

For the First Time – Keali’i Reichel

In My Life – by The Beatles; performed & interpreted by Keali’i Reichel

Mele ‘Ohana – Keali’i Reichel

Somewhere Over the Rainbow & What A Wonderful World– performed by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Live Musician
If you have a friend/family member who is a musician consider asking them to learn and play a song that is meaningful to the couple during the wedding ceremony or at the reception in lieu of a gift. For low cost musicians contact local High School and College Music Departments and inquire if they have students available for hire. This also gives the student experience and a reference for their resume on their way to going professional!

Wear what makes you look and feel good on your wedding day!

Wedding Attire

What you get married in is your choice. Anything from bathing suits to fancy formal wear is acceptable in Hawaii! You do not need to spend money on elaborate wedding clothing you will only wear once if you already own something you look & feel good in. Borrowing wedding attire or purchasing from a thrift store is a more economical way to acquire wedding attire if you do not already have something.  Another alternative is to rent wedding clothes from companies like:  Celebrity Tuxedos HawaiiRent The Runway, and JJ’s House.

Amazon has a large selection of new wedding attire for much less expensive prices than traditional bridal and tuxedo shops. For ladies there are many styles of traditional wedding gowns for under $100 that will make you look and feel like a princess! For more casual and beach weddings there are tropical styles wedding dresses also under $100. For men there are tuxedosformal suits, and more casual wedding attire available to buy, not rent, for under $100.

Decorate with Fresh Flower Blooms

Fresh Flower Blooms make beautiful decorations and can usually be acquired for little or no money. Plumeria, hibiscus, and bougainvillea blooms are found in abundance around Oahu and you may have some in your yard or neighborhood. The day prior or of the wedding collect the blooms in a plastic shopping bag or ziploc bag and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use to preserve them. Just prior to the wedding ceremony spread the blooms on the ground of the area where you will be holding the ceremony. They blooms add a nice touch of color and look great in photos! If you do not have access to loose blooms the internet makes it easy to acquire fresh flower petalsflower blooms, and fresh leis to use for decorating. Avoid using silk petals and blooms because if they blow around they then become litter since they do not decompose easily like fresh petals and blooms.

Circle of Flowers

Circle of Flowers is a tradition in Hawaii where the wedding couple has a circle of blooms mark the spot where they will exchange vows. The circle of flowers is symbolic of their never ending love for one another and their eternal pledge they commit to one another in the circle. It typically takes 250 loose blooms to create a thin circle. It is more common to use 500-1,000 blooms to create a full circle of flowers or use strands of blooms to more easily create the circle. Blooms that are common to use are plumeria, orchids, hibiscus, and bougainvillea. Cut ti leaves, banana leaves, ginger leaves, red and/or white ginger flower heads can also be incorporated to add to or create the circle of flowers. The internet makes it easy to acquire fresh flower petalsfresh flower blooms, and fresh leis which can be used to create a circle of flowers or just add some flowers scattered to mark the the area the wedding couple will exchange their vows.

Bridal Bouquet

Fresh Flower Bouquet can easily be created from grocery store flowers for a fraction of the cost of a Florist. The internet also makes it possible to acquire a wide selection of traditional flowers to tropical blooms to create a beautiful fresh flower wedding bouquet. If you are not crafty ask a crafty friend or family member to create one for you instead of a gift. Click here to watch a video on YouTube on how to create an easy to make bridal bouquet.

Incorporate a Lei Exchange

In Hawaii a lei is given with a kiss as a symbol of love, respect, and appreciation. Each flower, leaf, or nut that creates the lei is unique and beautiful on it’s own, like each of you are as individuals. But when combined together something even more beautiful and special is created, just as you together as a couple. The giving of lei between a couple on their wedding day is symbolic of their giving themselves to each other. A lei exchange is an easy and inexpensive way to incorporated a meaningful Hawaii tradition into your ceremony using silk leis, nut leis, or fresh leis . There are leis worn on neck, head (haku lei), ankles and wrists. Hawaii brides sometimes wear a fresh haku lei or silk haku lei on their head rather than a veil or with a veil comb. If you are pregnant at the time of your wedding ceremony and want to wear a lei choose a open ended lei, a lei that is open at both ends rather than closed like a circle. If you go to where they make leis, like China Town, they will make most any lei open ended for you. Hawaiian lore says it is bad luck for a pregnant woman to wear a closed lei around her neck. That it symbolizes the umbilical cord wrapping around the baby’s neck and will bring bad luck. Another option is to wear a lei on your head, wrist or ankles.

