Many couples that come to get married in Maui still choose to have the traditional wedding but on one of our many beautiful beaches. This is great and Maui Aloha Weddings makes sure that your wedding ceremony is all that you hoped it would be! Others want to have more of the Hawaiian wedding culture wrapped within their ceremony and we do offer to do that as well. “What are some of the Hawaiian wedding traditions?” is a question I am asked often. There are actually two different traditional Hawaiian weddings – the Nono Pu (very informal wedding) and the Ho’ao (for Royal Couples) . This blog will tell about many of the traditions from the first those weddings.
When guests first arrive to a Hawaiian wedding they are greeted with the sweet sounds of the Ukulele. The Uke looks similar to a small guitar but it has four strings and is actually a member of the Lute family of instruments. It was introduced to the Hawaiian islands in the 1880’s by the Portuguese who came to work the sugar cane fields and became a favorite of the people. Our musicians all have song lists to share with you and are creative with Hawaiian songs as well as popular songs. Somehow they all have wonderful singing voices as well! In modern ceremonies, a guitar is also very popular. The Hawaiian Kahuna Pule or Kahu (Hawaiian Holy Man) will be with the Groom as the Groom stands in a circle of flowers or petals representing the circle of love. In a very traditional wedding, the Kahu will sing a Mele (chant) as he is with the groom. Traditional dress for the Groom is all white with a red sash at his waist. We don’t see that very often anymore as the traditional dress now is a white shirt and Khaki pants or shorts.
The Processional starts the same as most weddings with the Groom’s family walking in, the Bride’s Mom and then the wedding party. The Kahu then blows the Pu (conch shell) to tell the sea, wind, earth and fire that the Bride has arrived and to be witnesses for this occasion. That is when the Bride may walk down the aisle and the Groom turns around to see her for the first time. The Bride is dressed in white and usually a flowing gown with a Haku (head flower lei) on her head.
After the welcome to all from the Kahu, the Bride and Groom will exchange leis which are a symbol of eternal love. For the Groom it is a Maile or Ti Leaf Lei and for the Bride it used to be White Ginger or Pikake. White Orchids are now accepted for this tradition as they are more available and a bit less expensive with all the costs of a wedding. The old tradition was that the Groom’s parents present the lei to the Bride as a welcome and the Bride’s parents present the lei to the Groom. In modern ceremonies, the Kahu hands the leis to the Bride and Groom to exchange.
As the Hawaiian Wedding song plays, the Kahu leads the couple into the vow exchange. Because the song is so beautiful, many times there is a pause in the ceremony for the musician to sing the song. With ceremonies today, this song is played during the sand ceremony so that when the couple is pouring the sand, the guests can listen to the words and the guests can hear the couple exchange their vows.
Before the ring ceremony begins, the Kahu dips a Koa bowl into the sea (Koa represents strengthand integrity) and fills the bowl. The Kahu then dips Ti leaves into the sea water and sprinkles the sea water on the rings three times while he does a traditional chant.
The couple will then participate in the pouring of sands. Each one will have a separate container of sand that they will pour in a single glass container. It shows that they have come from two different walks of life but are now united together and they cannot be separated just as the sand in the vessel can never be two different separate sands again.
At this time you may see some Kahu’s doing the Tying of the Knot. Some Kahu’s will wrap the hands of the couple in a Maile or Ti Leaf rope to show that they are now united. Maui Aloha Weddings uses the Tying of the Knot ceremony where the Kahu will tie the rope into two knots and have the couple pull on each side. This symbolizes that sometimes we go in different directions with our thoughts but the harder that you pull apart the tighter your bond will be together. The rope will break before the knot will ever come undone. Before the rope ceremonies, the couple would be wrapped together in a beautiful Tapa made by the parents as a symbol of the couple being united. The Tapa (cloth made from bark) becomes a treasured heirloom to hand down to generations.
The Kahu will now pronounce them as husband and wife and once again, will blow the Pu to tell everyone the ceremony is complete and they have been united.
The final tradition is to leave a lava rock wrapped in a Ti Leaf to celebrate the union of both people. They leave it at the ceremony site as a commemorative symbol of their union.
It doesn’t matter which ceremony you prefer as the symbolism is represented in each one. Most times Maui Aloha Weddings will mix the two so that you have the traditional ceremony that most of the guests will look for but you can also take with you the culture of the Hawaiian people for your wedding memories.