At one point or another, you’ve probably dreamed of ditching the traditional wedding venue with a guest list that includes your least favorite relatives, and tying the knot at a screen-saver worthy beach. Here’s why—plus where and how—you should.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua resort on West Maui’s North Shore occupies 54 awe-inspiring acres with 466 recently renovated guest rooms and residential suites, direct access to the exclusive D.T. Fleming Beach, and is adjacent to a 36-hole championship golf course (think emerald green vistas).
What’s most intriguing about this resort, aside from its always reliable AAA Five-Diamond luxury service, is the hotel’s fierce dedication to honoring the traditions and history of the land it inhabits. The resort sits on sacred land including the Honokahua preservation site, an ancient Hawaiian burial locale of an estimated 2,000 kupuna (ancestors) dating from A.D. 850 to the early 1800’s. The property is also fronted by Makaluapuna Point, which formed as a result of one of the last lava flows on Maui and is believed to be a launching point for spirits from this incarnation to the next, where the spirit rejoins nature. The hotel retains a full-time cultural advisor, Clifford Ane’ole, who is instrumental in guiding the property’s evolution, from the 2008 renovations of the main facility and the 2018 redesign of its guest rooms, to carefully curated daily rituals and experiences for guests. With its constant commitment to cultural preservation, The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua honors the property’s heritage down to the wood and stone from which it was built.
Kapalua as a destination is a welcome escape from its bustling, more populated sister resort cities of Lahaina and Wailea, yet its proximity to Ka’anapali and Lahina’s restaurants, shopping and excursions allows visitors to choose how haku (chill) or how haoa’I (adventurous) they will be.
Our ideal wedding itinerary would include these don’t-miss details that will ensure your “I Do’s” are deeply rooted in the true “Spirit of Aloha.”
Enjoy an intimate dinner at the Banyon Tree Restaurant, where Chef Bella Toland’s culinary crafts are rooted in her local and regional philosophy of sustainable product sourcing from on-property gardens and local Maui purveyors that bring this menu to full, flavorful life. Pro Tip: Make a reservation to conclude just as the nightly fire-knife ceremony kicks off and raise a glass to getting “Maui’d.”
Hit up an unforgettable snorkeling tour or small-format whale watch (late December through early April) with on-site experts at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Ambassadors of the Environment program. You’ll come away with an education and deep respect for Maui’s ecosystems and wildlife, as well as an unforgettable experience thanks to the infectious enthusiasm these experts provide.
That afternoon, slip into fully relaxed mode with a couples massage at The Ritz-Carlton Spa Kapalua with your ku’uipo (sweetheart) in an outdoor private garden treatment room before finalizing all the details of your day with your planning team.
Grab a couple of cabanas at the expansive 10,000-square-foot three-tier pool, and welcome guests as they arrive with signature Mai Tais. Just imagine the bride-to-be swimwear options.
Nothing says Aloha more completely than gathering your group at the Old Lahaina Luau, a local’s recommended oceanfront Maui establishment offering nightly luaus on Front Street since 1986.
Prepare yourselves for the big day by bringing your closest family and bridal party together for a hiuwai ceremony (cleansing by water) during the E ala E (awakening of the sun). Participants gather near D.T. Fleming Beach just before sunrise and are guided through the ceremony by immersing themselves in the ocean (all the way or just the tip of a toe—your choice) for self-reflection before emerging as a group to chant together as the sun rises, rejuvenating the soul and invigorating the energies of the couple before they begin their life anew.
Then, grab your bridal party and sip mimosas over brunch at a haku lei (flower crown) workshop where you’ll handcraft the wedding florals you’ll wear down the aisle.
Keep it local for your rehearsal dinner and reserve Merriman’s patio for a soulful, oceanfront sunset meal, a short distance from The Ritz-Carlton.
The Main Event
Welcome your wedding day as the sun rises over the West Maui Mountains with a morning meditation walk through the labyrinth garden located on Makaluapuna Point. This exercise will balance your mind, body and spirit as you offer your intentions of mindfulness for your nuptials.
Now that it’s time for the main event, wow your guests with exceptional wedding day details including a freshly shucked coconut water welcome, tray-passed essential oil-infused chilled towel service and a rum-spiked or virgin-style shaved ice station with locally inspired flavors of guava, mango and lilikoi (passion fruit).
As you walk down the aisle overlooking magical Kapalua Bay, the ceremonial sounding of the pū (conch shell) will signify your arrival by blowing the horn in four cardinal directions—north, south, east and west. As you arrive to the altar, the horn blower will lead the traditional Oli Aloha—a welcoming chant beginning your wedding ceremony.
Try a twist on the traditional and include both mothers in the ceremony as they each walk down the aisle wearing a lei which will be given to the couple as a sign of welcoming into one another’s families.
As the post-ceremony celebrations get underway, choose from an exceptional array of menus to please your guests. We recommend the hukilau menu featuring favorite local fare including Kalbi bone-in short ribs, Huli Huli chicken and Misoyaki salmon.
Following dinner, opt for high-energy evening entertainment with fire dancers and a Polynesian drumming show during band or DJ breaks while guests nosh on malasadas—a Portuguese-style doughnut with decadent fixings of Nutella-chocolate sauce, salted caramel drizzle and Tahitian vanilla whipped cream for dessert.
As your wedding night concludes, settle into your honeymoon suite overlooking Kapalua Bay. As you take in the diamond-spattered sky and listen to the waves crashing into lava rock with the realization that this experience was just as much about the journey as the celebration itself, you’ll feel the true “Spirit of Aloha” alive and well within you.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
1 Ritz Carlton Dr., Kapalua, HI 96761
Elizabeth Restauri, founder of Total Imagination Events, is a lover of celebrations of all kinds and believes that life is a party and memories are meant to be collected.
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