Hawaiian Wedding

Wed Like a Native: Embracing Hawaiian Wedding Customs

There's nothing as exciting and satisfying as having a traditional wedding, more so, if it's something you aren't familiar with. Many countries have rich traditions that make every stage of the wedding ceremony exhilarating.

If you choose to go the Hawaiian way, you'll undoubtedly get enamored by their culture and the types of foods they serve. At the center of attraction will be their slack-key guitar and the groom's all-white attire. Let's dig deeper and find out what more Hawaii has to offer. 

Hawaiian Language

Once you've settled for a traditional Hawaiian wedding, it's good to know a few of the words they use in connection to marriage, love and wedding. Some Hawaiian words are very romantic, and it's good to drop them here as the wedding celebration is underway.

It's good to practice a few of them early enough, so you know how to pronounce them correctly. Some of these words include:

  • Ho'oheno: To express affection, love or cherish
  • Ho'olaule'a: a celebration
  • Hoa aloha; a friend
  • Kāne: a man
  • Wahine: a woman
  • Hau'oli: joy
  • Honi: kiss
  • Ipo: sweetheart
  • Hiwahiwa: darling 


Lei are flower garlands that form part of nearly all Hawaiian weddings. Lei symbolize love, peace, affection, compassion, respect, and mercy. It is usual for a wedding ceremony to begin with the groom and the bride exchanging lei.

At the very beginning, the groom wears the bride's lei, and the bride wears the groom's lei, then they exchange them. You can as well have the flower girl present the lei and an appointed time. It is the norm for the groom to wear a garland comprising of maile green leaves, often with pikake (white flowers).

The bride wears a garland with many strands of white and pink pikake, entwined with rosebuds or orchids. Some brides and grooms do present their parents with lei, particularly their mothers. If it's a small wedding, everyone can get lei. It is in Hawaiian custom for a holy man or the kahuna pule to bind the hands of the bride and the groom together using a maile lei.

The Dress

In all traditional Hawaiian weddings, the brides adorn white dresses that are very long. The clothing must be flowing, or muumuu-ish, as the Hawaiians like to put it. The dress has a unique elegance as it responds to the gush of the Pacific breeze.

Then there's the ring of fragrant flowers that the bride wears on her head - the haku lei. The grooms also wear white attire. More specifically, white shirts and slacks. They also wear a brightly-colored sash around their waists and maile lei around their necks. The sash can be red while the lei has to be green. 

The Wedding Feast

Some specific foods can never miss at a Hawaiian wedding ceremony. The first is poi. This is a popular paste made from taro roots. The Hawaiians use a method called laulau to prepare their meats, chicken, and even fish. They are usually wrapped in leaves. You also expect some poke at a Hawaiian wedding. Poke is raw fish that's diced then flavored with seaweed and vegetables.

Another favorite item on the menu is kulolo, essentially a coconut pudding flavored with taro and brown sugar.

Today, fresh fish are becoming very popular in Hawaii, and they get graced with a multi-ethnic barrage of flavors. Indo-Pacific and Asian influences, including Polynesian, Japanese, and Thai, have ensured the Hawaiian cuisine is a fantastic adventure.

Tuna or ahi is crusted and seared in sesame; sauces made from fresh fruits such as lychee, pineapple, papaya, and guava add flavor, in addition to seafood cooked in bouillabaisse. Hawaiians have an assortment of foods to satisfy the tastes of all the guests. It’s only the budget of the wedding organizers that can limit the kinds of foods presented at a wedding table. 

The Music and Entertainment

Hawaiians have very romantic songs, both traditional and modern. The ukelele and slack-key guitar are the two top instruments that make the music from the region famous. For your wedding, you can hire musicians to entertain your guests. If you wish, there are also hula dancers that you can bring on board at a fee.

You can't miss Ke Kali Nei Au, (the "Hawaiian Wedding Song") at a wedding in Hawaii. This song was made famous by the Blue Hawaii film in which Elvis Presley crooned it. Charles King wrote the song in 1926 in the Hawaiian language, and it got translated into English by Elvis.

Hawaiian wedding has everything you need in a ceremony. From the attractive dressing to classical music and the sumptuous meal, you can't go home feeling let down. Even though modernity has infiltrated many traditions, some like the Hawaiian culture has stood the test of time. However, if you can’t have it in pure form, you can choose whichever traditions impress you and incorporate them into your wedding ceremony.

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