Handfasting Infinity Knot

Handfasting is an ancient unity tradition that can be easily and inexpensively incorporated to symbolize your union. Ribbon or rope cord or even open ended lei is used in the ceremony and can be tied to create a Infinity Knot which has no beginning and no end, symbolizing Eternal Love. The infinity knot also makes a meaningful keepsake from your ceremony.

Wedding Traditions

There are endless “traditions” that can be added to a wedding. The more “traditions” added to the ceremony the higher the costs. Focus on incorporating meaningful things rather than things you think you are supposed to have and do. The only tradition required to get married is the couple agreeing to marry each observed by a legal officiant, everything else is optional and unnecessary unless it is meaningful for the wedding couple.
Some of the many popular optional wedding “traditions”:
save the date announcement
engagement photos
engraved invitations
ring exchange
fancy wedding clothing
bouquets and boutonniere
garter belt
bouquet and garter toss
wedding arch or circle of flowers
lei exchange ceremony
sand unity ceremony
candle unity ceremony
butterfly release
wedding march/music
bridesmaids, maid of honor, groomsmen, best man, ring bearer, flower girl
ceremony decorations
reception decorations
wedding tent for shade and rain protection
wedding rehearsal & rehearsal dinner
dollar dance
wedding cake
wedding cake topper
cake cutting ceremony
wedding favors
open bar
toast to wedding couple
photo booth or backdrop for pics

There is no additional charge to include a unity ceremony with any of my Wedding Officiant ceremony services. The most popular in Hawaii are the lei exchange or sand unity ceremony. I have wooden bowls for the sand unity ceremony available for use at no charge. The wedding couple is responsible for providing leis or any other items used in any of the unity ceremonies they wish to incorporate. Click here to read more about Wedding Traditions.

Tiki Torches

Tiki Torches are a great way to add a fun atmosphere. If the wedding is in the evening the torches can be lit, if the wedding is during the day the tiki torch makes a great flower arrangement holder. To use as a flower arrangement holder remove the fuel holder and put the fresh or silk flower stems in it’s place. Orchid sprays, shower tree branches, anthuriums and other tropical flowers are great for tiki torch flower displays. Silk leis are ideal for tying on to the torch stand to add more tropical flare. Lightweight chiffon fabric can also be tied between the tiki torches to create an isle, section off areas, etc. Many styles of tiki torches are available at Amazon.

Who To Invite

The more people invited to participate in and attend the wedding the more expensive the wedding will be. Having an intimate wedding with just the wedding couple is the most cost effective way to get married. If you want to include others then consider only inviting family and friends you communicate with regularly.

Having Attendants

First ask yourself if it is necessary to have attendants in your wedding party. Having attendants is an outdated tradition and if you are having a simple wedding you probably don’t need any. If you decide to have a maid of honor, best man, ushers, ring bearer, or flower girl consider asking them to wear a outfit they already own or there are beautiful inexpensive dresses for the ladies and shorts or pants and shirt or aloha shirt for the men alternative to forcing attendants to spend hundreds to purchase or rent attire they will only wear once.

Have your guests surround you in a circle of love!

Circle of Love Rather Than Chairs

Rather than rent chairs for guests to briefly sit in during the ceremony have them gather in a Circle of Love around the wedding couple and officiant! It allows your guests to hear the ceremony better and feel more like they are part of the ceremony rather than just an observer.

