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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dream Weddings on Maui

Our guest today is Lori from Tropical Maui Weddings. Lori and her husband, Jamie (who has a gorgeous voice--his There is Love CD is part of this month's contest prize) run Tropical Maui weddings together, and when I met Lori online last year, I was blown away by her graciousness and friendliness. Today she shares some of her experiences.

Tell us a little bit about Tropical Maui Weddings. What would you like people to know?
As a Wedding Coordination Company, we stand apart from many of the other companies, because we truly love what we do. It is not just a job for us. We get emotionally attached to our couples and of course want them to have their dream wedding come true here in Paradise.
Out hearts are in our business, and everyone who works with us can see that. We do not advertise. All our couples are referred to us by guests who were at one of our weddings or who received personal recommendations from our other wedding couples. We are very proud of this ‘Word of Mouth” business.
How did you get started as a wedding planner?
I was a school teacher in Iowa for 16 years before I met Jamie and moved to Maui. After witnessing many of Jamie’s weddings and receptions, (he averages a wedding a day) and how his music deeply touches his couples and how this greatly effects their most special day, I knew what I wanted to do. Start a Wedding Company, and that is how Tropical Maui Weddings came about.

Hawaii seems like such a romantic place to have a wedding. What makes a wedding there different from weddings elsewhere?
Maui has the best of many worlds, as if offers so many beautiful places to get married as well as so many fun activities for guests and couples to enjoy. The stunning mornings and the breathtaking sunsets replace the church altar quite eloquently. Variety is another reason to come to Maui for your wedding. There are peaceful waterfalls, black lava rock beaches, lush tropical rain forests, and quiet ocean front estates at which to have your ceremony.So much of your business must have to be done long distance. What obstacles does that entail and how do you overcome them?
Because of the many miles between us, I work extra hard on personal touches. We ask for pictures and have even video chatted with couples using Skype. This draws us closer. When they realize that I will be their “on Maui Advocate” when planning their wedding, they know to call me or email me when they have any concerns. Communication is a very important part of successfully planning a wedding many miles away.Do you spend a lot of time advising brides (or others)? What kinds of questions do you get asked?
We have a mixture of couples from just eloping, to couples who are inviting everyone for a week full of activities along with their wedding celebration. We help to plan any parts needed to make sure that everything is perfect. I have assisted brides who are dealing with broken hearts and canceled weddings, to getting US citizenship and moving, loss of jobs, death of parents, etc. They are always very happy to have a caring heart to reach out to, and things to think about besides their grief or loss. Often times I talk with many other family members, not just the couple. I have had Moms call to set up surprises for their daughters’ weddings, and many more very sweet requests from many parts of the wedding circle.What are some of the most unusual requests you've come across?
One unusual and amazing request was to get married on the island of Molokai, so we flew in the helicopter (Jamie is a pilot) and we landed on his friend’s most breathtaking location and had their wedding. They had no idea exactly what they were signing up for. They received a Hawaiian history lesson, as Jamie’s friend has lived there on that bluff for over 30 years. The only form of transportation to this site is boat or helicopter, or a 12 hour hike from the nearest civilization. Truly, one of our most memorable weddings and locations ever.
Another fabulous request was to accompany a couple to France to perform a ceremony for a second time. Jamie sang and I was the officiant for a wedding here on Maui a few years ago (my first wedding ceremony as an officiant) and the couple flew us to France and we performed their second ceremony in a castle in Southern France.As a wedding planner, what is the biggest challenge you've been faced with?
At one of our weddings and receptions, a few years back, our caterer did not show up. Two hours before appetizers were to be served to 44 guests I made the call to hire another caterer. Of course this is a much longer story than this and it all comes out as a very happy ending. I told the couple about the new chef, following their comment to me about their favorite appetizer being far beyond their expectations. They were amazed at how smooth everything flowed, and especially when they realized that all of this was happening when they were saying their vows, and they were elated that they had us there to ensure their wedding was perfect right down to the tomato soup appetizers we had in personalized shot glasses.What are some of the more special moments you can recall from weddings you've planned?
Our biggest compliment was quite recent. A Father of the Bride told Jamie and me with his eyes filling with tears: ‘My little girl just told me; “Thank you Dad; this was way beyond my dreams”’. Those are always my favorite times, at the end of the night when the bride is so happy and says how you made everything so perfect. Another amazing thank you from a bride said that she was grateful for the peace of mind I gave her through the whole planning process, and especially on her wedding day. She was actually able to enjoy the time she had with her Mom and sisters as they were getting their hair and make up done.

