The Complete Guide to Getting Married in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
You know who you want to spend the rest of your life with and you know you want to start it in the beautiful Cook Islands, but how can you make this all work?! Relax and take a look at this guide on how to plan a wedding in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands.
From choosing an island to working out the legalities, planning a wedding in the Cook Islands has a lot to think about. However, thanks to the array of wedding packages available, the guesswork is mostly taken out of organising a destination wedding. Let us guide you through the best time to get married, the best places, the best wedding packages and more in this complete Cook Islands wedding guide.
5 Tips for Getting Married in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
- Arrive in the Cook Islands at least three days before your wedding day so you can apply for a marriage license and have time for it to process
- If you’re bringing a wedding party, consider staying on Rarotonga to make the experience a lot easier (and more affordable) for everybody
- If you’re eloping, choose the picture-perfect lagoon of Aitutaki
- Or, for the best of both worlds, have your wedding on Rarotonga and your honeymoon on Aitutaki
- Compare wedding packages thoroughly; they all have different inclusions that might make that slightly more expensive package actually a great deal.
When is the Best Time to Get Married in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?
So you know that you are ready to tie the knot, but the big question is when? For planning the best time to have your wedding in the Cook Islands, you need to consider your ideal weather, the cost of accommodation, the peak tourist season and more. Plus, you need to give yourself enough time when you arrive in the Cook Islands to visit a registry office to get your Marriage License.
The Best Time for a Cook Islands Wedding
Rarotonga has two distinct seasons known as the wet season (summer) and the dry season (winter). The dry season is the most popular time for couples to get married in the Cook Islands, with less chance of downpours to spoil your outside feet-in-the-sand wedding ceremony. However, that doesn’t mean that the wet season has constant rain, so some couples might be willing to take the chance in the wet season in exchange for hugely discounted wedding and honeymoon accommodation rates. We consider the best time of year for a wedding in the Cook Islands to be from September to November, otherwise known as the shoulder season.
Jump into this subject in more detail in The Best Time to Visit Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Best Months to Visit.
When to Arrive in the Cook Islands for Your Wedding
Couples should arrive in the Cook Islands at least three days before their wedding day. This gives enough time to settle into your accommodation, visit a registry office to apply for a Marriage License, and finetune any other things before the big day. Note that registry offices are closed on weekends and public holidays, so you will need to take this into account when planning what day to arrive in the Cook Islands.
Although you can arrive in the Cook Islands closer to your wedding day, note there is a fee for applying for your wedding license less than three days before your wedding day (but no later than 24 hours)! Find out more in What are the Marriage Requirements in the Cook Islands? or scroll down to “Making Your Marriage in the Cook Islands Legal” to learn more about the Marriage License.
Where to Get Married in the Cook Islands: Rarotonga
Rarotonga is the main island of the Cook Islands. It is the island where you will arrive, as it is home to the nation’s only international airport. With that, Rarotonga is certainly the most cost-effective option for your island wedding, especially if you are coming with friends and family. Learn more about budgeting for a Cook Islands wedding in the “How Much Does it Cost to Get Married in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?” section below.
Getting married on Rarotonga means that you have a good blend of gorgeous white sand beaches for your venue, turquoise lagoon waters and the conveniences of a variety of shops, services, tours and restaurants. Compare the island with other islands further using our guide, The Best Islands to Visit in the Cook Islands.
Wedding Resorts and Coordinators on Rarotonga
Rarotonga is home to the widest array of resorts offering wedding services, wedding planners and venues. Note that wedding resorts don’t necessarily mean having to have venues in the resorts themselves, as many also offer ceremony venues on beaches and even on one of the islets in the Muri Lagoon.
Some of the best wedding resorts and wedding planners on Rarotonga include:
- Nautilus Resort
- Crown Beach Resort & Spa
- Edgewater Resort & Spa
- Te Vakaroa Villas
- Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium
- Sanctuary Rarotonga on the Beach
- Weddings Cook Islands
- Wedded Bliss
- Highlands Paradise
- Te Vara Nui Village
Find out more about Rarotonga’s best wedding resorts and planners in the 10 Best Wedding Packages for Rarotonga. Plus, check out various venues across the island in the 10 Best Wedding Venues on Rarotonga.
Where to Get Married in the Cook Islands: Aitutaki
Aitutaki is an “almost atoll” consisting of a large turquoise lagoon with many uninhabited islets and one larger main island. The atoll is a 50-minute flight from Rarotonga, but the extra air miles and associated costs might be worth it for eloping couples looking for the best pristine beaches in the Cook Islands. That’s why many couples choose Aitutaki at least for their honeymoon…
If, however, you have a wedding group, you could consider having your wedding on Rarotonga, and then enjoying your honeymoon on Aitutaki. The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium and Sanctuary Rarotonga on the Beach have a wedding package to do just that, offering couples a “free honeymoon” at their sister resort, Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort. See the 10 Best Honeymoon Packages in the Cook Islands for more details.
Back to the idea of having your dream island wedding in Aitutaki, the picture-perfect sands and the potential to have a wedding on an uninhabited islet are certainly the main appeals of this wedding destination. If you can’t bring your whole wedding party across, Aitutaki is certainly a good go-to for more intimate weddings or simply just the two of you.
For more Aitutaki and Rarotonga comparisons, check out Which is Better, Rarotonga or Aitutaki?
