A lei exchange is a popular tradition in Hawaii for weddings, elopements, vow renewals and civil unions where the couple adorns each other in a fresh lei at the beginning of the ceremony. The exchanging of the leis represents the couple giving themselves to their partner. A Lei exchange can be incorporated into the main ceremony along with any other sub-ceremonies like unity ceremonies and wedding traditions the couple chooses that are meaningful to them and will make their day special.
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 most grocery stores, Longs Drugs, and flower shops.
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