Don't get scammed. Know who you're hiring.
Planning your wedding from another state or even country can be a bit scary. Especially since you do not have the assurance that the person you are dealing with is a legitamite business. The worst thing that can happen is that you have paid all your money to come to Hawaii for your wedding only to be left high and dry.
I just recently experienced this first hand. A "wedding planner" that I had never met called me early in the morning to ask if I could officiate a wedding that very afternoon. She had said that her originally officiant had cancelled at the last minute. I didn't want her couple to miss out so I moved my schedule around to accomodate it.
When I arrived at the location, I met the photographer who told me that she had never met the planner either. And that she too was just contacted that very morning. As we talked, we found that neither of us had been paid and began to get suspicious. Soon after that, someone showed up to deliver butterflies. When he made the delivery, he asked me if I could pay him for it. Then to top things off, the couple themselved told us that the reason that the original officiant cancelled was because he never got paid either.
In the end, we gave the couple a memorable ceremony and great photos. They ended up with what they wanted and expected but that is because there are good people in Hawaii willing to help when needed. We, the vendors ended up not getting paid.
So what can you do to help you discern a quality provider from a questionable one. I've listed a few things to look for here:
LOOK FOR PHOTO EVIDENCE: Do you see photos of them with other customers on the website? I would be careful if you only see stock images that they could easily obtain online. If they cannot produce any photos showing themselves smiling with real couples, that is a big red flag.
CHECK THE REFERENCES: Do they belong to any professions associations? Hawaii is a relatively small place. If you are a reputable provider of wedding services, chances are others will know who you are. There are two main wedding associations in Oahu. NACE (National Assoc of Caterers and Event Planners) and OWA (Oahu Wedding Association) Call them and ask if they know of the providers.
ONLINE REVIEWS: This is a tough one because online reviews are not monitored or controlled. If a company has a few reviews, you can't really know if they are genuine or not. However, I feel that it would be safe to assume that if they have dozens of reviews, you can probalby trust what it generally says. Also, check various sources for reviews. For wedding vendors, take a look at: WeddingWire.com Google Reviews MyWedding.com TheKnot Martha Steward Wedding
VERIFY THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA SITES: Having a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account (or even a blog page) will show you that they are really out there and actively doing weddings. Even if they only post once a month, it will assure you that they are really working.