Hawaii is everyone’s favourite honeymoon destination. It’s where you go to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. But even if you have never been to Hawaii and can barely recollect three words from the language, you most probably know something about the fascinating culture. We’ve all been to Hawaii-themed parties where people immerse themselves in the essence of the 50th state. We’ve worn the shirts and dresses embroidered with flowers symbolising the light and care-free ethos of Hawaii.
The garlands, the ukulele in the background and the general feeling of relaxation that we associate with Hawaii is what we know about the place. However, what do we know about weddings in Hawaii and Hawaiian wedding traditions? Are they big and splashy or tiny and intimate? Are there any specific traditions the marrying couple are meant to follow or is it easy-breezy like the Hawaiian climate? Let’s find out!
Hawaiian weddings are beautiful. They maintain a balance between celebration and subtlety. It’s an intimate affair yet it echoes the joy and excitement of the union between the happy couple. Their weddings, unlike the extravagant ones we are used to seeing and attending are smaller in size. There is usually a maximum of 30-40 people including the couple’s family and closest friends.
The wedding begins with a ‘Pu’ which is the sound of a conch shell being blown. This indicates that the bride is about to arrive. What’s incredible is that this sound is meant to call attention to the air, land, sea and fire to be present during the union as well. From what I have gathered, there is also a chanter present who walks the bride down the aisle, telling stories about love as they proceed towards the groom.
The bride normally wears a white dress but it’s not heavy or restrictive, in fact it’s the opposite. Its flow-y, light and simple. Like I mentioned, subtlety is baked right into Hawaiian weddings.
What follows after the bride makes her entrance is the couple exchanging leis which is a traditional Hawaiian garland. There are a couple of ways this takes place, one is where the bride and groom are wearing each other’s garlands before they exchange them. Another is the selection of a flower girl who will perform the duty of giving the couple their leis.
After the leis are exchanged, the kahu dips a bowl made of wood known as the ‘koa wood’ into seawater which is a symbol for integrity, this is before the rings are exchanged. Also, a ti leaf is dipped into water and is sprinkled on to the rings coupled with the Kahu beginning to chant. The ceremony ends with the sound of the conch shell once again.
The completion of the ceremony is celebrated with the musician at the wedding playing the ukulele and is coupled with some talented hula dancers. Hula dancing is a sacred form of expression in Hawaii. Although it was once banned in 1821 as it was deemed to be sensual, Hula dancing continued to be a prominent component of Hawaiian culture.
This dance form, unique with its subtle movements of the arms and hips is well known globally and although it might seem simple to imitate on the dance floor, I have seen my older uncles attempt it at parties and it was mostly hilarious. Best to just leave it to the professionals!
Final Hawaiian Wedding Traditions
There is also a canoe present at the location. One of the Hawaiian wedding traditions is traditionally the bridal party arrives on this canoe from a different location towards the wedding venue, after which the wedding commences. After the wedding is over the newlyweds take a quick adventure on the canoe together.
Hawaiian weddings are usually conducted outdoors on a beach. I don’t know about you but to me, beaches are the most romantic location to host a wedding. The breeze, the sound of the ocean, the bright blue skies, it’s like having the best decorations without having to pay for them!
Yes, there is the concern about the weather being unpredictable with rains and humidity but if planned accordingly, it could be spectacular. And who doesn’t love weddings in the rain? Okay, most people don’t but I certainly do!
My Favourite Hawaiian Wedding Traditions
I love the traditions associated with Hawaiian weddings. There are so many beautiful ones that it is difficult to pick a favourite one. However, the tradition that truly moved me was the one with the conch shell that represented the calling of the natural elements including air, land, sea and fire. This symbolises a spiritual connection to nature, the inclusion of that in a union between a couple is so emotional and beautiful.
Also, traditionally there is one song that is always the first one to be played after the wedding is over and that is ‘Ke Kali Nei Au’. There is a really popular version of this song sung by Elvis. Give it a listen to truly feel the essence of the Hawaiian wedding!
What is so inspiring about the way Hawaiian weddings are carried out is their deep and spiritual connection to nature. It is ingrained in the ceremonies and is the general theme of a lot of the traditions as well. I think that is so special and humbling as it expresses gratitude to the world around us.
If this post made you want to have a Hawaiian wedding right away, join the club. The traditions associated with these weddings are absolutely heart-warming and symbolise a deep connection to one’s roots.
I consider myself a non-religious person however, traditions in my culture with regards to weddings are so incredibly beautiful and enjoyable that I would definitely incorporate them in my wedding.
Hawaii is a stunning location for a wedding, it encompasses the mesmerizing natural beauty of the environment in a simplistic yet romantic way. I would highly recommend checking out Hawaii as a potential destination for your future wedding and I hope I get an invite, I promise I won’t try to Hula dance!