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13 Customs You May See at a Traditional Hawaiian Wedding

With idyllic scenery and warm weather throughout the entire year, there’s no surprise why people keep coming back to Hawaii to host their wedding celebrations. 

If you and your significant other are considering the Hawaiian islands for your wedding venue, understanding the local culture becomes essential.

For any brides and grooms who aren’t fully aware of Hawaiian wedding customs, have no fear! 

beach wedding

Here’s a round-up of Hawaiian wedding traditions that’ll only make your special day even more unforgettable!

What are Hawaiian Wedding Customs?

After being a state for more than sixty two years, Hawaii and its wedding ceremonies have been greatly shaped by American influences.

Familiarize yourself with Hawaiian wedding traditions by reading our guide here at YeahWeddings! 

Wear Hawaiian Wedding Attire 

Since the majority of Hawaiian weddings take place on a boat or along the seaside, airy and carefree attire are completely acceptable for the happy couple and their guests.

If the bride prefers an option from Hawaiian culture, a holuku becomes her answer. This loose-fitting gown with long sleeves and a high neckline was originally introduced by Christian missionaries. Other beach wedding gown styles will also work!

During a Hawaiian wedding ceremony, it is very common for brides to swap out a veil for a haku lei. This floral arrangement is typically reserved for other special events like graduations!

Due to Japanese influences on the local culture, kimonos have grown in popularity as Hawaiian wedding attire. These ensembles are usually worn by both newlyweds. 

If the groom prefers a formal option for his Hawaiian wedding attire instead of an Aloha shirt, a collared button-down shirt and pair of slacks is his way to go. He can elevate his outfit further with suspenders or a bowtie! 


Commence with a Chant

Since Hawaii was a culture that was mostly communicated through oral storytelling until the 1820s, chanting has remained as an important part of celebrations on these tropical islands. 

A Hawaiian wedding ceremony usually starts with “Oli Aloha” as a way to welcome the guests and couple into the venue space. 

This chant is believed to prepare the space for a Hawaiian wedding blessing from the officiant and the unity rituals.


Blow a Conch Shell Horn

conch shell

Known as a pū in the local language, a conch shell horn is blown by the wedding officiant to bring attention to this significant event. This Hawaiian wedding custom is used during secular and religious nuptials. 

Many couples will use this time to share their first together during their Hawaiian wedding ceremony.


Exchange Leis

wedding lei

When it comes to Hawaiian wedding traditions, the exchanging of leis has remained as one of the most popular practices. 

During a Hawaiian wedding ceremony, these flower garlands are viewed as a sacred symbol of respect and love. The interchanging of leis symbolizes how the lives of a bride and groom are becoming intertwined. 

After both people have received each other’s flower garlands, they will traditionally smile at each other and kiss each other on the cheek. 


Tie Your Hands Together

Take your Hawaiian wedding ceremony a step further by participating in their own version of handfasting.

Translated from “Pili ā Nai Kealoha” as “love that binds,” a wedding officiant will tie the hands of the bride and groom with a maile lei that is made out of dark green vines. This Hawaiian wedding wreath is often decorated with white orchards or arabian jasmine. 

Maile leis have been some of the most popular garlands since the ancient times of Hawaii. These floral arrangements are associated with royalty and believed to bring good luck to its wearers.


Participate in the Sand Ceremony

sand unity ceremony

If a candle ceremony would feel out of place during your beach wedding, don’t settle on that idea and choose an alternative that involves sand!

To begin this Hawaiian wedding custom, a bride and groom fills their own jars with sand before pouring together into a unity vase. Some newlyweds choose to leave a small amount in their own containers to show that they are still individuals during their married life. 

Although this unity tradition originated from Christian nuptials, couples from every religious background have participated in this custom. 

Many couples keep the unity vase a romantic reminder of their Hawaiian wedding ceremonies! 