Photographer and/or Videographer

Professional wedding photo and video packages can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars and typically you end up with spectacular photos of your special day. A good way to get a professional photographer at a discount is hire one willing to shoot for a specific time period and give you a digital copy of all the photos shot with no corrections or fancy after shoot adjustments. I have a list of photographers on Oahu willing to do this for an affordable price. If you want blemish removal, color correction, special effects, a slide show, prints, and albums then that will be much more expensive. If even an inexpensive a professional is out of your budget do not forgo capturing memories of your wedding. Consider asking a family/friend to take photos or video in lieu of a gift. Even if it is just with the camera or video on their phone it is better than nothing. People today are pretty good photographers with their phones and the quality of the photos are pretty excellent. I am a former wedding photographer and am willing to take a few photos of couples using their phone or mine after I officiate their ceremony. If you want photos during the ceremony a photographer or friend is necessary.

Share Your Wedding By Skype/Facetime/Facebook Live

The wedding ceremony can be shared using a laptop or smart phone over the internet to include those who want to witness the wedding but can not make it or if the couple opts for a intimate ceremony. Make sure the venue has wifi or set up a hot spot. A fun way to incorporate distant family and friends unable to attend in person is hold a Facebook Event and then Facebook Live the ceremony! Your guests do not have a Facebook account to view, you are able to email invites to the event with a link from the Facebook event.

This couple Skyped their wedding to share the ceremony with their family not in Hawaii.

Ask For Help

Ask family and friends for help with the wedding in lieu of gifts. Many friends and family are happy to assist by doing things like: make bouquets and/or flower arrangements, make the wedding cake or cupcakes, take wedding photos, video the wedding, offer their home/yard for wedding, loan wedding attire.


Some couples have an intimate wedding of just the two of them, like while on vacation in Hawaii,  and then later have a traditional wedding reception, a backyard bbq picnicLuau or beach party to celebrate with friends and family. Other couples hold their reception on the day of the wedding. There are different levels to an economical wedding reception, it all depends how many guests you have and your budget.

  • If it is just the wedding couple or the couple and just a few guests, going out to your favorite restaurant is a great option. The wedding couple can ask guests to pay for their own meal in lieu of a gift.
  • If you are having a beach, park, garden, backyard, or house wedding with several guests in attendance then consider having the reception at the ceremony location . You can have it catered through your favorite plate lunch place or restaurant to make it very affordable.
  • Have a potluck reception and ask guests in lieu of a gift to bring their own beverages/alcohol and a food item to share.
  • Private dining rooms are ideal for a small reception:
    On West Oahu, Roy’s at Ko’olina has private dining rooms for small receptions, however, this is more of a pricey option.
    In Honolulu there are many restaurant options in a variety of price ranges with private dining rooms. Click here for a listing.

Wedding Cake
Grocery store bakeries can make a simple and delicious wedding cake in a variety of flavors for a fraction of the cost of an elaborate wedding cake. Some brides opt for cupcakes or even cake pops. Fresh baked cakescupcakes and petits fours are available for shipping through Amazon. If you incorporate a cake cutting ceremony please don’t smash the cake in each others face. It is not a very respectful way to express your eternal love for one another.

Intimate or No Ceremony Wedding
Due to COVID-19

An intimate or no ceremony wedding is the most economical way to get married. Many couples had their wedding plans put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some couples opted to have a no ceremony wedding or a intimate ceremony with just the two of them now and will have a vow renewal or party to celebrate with family and friends once the pandemic is over and it safe to gather in large groups again.

The average cost of a wedding in the USA in 2016 was a staggering $32,641 according to Money Magazine. With 40-50% of marriages in the USA ending in divorce, some couples are still paying off the wedding debt after they are divorced. Money is the number one reason for couples to argue. Frequent arguing and stress over money leads to discontentment which often leads to divorce. Why start off your marriage choosing to stack the odds against yourself? Get married within your means to have no debt and nothing to argue about.  It is easy to create a beautiful meaningful wedding without the burden of debt!

Keep in mind to be married you just need two consenting adults, a marriage license, and an officiant licensed by the State the marriage ceremony is taking place in. The officiant must ask the couple if they wish to be married and each one of the couple must reply they do. That is all that is required to be legally married, everything else is optional and made up by the wedding industry. The wedding officiant then certifies the marriage with the state and the couple is legally married. Celebrate your love however you wish, there is no right or wrong way to get married. What is most important is the love of the couple.
A wedding is one day, a marriage is a lifetime.


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