Hawaiian Culture Elements & Rituals

Aloha! Here are some options to respectfully include Hawaiian elements to your wedding ceremony.  I have been taught these traditions by my Kumus (teachers) and I hold Hawaiian cultural practices with great respect and appreciation. Appropriation of Hawaiian culture is an issue here in Hawaii and I take special care in honoring and following the traditions that have been shared with me.

The notes in blue are an sample script for the ceremony. Because there are specific protocol for some of these rituals, some cannot be changed. As we get to know each other, I might suggest some rituals not listed here and we will go over those together.

Lei Exchange

One of the most popular rituals for a wedding in Hawaii is an exchange of leis (flower garlands). You can also include bestowing leis from the couple to their parents or other significant people as a part of the ceremony.   The script below is for the couple’s lei exchange but I have a different one if you will be presenting leis to family or friends.

For those of us who call Hawaii home, the lei is a symbol of love and honor. Like your marriage, these leis are the coming together of separate elements to make a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.   To show your aloha for each other on this the first day of your marriage you will exchange leis as a reminder of how your love will surround your beloved no matter where you are.

Hānai aku’ai I ku’u pilialoha.

This is a reminder that like this lei, your love for each other with surround you no matter where you are.

I show you how to present the lei – you can give each other a quick kiss on the cheek after each exchange. Leis are properly worn over the shoulders with some in the front and back.

BYOL – bring your own leis 🙂 Florists and many stores carry beautiful fresh leis.

Honi Honi

Each presentation of the lei can be followed by a traditional Polynesian greeting called honi honi. It shows that you are sharing the “alo” (presence) and -“ha” (breath of life)  with each other.   It’s very simple – after presenting the lei both lean in and press foreheads and noses together and take a deep breath in through the nose.  You can place hands on each others shoulders as well.  A brief video of this is here:

Fun fact: Breathing together can often entrain your heartbeats calming you down if you’ve had an argument.  A honi honi can do a lot to become calm after something difficult or to reconnect with each other after an absence. 

Blowing of the Conch Shell

The conch shell is called a Pū in Hawaiian. There are many protocols to blowing the Pū as it is used in many different ways by the Hawaiian and Polynesian people. The blowing of the conch shell is an invitation to spirits and ancestors to be present as well as a prayer and acknowledgement.  Blowing the pū can also be done at the end of the ceremony.

Ring Blessing – Huikala

A ring blessing can be added to the ring exchange and vows part of the ceremony. Below is the script that I use for the blessing.

You have chosen to exchange rings as gifts to each other.  They are a symbol of unity and your promise of devotion. They also tell the world, that you found your person, and were lucky enough to marry them.

After you have put the ring on your beloved’s finger I will ask for a blessing upon you and the rings. It’s a blessing of forgiveness – a clearing away of past wounds and mistakes. 

This bowl is filled with kai or sea water.  Salt water like that of tears, clears away old hurts and makes way for new life.  I will use a little of this water to bless your rings once they are on. 

(I use a braid of Ti leaves to do this)

You can see an example in this video at the 51 second mark: https://vimeo.com/586141306

Blessing in Hawaiian

Aloha mai – may love always surround you.

Ea ea – may there be sweetness in every breath.

‘Ike pono – may there always be righteousness.

‘Ola mau loa – may your lives be long.

Uwehe E – and free from harm.

I ho’ikahi kahi ke aloha – Be one in love.

Hawaiian Oli – Chants

E hō mai (blessing/prayer honoring ancestors)

Used at the beginning of a ceremony.  This chant brings a great deal of mana (spiritual energy) and should be only included with an intention of respect for Hawaiian spirituality and culture.   

I’d like to begin with a Hawaiian custom of honoring our ancestors – na kupuna – calling upon all our ancestors – yours, mine and those of everyone gathered here today to bring forth their blessings upon the two of you.

This chant or oli humbly asks the na kupuna  (ancient ones) for their wisdom and blessing during this ceremony and all the days of your lives.  The chant also asks permission for you to enter a new place..it is a sign of respect and humility.

 (the entire chant is repeated 3 times)

Oli Mahalo (Gratitude)

This chant is also appropriate for after the couple have kissed to give gratitude for their new life together.


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