Wash Your Wedding Rings

During a traditional Hawaiian wedding, newlyweds will place their rings in a Koa wood bowl filled with salt water.

As a cleansing of past relationships experienced by the bride and groom, the salt water is believed to create a new pathway into their married lives together.


Leave a Ti Leaf and Lava Rock

If you prefer a simple idea for your Hawaiian wedding ceremony, consider leaving a lava stone wrapped in ti leaf at the altar.

In Hawaiian culture, lava rocks are viewed as a symbol of strength. Ti leaves are considered sacred to the God of Fertility and the Goddess of Hula. Couples offer these items together as a tribute to the spirits of the natural world.


Hire Hula Dancers

A traditional Hawaiian wedding isn’t complete without booking some hula dancers as the entertainment for your guest list!

This performance is typically paired with chanting and varies in speed and tempo. A professional Hula dancer will curate his or her rhythm around honoring the natural world.


Play Hawaiian Music

hawaiian wedding music

Pay tribute to Hawaiian culture by curating a playlist that is inspired by this tropical region. 

Made famous by Blue Hawaii, Elvis Presley’s version of “Ke Kali Nei Aua” is a solid addition for any kind of destination wedding on these Pacific Islands. Bing Cosby, Brook Benton, and Tammy Wynette have covered this song as well! 

“To You Sweetheart, Aloha” never fails as a romantic song for Hawaiian weddings. Andy Williams’s famous tune will definitely leave your guests in awe! 

If you prefer an option that is sung by a Hawaiian musician, “Kawaipunahele” becomes an easy choice. Your wedding party will love every minute of listening to Keali’i Reichel’s voice.


Serve Hawaiian Food

Bring your tropical wedding dreams to life by creating a menu of delicious Hawaiian cuisine for your guest list.

laulau

Laulau is one of the most common dishes found at a wedding reception inspired by Hawaiian traditions. As the main entree, meat is cooked and wrapped in taro leaves.

kalua pig

Even if your guests have never attended a Hawaiian wedding ceremony and reception, they’ll love the taste of Kalua Pig. This meal is usually prepared through an underground oven, known as an imu, to create a smokey flavor.

Give everybody the full experience of a Hawaiian wedding feast by offering poke. This meal is similar to sashimi except the raw fish is diced into squares. 

Just be aware that alcoholic beverages aren’t allowed on public beaches or parks due to local laws in Hawaii! 


Incorporate Hawaiian Words

Go the extra mile during your traditional Hawaiian wedding by including some words from this Polynesian language.

Get creative during your espousal by replacing your number tables with Hawaiian words like kahi, luau, kolu, and so on!

If you and your future spouse have talked about writing your own vows, be sure to use “hau’oli” to describe the joy that you feel around each other.

bridal wedding vows

Don’t think twice about replacing kiss with “honi” and sweetheart with “ipo.” Finish off your solemn promises during your Hawaiian ceremony by saying “ho’olaule’a” instead of celebration. 

Follow Hawaiian Superstitions 

During the planning process of your Hawaiian wedding ceremony and reception, newlyweds should be aware of the superstitions that might affect their romantic celebrations.

wedding lei on beach

Throwing out Hawaiian wedding leis is considered bad luck in the local culture. When the wreaths become unwearable, many people cut the flowers and cast them into the ocean.

For any Hawaiian weddings that are taking place on a boat, bananas should not be taken on board. These fruits are believed to cause problems for the mechanics of the vessel. 

If rice is on the menu for your Hawaiian wedding guests, let me know that they shouldn’t leave their chopsticks sticking straight up in the bowl. This arrangement is how food is offered to the deceased.


Final Thoughts

Bring some Hawaiian flair to your wedding day by incorporating some meaningful traditions that originate from these Polynesian islands!

If you’ve found any inspiration from reading our guide about Hawaiian wedding traditions, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments! We would appreciate any other suggestions for Hawaiian weddings that we did not include! 

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Lauren Peterson

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