Something Blue: Hawaiian Wedding Traditions

June 13, 2013
Words by Jennifer Stein
Photos courtesy of

destination weddings hawaii
You’ve decided to wed in Hawaii; perhaps you selected the islands because of sentiment, or maybe it was simply convenience. The destination may provide enough distance to keep your wedding small, or may be middle ground for families coming from Australia and the United States. Whatever your reason, Hawaii is one of the most popular wedding destination locations. Couples are seeking to include island traditions into their ceremony and reception to make their wedding that much more memorable.

“Most people do not want to go heavily Hawaiian but want little touches,” says Gabrielle Longhi, wedding planner and owner of Blue Sky Weddings Hawaii. “The giving of leis to all the guests is a Hawaiian tradition that is easily incorporated. Usually we have two or three important family members or friends present the flower lei to the guest and place it around their neck.”

Longhi says having a wedding in Hawaii is beneficial for brides who love exotic flowers. Rare flora and fauna abound.

“Hawaiian or tropical flowers are big requests,” she says. “Orchids are most commonly requested flowers — green, white, pink and orange cymbidiums. I work with an orchid grower in Haiku which produces the most amazing orchids, impossible to get elsewhere. She picks them and brings them directly to our florist.”

Another option to consider is adding Hawaiian music. Whether greeting your guests as they arrive, or adding a native soundtrack to walk down the aisle, island music is diverse.
“There is, of course, the Hawaiian Wedding Song,” Longhi says. “Also, there is Brother IZ, and his version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow: What a Wonderful World,” which was the most popular request for the past two years. Usually I just let the musicians choose something suitable because they know the local music and most mainlanders do not.”
Hawaiian dancers, when added appropriately can bring traditional flare to a ceremony or reception.

“I have arranged hula dancers at a ceremony, which is quite stunning. After the lei exchange, the musicians accompany the performers who will dance for the bride and groom.”

honeymoons in hawaii
Longhi’s clients have had full Hawaiian hula shows, complete with fire knife dancers. “I have arranged 1 hour shows, but prefer to keep the reviews to 30 minutes since it is a wedding,” she says. “Most couples want time for dancing and all the other wedding traditions too.”

Destination couples often face the difficult task of finding clergy who meet their faith and also match their personalities. If their clergy from home is unavailable to travel to their wedding in Hawaii, Longhi says island tradition, again, is a great choice.

The ceremony starts with an “Oli Aloha,” which is the Hawaiian chant of greeting. This is followed by a welcome in English, then the sharing of the leis. The ceremony ends with a prayer of blessing in Hawaiian, proceeded by the interpretation.”

Longhi says she’s had couples arrange their own traditions too. For example, a recent bride coordinated a special dance with a few friends for her groom during the reception.

“The bride and groom did the first dance and then the father daughter dance,” she says. “Everyone was seated for dinner. The bride then disappeared with her three friends, changed into bright Hawaiian sarongs and little tops, added plumeria leis and came out onto the dance floor and performed a hula dance. They pulled it off and it was very cute. The groom loved it.”

She remembers another couple who used coconut bowls, pouring sand from one to another. The sand represented the passing of time and their future together.

The options for including Hawaiian traditions to your wedding are plentiful.

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