If money were no object for a bride and groom, what would be the perfect wedding?
Even with all the money around, I would still plan for a wedding at one of our private estates and expand lighting decor, have the best live entertainment available, and maybe top the night off with a private firework display. The raw beauty of Maui is something that is not too far out of reach and does not require one to have a large pocketbook.
If a couple comes to you with limited funds, how do you help them plan the perfect wedding while staying within their budget?
Depending on how realistic their budget is, I am first of all very frank with them about what amount is needed for what they desire. There are certainly many ways to cut corners, where no one even knows, and then there are places I advise against cutting corners. It is all about finding a happy medium, balancing their desires with their proposed budget. The real budget crunchers can be flowers and photographers.

Speaking of budgets, many times I hear from couples that they would have stayed home to have their wedding, however, their guest list was going to be around 300 people to satisfy family. Because of this, they decided to lower the guest list by moving their wedding to Maui, thus ending up with a perfect number of family and friends. Instead of not knowing half of their guests back home they have an intimate wedding here in paradise for less money.
If I'm a complete novice coming to you for help, tell me how much of the wedding planning you would help me with start to finish?
When I first talk to couples, I find out if they have been to Maui before and give them an idea of what parts of the island are better for different types of weddings. Then I find out if they want a beach wedding or a private estate. All beaches are public in Maui, so with beach weddings come many other “new best friends” that are also at your ceremony. Some times we are very lucky and have a beach that is not crowded, however, the conditions can never be guaranteed. This is a very important element that needs to be figured out before finding the perfect location for them.

Once the location and wedding date has been chosen, then comes planning flights and accommodations. I have travel agents who help with all of these details. I suggest that couples arrive two - three days before their wedding day, so they can get their marriage license—another detail in which we assist our couples. There are morning weddings where the sun is just peeking over the mountain which lights up the ocean. The sunlight is like drops of gold dancing on the sapphire-blue ocean. It is absolutely gorgeous. Then there are sunset weddings, where the sunset makes the most amazing backdrop for wedding photos, the gold, fuchsias, and purples of the sky highlighting the natural flora of the island.

For beach weddings, I suggest the morning for ceremonies, when the public beaches are at their best and then returning in the evening for a sunset photo shot. For private estates, we have late afternoon weddings and then sunset pictures and a private dinner and dancing reception. For receptions that are easier on the pocketbook, we have a number of restaurants who have great wedding reception locations. Our couples are able to have an elegant reception without the private estate prices. We have had brunch receptions, boat receptions, and apple cider and cake receptions. There are so many choices when planning a Maui wedding. The possibilities are endless, and we do all we can to make sure it’s just the way our couples dream it to be.

After the date and time of the wedding are set, we can really start planning a wedding. Pastor, photographer, videographer, musician are the next vendors we work on. I listen to my brides and give them suggestions based on their desires and budget. After viewing websites to which I have referred them, the brides make their decisions and let me know who they want me to secure for each important role in their wedding. I always give them choices. However, I am also holding the safety net up, so the choices with which they are presented are from a very select staff of tried and true professionals. There are no second chances, so we are very critical of our vendor selections.

Our goal is that our wedding couples spend their time on Maui having a beautiful time relaxing and enjoying their family and friends, not stressing over their wedding details!

Thank you, Lori, for sharing your experiences with us. Visit Lori and Jamie at Tropical Maui Weddings. (And come back next week when Jamie will be posting about his experiences as a musician).

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Blogger Linda Goodnight said...

Wow, Lori, this is all so impressive. I feel as if I've visited Maui just by reading your comments. You must have a thousand stories to tell--and we'd love to hear some of them!

Thanks for stopping by.

May 13, 2008 at 8:20 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Thanks so much for posting, Lori! Loved reading about your experiences!!!! I'm still amazed about finding a new caterer with 2 hours notices!!!

May 13, 2008 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger Virginia said...

Great post Lori! A wedding would be so beautiful in Maui

May 13, 2008 at 10:03 AM  
Anonymous Lori Lawrence said...

Thanks for taking time to read about our wedding planning. Glad to know you are enjoying my little stores.

May 13, 2008 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Julie Hilton Steele said...

My hubby works in Hawaii on a regular basis and I finally got to go with him. It amazed me that there were "beach spot" holders who arrived early, set up the wedding location and just sat because all the beaches are considered public. Looking forward to hearing about the musical experiences too.

Peace, Julie

May 13, 2008 at 5:21 PM  
Blogger Brandy said...

Wow! I have no doubt any wedding y'all plan is fabulous. Thanks for the post!

May 13, 2008 at 6:20 PM  
Blogger CrystalGB said...

Great post Lori. I think it would be fabulous to have a wedding in Maui.

May 16, 2008 at 6:30 AM  

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