HAWAII WEDDING TRADITIONS
Below are the most popular wedding traditions incorporated into weddings in the Hawaiian Islands. These are sub-ceremonies incorporated into the main ceremony. When choosing a tradition for your ceremony incorporate only what will be meaningful to both of you and make your ceremony special and specific to you as a couple.
CIRCLE OF FLOWERS
Circle of Flowers is a tradition in Hawaii where the wedding couple has a circle of blooms mark the spot where they will exchange vows. The circle of flowers is symbolic of their never ending love for one another and their eternal pledge they commit to one another in the circle.
It typically takes 250 loose blooms to create a thin circle. It is more common to use 500-1,000 blooms to create a full circle of flowers or use strands of blooms to more easily create the circle. Blooms that are common to use are plumeria, orchids, hibiscus, and bougainvillea. Cut ti leaves, banana leaves, ginger leaves, red and/or white ginger flower heads can also be incorporated to add to or create the circle of flowers.
The internet makes it easy to acquire fresh flower petals, fresh flower blooms, and fresh leis which can be used to create a circle of flowers or just add some flowers scattered to mark the the area the wedding couple will exchange their vows. The photo below is from a wedding I officiated where the couple used sea glass and sea shells in a circle to designate where they stand together for the ceremony.
On Oahu the best place for loose blooms or garlands for your Circle of Flowers is to go into Chinatown where there are lots of lei stands with many options to choose from in close proximity. If you ask the lei seller they can make you a 10 or 12 foot garland from flowers like orchids, plumeria, tuberose, ginger as well as braided ti. If you don’t have time to wait for a custom garland to be made you can just purchase already made leis and tell them not to tie them. Then tie them together to make one large garland yourself or just lay them in a circle. The lei shops also sell loose blooms which can be sprinkled to form a circle. It typically takes at least 800-1,000 loose blooms to form a circle of loose orchid, plumeria, and/or tuberose blooms.
HONI HONI, HA BREATH OF LIFE
Honi Honi, Ha Breath of Life is my favorite Hawaiian tradition that is incorporated into weddings. It is a tender intimate deeply meaningful moment during the ceremony. Honi Honi is the Hawaiian way of kissing by touching foreheads and noses and breathing in through the nose at the same time to share the breath of life, known as Ha. Ancient Hawaiians recognized that their breath was the key to good health and believed it possessed mana, spiritual power. Sharing Ha is a great sign of respect and love and in the Hawaiian culture it is a tradition shared by wedding couples during their ceremony.
The exchanging of the leis represents the couple giving themselves to their partner. The leis are symbolic of the couple, each of the couple is beautiful and unique on their own like each of the flowers which makes up the lei. But when the flowers are combined to make the lei the flowers still retain their own unique qualities and beauty while creating something even more beautiful, just like the couple does in their marriage.
Many style of leis are used in lei exchanges are a circle which symbolize eternity and the leis can also represent the couples eternal Aloha for one another. However, some leis used during the ceremony may be open leis such as maile leis or some styles of braided ti leis which are popular with men.
Leis in a lei exchange ceremony are typically worn around the neck. There are leis for the head called Haku Leis which are a crown of flowers. They can be simple single strung flowers or can be a woven head piece of flowers, ferns and leaves. Some brides who do not want to wear a lei around their neck will incorporate a Haku lei instead into the lei exchange or may start the wedding wearing the Haku and also incorporate leis for the neck in a lei exchange like this couple did…
If one of the couple is pregnant please be aware of a superstition in Hawaii that if a woman is pregnant and she wears a closed lei the umbilical cord will wrap around the baby’s neck. Pretty harsh, I know. So, if one of the couple is pregnant at the time of the ceremony consider an open lei just to keep the spirits and mood happy. Lei shops will typically make any style lei an open lei if you request it. Just tell them it is for a pregnant lady, they will know what you want.
On Oahu there are many places to purchase fresh leis. Two places in Honolulu that have a large number of lei stands are the Honolulu Airport and Chinatown. You will find skilled lei makers hand crafting spectacular leis with a wide variety of flowers and leaves. If you have allergies or are scent sensitive be sure to get a lei that is not fragrant. Other places to get leis on Oahu are at florists as well as most Longs, Target, Walmart, Walgreens and supermarkets have a refrigerator display with fresh leis and a selection of nut and silk leis.
A sand unity symbolizes the combining of the love and lives of the couple. A Ohana sand unity can also be incorporated to represent the blending of families and where the couple and their children from prior relationships use the ceremony to represent their coming together and uniting as a Ohana (Ohana is the Hawaiian word for family).
Some couples purchase colored sand and containers to for the ceremony. Couples can also collect sand prior to the ceremony together or if their ceremony is on a beach they can gather sand from where they are taking their vows to represent themselves as individuals then combine their sand into a bowl or jar to represent them blending their lives and love. The sand can be a keepsake reminder of that special day!
I have wooden bowls couples may use for free upon request for sand unity ceremonies in weddings I officiate.
SHOWER OF FLOWERS
A shower of flowers is popular in Hawaii as an alternative to guests throwing rice or blowing bubbles. Showering a couple after their ceremony is meant to be symbolic of guests showering the couple with prosperity, good fortune, and fertility. Plumeria blooms or fresh rose petals are a popular choices for a shower of flowers in the Hawaiian Islands.
Flower blooms or petals can be put into pouches, paper bags, or paper cones and given to guests as they arrive to the ceremony to shower the couple with at the end of the ceremony.
Another option is to have a basket of flowers for the guests to take a hand full of blooms or have a “flower boy, girl, man or woman” that hands out hand fulls of blooms to the guests as they wait for the ceremony to start.
The shower of flowers makes for amazing photos and allows the guests to be interactive with the wedding ceremony!
Lava Rock Ceremony
In a Lava Rock Ceremony a piece of lava rock is wrapped in a Ti leaf and is left at the ceremony site after the wedding. It remains there to mark the birth of your union together and is offered as a blessing to your marriage. In Hawaiian culture, Ti Leaves are believed to provide protection to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. The lava rock represents the couple’s making a lifetime commitment to one another and wrapping it in a Ti leaf represents protection and good luck to the wedding couple for their marriage. For weddings I officiate couples may provide their own lava rock and ti leaf and incorporate the Lava Rock Ceremony at no additional charge or couples may request I bring a lava rock and Ti leaf to use for the ceremony and leave at the ceremony site for an additional fee of $25.
There are hundreds of ceremonies and traditions that can be incorporated into weddings, vow renewals, elopements, and civil union ceremonies, these are just the traditions most commonly incorporated into wedding ceremonies in Hawaii.
Want to share your unity ceremony or wedding tradition story to inspire other couples? Submit your unity ceremony or wedding tradition experience from the perspective of the couple or a guest at a ceremony one was incorporated using my contact page!