STATE REGULATIONS DRAW THE LINE
Windward Oahu residents are none too thrilled that the beaches on their side of the island have become hot spots for commercially sponsored weddings. The biggest nuisance is the traffic congestion, say some of the residents, who otherwise would not mind simple ceremonies with just a few in attendance.
A happy day for some; for others, misery, frustration
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Some Lanikai residents say enough is enough - they no longer want commercial weddings taking place in their neighborhood.
At the same time, the white-sand beach with turquoise waters is sought after by brides and grooms throughout the world since being named one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches.
Kailua neighborhood board members, however, say the residential area and one-way loop is not the appropriate venue for commercial vans and limos to pass through.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resource is now enforcing permits for commercial beach weddings, but says it has not ruled out any sites yet.
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Traffic in Lanikai is routinely blocked with wedding-party vehicles, say people who live in the area. Above, a couple on bicycles weaved through limousines and cars parked for a wedding.
A growing number of Lanikai residents - tired of the parade of limos, brides and grooms coming through the narrow, one-way loop - say commercial weddings have no place in the neighborhood.
"We've had people down there setting up arbors and chairs. And of course, they're bringing liquor. ... It's a whole big production."
Kalana Best / Kailua neighborhood board
"It's growing and chronic," said Kalana Best of the Kailua neighborhood board. "Lanikai is under siege. I don't know of any other kind of residential neighborhood getting this kind of traffic."
Ever since Lanikai was named one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, she says commercial tours, including sightseeing buses, have taken their toll on the neighborhood.
Weddings also have been growing in number, to the point that limos are blocking driveways and making it difficult for bikers and mothers with strollers to navigate the road, she said.
Best, for one, is glad the state is finally taking steps to regulate commercial weddings on state beaches.
"We've had people down there setting up arbors and chairs," she said. "And of course, they're bringing liquor. ... It's a whole big production."
She says in some cases, people have been asked to move to stay out of a wedding photo shoot.
"Romance is one thing, but this is about commerce by and large," said Best. "I'm all for supporting the tourism industry but I'm also wanting to support residential rights."
The sentiment extends to Kailua Beach Park, where at least once, wedding planners set up an arbor and chairs at the boat ramp. Best said this is inappropriate, given that it prevented boaters from being able to use the ramp that evening.
Best says she does not want Lanikai to become another Waikiki. Fellow Kailua neighborhood board member Virginia Enos agreed.
"What we've seen recently is a huge proliferation of commercial businesses using our neighborhood and beach parks to conduct their business, and bringing in tourism from Waikiki," said Enos.
The wedding operators are rubbing elbows with kayak operators, as well as other water activity operators, and it's getting crowded. Parking is limited in Lanikai, and not the right place for large limousines or vans, they said.
Some Lanikai residents feel like their neighborhood is under siege, with commercially arranged weddings taking over the streets and beaches. Above, a happy bride-to-be, oblivious to the neighborhood's concerns, stands with other wedding participants near the entrance to one of the trails down to the beach.
Also, Lanikai has no lifeguards, public restrooms or other facilities for a large volume of public visitors.
Enos said weddings in particular, increased over the last year. On one day, she's seen as many as six limos on Mokulua Drive.
"The biggest nuisance for the residents is the traffic hassle," she said. "It's in front of their doorsteps and on top of their driveways."
Both Best and Enos are quick to say, however, that they do not object to a simple, local wedding without all the commercial trappings.
At the same time, Lanikai Beach, with its fine, white sands, turquoise waters, and stunning sunrises, is one of the most sought after and exclusive beach wedding destinations in the world.
It is advertised as being "picture-perfect" and is on a number of wedding Web sites, from bridaldreamhawaii.com to alohaislandweddings.com, and theromancespecialists.com.
It's getting crowded in Lanikai and Kailua as more couples from around the world choose to have their weddings on the area's beautiful beaches. Above, wedding guests and area residents crossed the street last week in Lanikai.
The Watabe Wedding Corp.
, the state's largest wedding planner catering to Japanese clientele, offers a Lanikai photo shoot as part of one of its packages.
More brides are also seeking out-of-the-way spots such as Lanikai for their ceremonies. With simple ceremonies, just the couple, a minister and a few friends - and no arches or chairs - the imprint should be minimal.
Some wedding coordinators opt not to hold ceremonies there since it is a narrow strip, frequented by locals, with residential homes behind it.
But the Hawaii Film Office includes Lanikai Beach on its list of access sites with one of its permits, excluding holidays and weekends.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, there were no weddings in sight - just paddling practice, stand-up paddle surfers, swimmers, joggers and dog walkers.
"Some of the most wonderful weddings I've attended are the small, intimate weddings on the beach," said Regan Schultz of Modern Pacific Weddings. "They're magical for the couple and few families and friends. I'm sad if they are going to lose that opportunity, or if that opportunity becomes more difficult to have."
Beach weddings are a small percentage of weddings Schultz coordinates, although she has done them in Lanikai before, one of which was featured on the Travel Channel last year.
"I think one of the wonderful things about Hawaii is that there is public access to the beach," said Schultz. "I think that's the spirit of aloha."
The worse-case scenario for a bride coming from thousands of miles away is to have an officer stepping in and stopping her wedding because she doesn't have the proper permits.
Schultz said she likely will stick with reserved spots to avoid that kind of scenario.
While the neighborhood board may push for restricting wedding beach permits on Lanikai Beach, the state is not ruling it out.
Morris Atta, DLNR's land division administrator, said he is aware of residents' concerns out there.
"Those are legitimate concerns and we are discouraging people from using it (Lanikai Beach)," he said. "But because we don't have hard numbers and statistics to back it up, we aren't outright saying no."
However, Atta said the department is trying to get the word out to the industry that: "We don't believe it's an appropriate area."