Wedding Resorts and Coordinators in Aitutaki
Aitutaki has a few resorts and wedding planners to help coordinate an idyllic wedding across resorts, beaches and on uninhabited islets on the lagoon. Some of the best wedding resorts and wedding planners in Aitutaki include:
- Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort
- Etu Moana Boutique Beach Villas
- Aitutaki Village
- Aitutaki Escape
- Tamanu Beach Resort
- Onefoot Island Weddings
- Weddings Cook Islands
Find out more about Aitutaki’s best wedding resorts and planners in the 7 Best Wedding Packages for Aitutaki. Plus, check out various venues across the island in the 7 Best Wedding Venues on Aitutaki.
About Wedding Packages in the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands resorts and wedding planners make planning a wedding extremely easy thanks to their wedding packages. It would be fair to say that at least a third of the resorts in the Cook Islands offer some sort of wedding package, from structured wedding packages, should you want the wedding experts to give you inspiration, to bespoke wedding packages, so you can pick and choose the features you want to make the wedding right for you.
What Do Wedding Packages Include?
While the resort venues all have their unique charms, most wedding packages offer very similar things. Typical features to expect in a Cook Islands wedding package include:
- A wedding coordinator
- Help with the Marriage License
- Transport to and from the registry office
- A decorated wedding ceremony venue
- A celebrant or minister with witnesses
- Bouquet or ‘ei for the bride
- Buttonhole or ‘ei for the groom
- A bottle of sparkling wine for the ceremony toast.
The following features are additions you can usually add to your wedding package:
- Wedding cake
- Traditional vaka (canoe) entrance with a warrior escort
- Ukulele string band
- Dance troupe
- Floral turndown in your room
- A private candlelit dinner for two
- Couples massage
- Your chosen playlist on an audio system
- A decorated wedding reception venue
- Wedding reception food and beverage.
And the list goes on and on! Check out some examples of the wedding packages featured in the 10 Best Wedding Packages in the Cook Islands.
Making Your Marriage in the Cook Islands Legal
To legally get married in the Cook Islands, you need to get a Marriage License, also known as the “Notice of Intended Marriage“. Couples must apply for this in person at the registry office, which is the Ministry of Justice offices in Rarotonga and Aitutaki. You’ll need your passport, original or certified birth certificate and any other relevant papers, such as divorce papers or a death certificate of a spouse. Any paperwork that is not in English must have an official translation.
If you are having your wedding in the Cook Islands with a wedding package, then your wedding coordinator will guide you through the Notice of Intended Marriage process, as well as organise for you to get an Apostille Certificate to legalise your Marriage Certificate once solemnised.
Learn more about the legalities of getting married in the Cook Islands in our complete guide, What are the Marriage Requirements in the Cook Islands?
How Much Does it Cost to Get Married in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?
Weddings in the Cook Islands vary in cost depending on whether you’re eloping or bringing the whole tribe for a wedding reception. As weddings abroad tend to involve only your nearest and dearest, we usually find that weddings in the Cook Islands are a little more affordable than having extravagant weddings at home.
Here are some typical wedding costs in the Cook Islands. Note that prices are approximate and that different wedding packages include different things such as a wedding cake, for instance, which might not be an additional cost.
- Notice of Intended Marriage – NZ$100 (usually included in wedding packages)
- Elopement wedding package (wedding with just the bride and groom) – NZ$1,250-$2,500
- Reception venue hire – NZ$1,000-$1,500
- Catering (canapes and drinks per person) – NZ$22-$35
- Catering (buffet per person) – NZ$75-$120
- Catering (set menu per person) – NZ$75-$95
- Drinks packages (4 hours per person) – NZ$95-$125
- Hair and make-up bridal package – NZ$450-$500
- Wedding cake – NZ$50-$200
- Photography package – NZ$700-$1,000
- All-inclusive wedding package (with accommodation for the couple and reception for up to 25 people) – NZ$15,000.
Of course, if your wedding package doesn’t include the couples’ accommodation and other activities you might like to do, then you’ll need to factor these costs into your budget. Take a look at How Much Does a Trip to Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Cost? for other typical costs associated with a trip to the Cook Islands.
Remember that you’ll also want to factor in costs like the wedding dress, rings, etc. which you’ll usually want to bring with you to the Cook Islands.
What to Do on Your Honeymoon
The great thing about getting married in the Cook Islands is that you’re already at your honeymoon destination! With that, there’s a spectacular range of romantic activities, accommodations and eateries for couples to enjoy. Discover honeymoon experiences in the 20 Most Romantic Things to Do in the Cook Islands for Couples. Luckily, we have entire guides on how to enjoy a honeymoon in each of the Cook Islands’ most romantic destinations, so take a look at the guides below for inspiration:
- The Wedding, Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Rarotonga
- The Wedding, Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Aitutaki
- The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Atiu
- The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Mangaia.
Finally, plan your whole trip to the Cook Islands from what to pack to getting around and more using The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to the Cook Islands.
More About Planning a Wedding in the Cook Islands
That’s it for our complete guide to planning a wedding in the Cook Islands. For more wedding tips, be sure to check out Cook Islands Wedding Accommodation: How to Choose and the 20 Most Romantic Resorts in the Cook Islands. Otherwise, here are some itineraries to inspire your honeymoon:
- Rarotonga Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 3 Days
- Aitutaki Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 5 Days
- Rarotonga Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 5 Days
- Cook Islands Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 7 Days
- Cook Islands Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 10 Days
- Cook Islands Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 14 Days
Finally, if there’s anything that we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to the Cook Islands.