The Traditional Hawaiian Wedding Ceremony

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two grooms holding each other on a beach in hawaii with leis

Whether you’re from Hawaii or you’ve just chosen it as a wedding destination, incorporating elements of the traditional Hawaiian wedding ceremony into your island nuptials makes for an incredibly unique experience. The Hawaiian ceremony, complete with the kahuna pule or kahu (holy man), makes the whole exchanging-of-the-vows process much more interesting, meaningful, and beautiful.

There are a number of different Hawaiian wedding traditions to choose from, and many couples simply select their favorites to incorporate into their vow exchange. Read on for an in-depth explanation of a traditional Hawaiian wedding ceremony, and get inspired to incorporate a few of these special rituals into your big day.

grooms exchanging leis on a hawaiian beach

Photo Credit || Mariah Milan

grooms holding hands on a hawaiian beach elopement

Photo Credit || Mariah Milan

grooms kissing while an officiant blows a conch shell

Photo Credit || Mariah Milan

Part One: Processional and Sounding the Pu

Guests arrive to the ceremony location and find their seats to the sounds of a ukelele. Soon after, the kahu, wearing his traditional haku lei (head garland), will appear, singing a chant as he walks the groom to the front of the ceremony. The ceremony begins when the kahu blows loudly into the pu, or the conch shell. The long, deep call of the pu is believed to summon the land, air, fire, and sea to be witnesses to the ceremony and signals that something very special is about to happen. Very soon after the bride will start walking down the aisle.

groom kissing bride's hand on a beach in hawaii

Photo Credit || Mariah Milan

bride and groom holding hands with an officiant holding a ukelele

Photo Credit || Mariah Milan

officiant playing a ukelele on a hawaiian beach elopement

Photo Credit || Mariah Milan

bride and groom kissing on a hawaiian beach

Photo Credit || Mariah Milan

Part Two: The Ceremony

The couple then exchange leis. Traditionally women receive a lei of white flowers and men receive one of green leaves, which serve as a symbol of their eternal love. They may then have their parents present their new spouse with a lei, and then may also present the members of their wedding party with a lei. Finally, a ukelele player will play the Hawaiian Wedding Song while the kahu leads the couple in reciting their vows. The rings are exchanged after a blessing, and again the pu signals the end of the ceremony with a deep, resounding close.

elopement officiant blowing a conch on a beach in hawaii

Photo Credit || Mariah Milan

elopement ceremony on a hawaiian beach

Photo Credit || Mariah Milan

a green lei on a hawaiian beach

Photo Credit || Mariah Milan

bride and groom kissing at sunset on a hawaiian beach

Photo Credit || Mariah Milan

So there you have it—a traditional Hawaiian wedding ceremony in a nutshell. Keep in mind that you don’t have to incorporate all of the traditions into your ceremony; just the ones that move you. If you want to add these, or other elements, of a traditional Hawaiian wedding to your to-do list, head on over to the Zola Weddings Checklist—you can customize all your tasks, set due dates, and then feel super-satisfied (and treat yo’self) every time you check an item off. Aloha!  

Featured Photo Credit || Mariah Milan

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