Hawaiian Wedding Traditions
If you are lucky enough to attend a Hawaiian wedding, you will witness a soulful and joyous ceremony and celebration full of beautiful Hawaiian traditions. Or maybe you are planning your own wedding and feel drawn to the beautiful Hawaiian culture and traditions.
Hawaiian weddings embrace the spirit of Aloha, which means treating yourself and others with compassion, love and respect. It also means living in harmony with everyone while expressing love, kindness and grace.
These lovely sentiments are what weddings are all about, so even if you are not Hawaiian or getting married in Hawaii, you still might love to incorporate some of the Hawaiian traditions and rituals into your best day ever.
Here are some of the beautiful Hawaiian wedding traditions that make Hawaiian weddings so special.
At the beginning of the wedding ceremony, the Hawaiian chant of Oli Aloha is sung. It is a spiritual greeting that includes love, gratitude and respect for the space, couple and guests at the wedding. In case you wish to learn it, here are the words which are not too difficult to learn.
Onaona ka hala me ka lehua, He hale lehua no ia na ka noe,
`O ka’u no ia e `ano’i nei,
E li’a nei ho’i o ka hiki mai,
A hiki mai no ka kou,
A hiki pu no me ke aloha…
Aloha e! Aloha e! Aloha e!
Sounding Of The Pū
The sacred and enchanting Pū or conch shell horn is sounded during important events and the distinct sound can be heard from afar. Many say the traditional call summons the air, fire, water and earth elements to the site to witness the ceremony or event about to happen.
At a Hawaiian wedding, the Pū might be blown to signal the start of the ceremony as the couple arrives or as they are announced as man and wife and have their first kiss.
The kahuna pule or kahu (Hawaiian minister) will often perform this sacred step. He will also guide you through the ceremony in advance so you know exactly how the ceremony will go, including the Hawaiian traditions which may be new to you. Don’t worry about making a mistake as you will be totally surrounded by Aloha love and blessings.
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At a Hawaiian wedding, the minister will bless the rings by dipping them in a water-filled bowl made of Koa wood. Then he chants and uses a Ti leaf to sprinkle water over the rings three times. The Koa represents strength and honesty, the Ti leaf represents health and wealth and the water stands for a new beginning as the couple enters married life together. After the chant, which requests peace eternally, the couple exchange rings.
Most couples exchange Hawaiian leis after the ring exchange. The beautiful leis are made out of flowers and greenery and symbolism Aloha or love. The groom will often present his bride with the Pikake lei made of fragrant jasmine or Orchid lei. The bride will often choose a Ti leaf lei or Kukui nut lei for her groom. They may have other flowers added to match with the ceremony florals.
Traditionally leis are open-ended to symbolize never-ending love. The couple will place the leis on each other when directed by the minister. Sometimes leis will also be given to important members of the wedding party.
The leis look stunning in wedding photography and there is no mistaking it was a wedding with a tropical Hawaiian theme when you see photos of the newlyweds wearing their pretty flower leis. Most Hawaiian weddings are outdoors on the beach, in a garden or in a natural setting like next to a waterfall.
As well as being woven into the gorgeous leis, flowers are also used to enhance the ceremony setting. Haku Leis are also popular for the bride to wear around their head as a crown. Loose blooms will often be scattered on the ground during the ceremony and the couple will often stand in a heart or circle of petals to say their vows. The bride and female guests will often wear flower garlands or fresh flowers in their hair also.
Loose blooms using flowers like orchids loose blooms and plumeria loose blooms are also used during the wedding reception, on the tables to brighten the decor and sometimes showered over the newlyweds for good luck.
The Maile Lei
The beautiful Maile lei is given during the ritual called the Pili ā Nai Kealoha (meaning binding love). The couple joins hands the chanting minister ties the traditional Hawaiian lei around their joined hands. The lei is made from green vines and often has gorgeous flowers mixed in like tropical orchids or jasmine.
This lei is especially significant as it is an ancient tradition reserved for special occasions, including weddings and royal events.
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Depending on the location and background of the couple, they may incorporate other rituals into the ceremony. A sand pouring is often performed at beach weddings in Hawaii and around the world. The couple each have a glass of sand and together pour the sand into an empty glass. The sand combining symbolizes their lives joining together. Just like you could never separate the grains of sand, you couldn’t separate them either.
Fusion weddings that combine several cultures are always sentimental and meaningful. We see reflections of Hawaiian wedding traditions in many cultures. For example, we may compare the Hawaiian leis to the flower garlands exchanged during a Hindu Indian wedding.
When you think of Hawaii, the hula might be one of the first words to come to mind. The expressive dance is elegant, exotic and inspirational. When a group of women performs the hip-swaying performance together to music or chanting wearing colorful Polynesian outfits, it is a dramatic and uplifting sight. Sometimes wedding guests will be invited to join in. Often the bride will perform a hula for the groom after the ceremony or at the reception.
Enjoying a traditional meal together is another Hawaiian wedding tradition and there is always a lot of food. At the traditional luau or party, expect to see delicious local dishes, including a kalua pig that has been cooked for many hours in an imu (underground oven).
The chef will prepare ahi (tuna) seared and covered with sesame seeds and other seafood, including fish, cooked in a Hawaiian bouillabaisse (fresh fruit sauces made from guava, papaya, pineapple and lychee).