Hawaii is a beautiful location for a wedding.
You can’t beat starting your marriage on a beach, but if you’re already in that location, you might want to add some Hawaiian wedding traditions to your ceremony.
Many meaningful aspects of Hawaiian culture can elevate your wedding into something unique.
Hawaii is part of the United States, but the state has its own rich culture that differs from many weddings you might experience on the mainland.
13 Hawaiian Wedding Traditions and Rituals
1. Wear Hawaiian Clothing
One of the biggest appeals of getting married on a Hawaiian beach is the ability to forgo stuffy, fitted formalwear. You can wear casual, breezy clothing that still looks nice but will better suit the vibe of your wedding.
The bride can wear a Holuku, a traditional Hawaiian wedding dress designed in the 1820s. Variations of the dress are suitable for everyday wear or more formal options with trains. All styles of this dress are loose-fitting and comfortable. With the Japanese influence in Hawaii, many brides wear elegant kimonos for the ceremony.
Many brides don’t want to battle a traditional veil with the breeze blowing during the ceremony. Instead, they wear a Haku lei. Women wear this floral headdress for special occasions, like graduations, luaus, and weddings.
The groom can wear a light-colored suit for a Hawaiian wedding. Pants and a jacket look especially lovely when paired with a colorful dress shirt. But there’s no need for a suit—some men prefer to wear Aloha shirts and comfortable slacks.
2. Blow a Conch Shell
In Hawaiian culture, the conch shell helps villages communicate and signals the arrival of important people. So a conch shell will make a beautiful noise at the start of your wedding ceremony. The officiant blows into the conch to get the guests’ attention. You’ll hear the sound again when it’s time to have your first married kiss.
3. Use Hawaiian Words
Regardless of what Hawaiian wedding traditions you choose to incorporate into your ceremony, using Hawaiian words is something that will make it seem more natural. If you wrote your vows, consider replacing some words with Hawaiian terms.
Here are some romantic words to use:
- “Aloha au ‘ia ‘oe” for I love you
- “Aloha Nui Loa” for All my love
- “Ku`u Lei” for My beloved
4. Integrate Chants and Storytelling
Hawaii has a history of storytelling, and it still plays a large part in its culture. Using this element in your wedding ceremony can help you feel like you’re honoring the state. “Oli Aloha” is a traditional greeting chant you can use at the beginning of your wedding to orient your guests to the culture. Hawaiian officiants use this chant as a blessing for the space.
5. Exchange Leis
Just as you put the wedding band on your partner’s hand, you can also exchange leis during a Hawaiian wedding. The leis symbolize how you and your partner intertwine your lives with marriage. You can exchange leis before rings in the ceremony and also share a kiss on the cheek.
Most groom leis use ti leaves and the bride’s features white or pink pikake flowers. This plant is in the jasmine family, and the flowers look like tiny pearls. They also have a wonderful fragrance. If you decide to exchange leis at your wedding, you can match your Haku lei to the one from your partner.
6. Have a Sand Ceremony
Some weddings feature a candle ceremony when the bride and groom each carry a candle and use it to light a new one together. This action symbolizes how they bring their own lives and values to the marriage to create something new.
You can still use candles on a Hawaiian beach, but the breeze might have other ideas. You might laugh the first time the wind blows out your candle, but if it keeps happening, you can get frustrated. Instead of dealing with this potential issue, consider a traditional sand ceremony.
The bride and groom get small jars in a Hawaiian sand ceremony. They use sand from their favorite area of the beach to fill their individual jars. It would be best to consider getting sand from a beach near your hometown or current city because taking sand from Hawaiian beaches is bad luck.
The bride and groom each pour their sand into a larger jar during the ceremony. Some couples decide to keep a small amount of sand in their jar to show that they’re still an individual but are also committed to the marriage.
The sand in the unity jar and whatever you keep in your jar work perfectly as a souvenir from the wedding. You can display the jar of sand in your home as a reminder of your vows.
7. Bind Your Hands Together
One of the sweetest Hawaiian wedding traditions is binding your hands together. It’s called “Pili ā Nai Kealoha” in Hawaiian, which translates to “love that binds.” The officiant ties the couple’s hands together using the dark green vines of a maile lei. In addition to the green vines, the maile lei may have stunning white orchids.
8. Wash Your Wedding Bands
Washing your wedding bands during the ceremony is a traditional Hawaiian ritual. Koa wood is native to Hawaii. The wood has rich colors and a striking grain design, so officiants use a koa wood bowl during the ceremony.
The bowl contains salt water for the bride and groom to wash their rings before exchanging them. The salt water cleanses the rings and prepares the newlyweds to forge a new life together.
9. Have a Lava Rock Ceremony
Lava rocks represent strength in Hawaiian culture. It’s a grounding stone that helps you feel connected to the earth. This natural bond will help you make it through times of stress, which is important for anyone weathering the ups and downs of marriage.
To harness the power of the lava rock, you first wrap it in a ti leaf. Ti leaves represent good luck in Hawaiian culture. You’re projecting good luck and strength on your love when you leave a ti leaf wrapped around a lava stone on your wedding altar.
10. Play Hawaiian Music
The ukulele is an instrument created in Hawaii so that you can integrate this type of music into your ceremony. Consider hiring local ukulele players to strum in the background. You can also play famous Hawaiian songs like these.
- “Kawaipunahele” by Keali’i Reichel
- “Tiny Bubbles” by Don Ho
- “Ke Kali Nei Aua” by Elvis Presley
- “To You Sweetheart, Aloha” by Andy Williams
These romantic songs make you feel even more in love with your partner and add some Hawaiian culture to your big day.
11. Dance the Hula
Wedding dances are traditions in almost any culture, but to embrace your surroundings, consider dancing the hula. You can either learn it yourself for your first dance or hire professional dancers.
Hired dancers know hula kahiko, which is a formal part of a ceremony. They dance to percussion instruments and chants. Hula auana is less formal, so you and your guests can partake in this style as you dance to the ukulele or steel guitar.
12. Serve Hawaiian Food
Serving traditional Hawaiian food at your reception will ensure your guests enjoy the location. Some standard dishes suitable for a wedding include:
- Laulau—cooked taro leaves filled with meat or fish
- Kalua pork—smoked pork shoulder wrapped in ti leaves
- Poke—diced raw fish
13. Adhere to Hawaiian Superstitions
You may love the idea of some of these Hawaiian wedding traditions, but you should also consider the superstitions. For example, it’s bad luck to throw away your wedding leis. After you wear them, you can either press and dry the flowers or toss them into the ocean.
It’s also bad luck to take bananas on a boat. If your wedding ceremony, reception, or honeymoon involves a sea voyage, leave the bananas behind, or else you risk messing up the boat’s systems.
If you’re serving traditional Hawaiian cuisine, your guests might eat bowls of rice. Advise them ahead of time that it’s bad luck to leave their chopsticks upright in the dish. Hawaiian natives offer food to the dead with chopsticks standing straight. Your guests should rest chopsticks on the side of the bowl or on the table beside it.
Remember, if you and your spouse add the sand ceremony to your wedding, the sand should come from beaches that are meaningful to you. You shouldn’t use sand from Hawaiian beaches if you live elsewhere because it’s bad luck to take anything natural from Hawaii. That also applies to the lava rock you leave on the wedding altar—don’t take it home.
For wedding photos, never have groups of three people pose. Hawaiians believe that the person in the middle is the first to die. However, arranging things in groups of four is also bad luck. The Japanese word for four sounds like death, so you want to stay away. Consider getting large group pictures during your wedding and reception to play it safe.