Island of Maui becomes island of love for those renewing wedding vows

February 14, 1993|By Ellen B. Klugman | Ellen B. Klugman,Contributing Writer

Each time I visit my folks on the East Coast, I sneak a peek at my wedding gown through the cellophane window of its bulky dry-cleaning box. Sometimes, if I'm sure that no one will catch me, I even put on my veil and waltz around the room a bit.

But my husband and I have been married for seven years, and folks already married (to each other, at least) don't dust off their wedding apparel for another walk down the aisle, now, do they?

They can if they want to, particularly if they know where to turn to accommodate such flights of romance.

We picked up the travel brochure of one St. Petersburg, Fla.-based company (New Beginnings) that specializes in exotic weddings -- such as helping couples tie the knot in a Fiji war canoe or in a sultan's tent in Penang. But the mere thought of a boat makes my husband feel nauseated, and we barely knew where Penang was, let alone whether it would be worth the trouble of getting there.

Call us old-fashioned or just plain old, but our fantasy of renewing our wedding vows included choosing a setting where we would feel comforted by the familiar while wooed by the exotic.

And what better place than on the Hawaiian island of Maui, where rainbows crown green-faced mountains most afternoons and islanders trade straight-faced stories of having sighted the fiery Hawaiian goddess Pele on deserted roads in the black of night?

With these inclinations in mind, the next time we visited Maui, we cast around for information on what might be available to satisfy the romantic fantasies of people like us.

Maui sports a handful of independent wedding consultants as well as hotel-based wedding coordinators.

One hotel features a whole slew of the latter, because it is the only hotel in Maui with a seaside chapel on the premises.

The wedding package, which begins with the blowing of a conch shell from an outrigger canoe, admittedly had a certain charm to it, but a visit to the New England-style chapel left me with the uneasy feeling that I had somehow stumbled into a Disney back lot or landed on the wrong side of Oz. All I wanted to do was get back to Kansas, and I didn't even live there.

"You'll want to speak to our director of romance," the operator at another hotel informed us when we explained the purpose of our call.

Director of romance? This I had to see.

Pat Gleason wears her heart on her sleeve. But as the Westin Maui's director of romance, that's a plus. She's earned the nickname "Cupid on call" around Maui because weddings comprise only part of her mission.

Romance all the way

"We don't stop at weddings," says the garrulous New Hampshire-born blonde. "We're talking romance all the way."

On one occasion, Ms. Gleason helped a man propose to his girlfriend by arranging a room service breakfast in which the diamond engagement ring was hidden in a casket of caviar.

Skeptical about renewing our vows in a place as public as a hotel, we asked to see the wedding site -- a lush, private alcove overlooking a swan pond whose inhabitants, a pair of black and white swans, are named after a couple who, after a 30-year gap in their relationship, married and honeymooned at the Westin Maui.

Wedding renewals in Hawaii are not uncommon, and attire for the occasion ranges from formal dress to casual Hawaiian-style outfits, to which the bride adds a haku lei (Hawaiian wedding wreath) and the husband, a long green maile (a lei the groom wears to bring good luck).

We decided on a low-frills package, which included a minister willing to perform an ecumenical service, a two-tiered wedding cake, a nosegay with cymbidium orchids, frangipani (known as plumeria in Hawaii) and champagne. Because we were staying at the hotel, we paid no grounds fee.

It's important to note that Maui doesn't lack for romantic settings. No matter where you stay, the island has as many no-cost romantic spots for confirming bonds of love as it has grains of sand.

All beaches in Hawaii belong to the public, for example, and the ones in West Maui and Wailea, farther

south, offer sunset-strewn backdrops ideal for saying "I love you" in whatever way you prefer.

Botanical gardens, both public and privately owned, offer couples garden-of-Eden-style settings, as well.

Volcanic ceremony

Truly committed couples with a penchant for the dramatic rise at 2 a.m. Maui time to make the several-hour journey up the slopes of the majestic dormant volcano, Haleakala, for a sunrise ceremony.

My husband and I tried sunrise at Haleakala on our first Maui trip, only to find the freezing-cold summit crowded and fogged in, and me contemplating the merits of divorce.

Iao Valley State Park's swirling white mists and jagged, lushly landscaped mountains in Central Maui struck me as yet another wonderful site for a ceremony, and, in fact, is a favorite wedding spot for Hawaiians.

Nevertheless, the prospect of getting caught in the rain while wearing a wedding dress blunted my enthusiasm.

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