From the outside, the White Orchid Beach House on Maui appears to be nothing special – a brown house is nestled behind a nondescript gate. But then the gates open. Outstretched behind them lies an enormous green lawn and beyond that a small cliff that gently slopes down to the water, with the faint lull of waves crashing against the beach. This was the setting of Karen and Patryks Dubert’s destination wedding in Hawaii.
For Karen and Patryk, the idea for this location wasn’t from any life-long dreams or Hawaiian-based-family ties — rather, it came from a series of photographs.
“I had seen a friend’s pictures from her wedding and I just loved the feel of it,” Karen said. “I thought that was what I wanted to create — something intimate and small and something that would be a vacation for everyone too.”
Turns out, those pictures were all she had to go on since the couple didn’t even have a chance to see the venue prior to the wedding.
“I’d been to Maui maybe 10 years ago, but other than that I hadn’t seen it,” Karen said.
The Planning Process
Anyone who’s planned a destination wedding knows they don’t just happen overnight — particularly Karen, who spent more than seven months coordinating her perfect day. She started with wedding boards on Pinterest (of course) and searched for other weddings that had happened at her venue, which helped her decide on a purple color palette with grey and yellow accents. Then things really moved forward with the help of White Orchid Wedding, the company that runs events at the beach house.
“White Orchid did everything: they referred me to the caterers, they did the flowers, the DJ, all the vendors were already with them,” Karen said. “I think they prefer that you use their vendors, but there were still times that I asked and brought my own things in.”
And for Karen, figuring out what she could bring to Maui herself was essential in helping her stick to her budget.
“They were charging like $15 for Japanese umbrellas so I went to Downtown L.A. and got them for $2 and shipped them over as well as fans and things like the favors,” Karen said. “They kept trying to upsell me on that stuff by saying it was easier (to buy it) there, but I shipped things and it was fine and they incorporated it. Sometimes if you buy online you can just input the Hawaiian address and you don’t pay any extra.”
What’s more, Karen found that negotiating with vendors was a crucial aspect of her planning process that she didn’t initially anticipate.
“Looking back, I was able to negotiate things towards the end but I think I should have been negotiating more from the beginning,” Karen said. “Even the venue price I just said ‘OK’ to what they quoted me, and later I realized I think I could have gotten this for lower. It’s really never set in stone and you can always find a way to negotiate. I think just telling them you’re on a budget and asking if there’s any way to make this fit into (your) budget will help.”
On the big day, a wedding coordinator from White Orchid Weddings was there to facilitate the event. The only surprise for Karen, however, was that the coordinator was a total stranger.
“There was a day-of coordinator there, but it wasn’t the person I had worked with in the months prior and that was the only thing that made me feel uncomfortable,” Karen said. “Because you’ve been communicating with this one person for so long and you expect them to be there, but another coordinator filled in and she was great. But they didn’t tell us that upfront so when I found out I was like ‘wait.’ At that point I scrambled and wrote a list of everything we had agreed to in the contract, anything that wasn’t obvious, so she would know and for my own peace of mind.”
Staying under budget with the high Hawaiian prices turned out to be an unrealistic feat. It wasn’t any extravagant purchase that pushed the couple over budget, but rather the little things.
“In Hawaii they add a gratuity to every service and every aspect the planner touched had an additional fee to it, like 12 percent,” she said. “I don’t know if that was just their thing, they did a good job, but I didn’t know that would happen. All the little things add up.”