Hawaiian Wedding Traditions Explained

Hawaiian Wedding Traditions Explained

Hawaii, where the palm trees sway, and the waters speak to the soul, is steeped in tradition and cultural richness.

Hawaiian wedding traditions stand out among its many cultural treasures, offering a unique way to celebrate love deeply rooted in the island’s spirit and history.

The Roots of Hawaiian Wedding Traditions

Long before Hawaii became a melting pot of cultures, ancient Hawaiians celebrated marriage in a sacred and communal way. These ceremonies were deeply connected to the land and the divine, drawing from the island’s natural beauty and spiritual presence.

For instance, it was customary for a bride to wear a long, flowing white garment known as a holoku, a style that has evolved yet still graces modern Hawaiian nuptials.

Moreover, according to “The Hawaiian Journal of History,” a feast often marked by traditional Hawaiian weddings is called an ‘aha’aina, symbolizing the joining of two people and their families.

The introduction of Christianity in the 19th century brought new elements to Hawaiian weddings, but the core spirit of the island’s customs persisted, interwoven with the new influences to create the rich tapestry of traditions we see today.

Pre-Wedding Rituals and Preparations

In the journey toward a Hawaiian wedding, the tapestry of pre-wedding rituals and preparations weaves deep cultural significance into the celebration.

The initial steps involve a heartwarming connection to the land and heritage, with each element chosen to honor the islands’ traditions.

Choosing the Kahu

Selecting the Kahu, a Hawaiian priest or spiritual leader, is a thoughtful process. The Kahu is pivotal to the ceremony, offering blessings and guiding the couple through traditional chants and rituals that evoke the presence of the divine.

Often, a Kahu is someone who holds a deep spiritual or familial connection to the couple, further entwining the personal with the ceremonial.

Crafting Leis and Adornments

Family members and close friends may come together in the days leading up to the wedding to create leis, floral crowns, and other adornments.

This communal activity is not just a preparation but a spiritual gathering, where each twist of the lei string and each flower woven into a crown is a physical manifestation of love and good wishes for the couple.

It’s also a time to honor the ‘Aumakua, the ancestral spirits who watch over the family, through prayer and offerings, inviting them to bless the union.

Selecting the ‘Aina

The choice of the ‘Aina, the land where the ceremony will take place, is made with reverence. The location is more than a backdrop; it’s a sacred space that will be imprinted with the memories of the nuptials.

Whether it’s a tranquil beach, where the ocean whispers its timeless songs, or a lush grove, cradled by the protective arms of ancient trees, the setting is sanctified by its natural beauty and spiritual resonance with the couple.

Cleansing and Blessing the Space

Before the ceremony, the Kahu may conduct a cleansing ritual, using sea salt or ‘Alaea (Hawaiian red salt) and water to purify the space. This act clears any negative energy and ensures that the ‘aina is ready to embrace the new beginning that the wedding represents.

The site’s blessing bridges the physical and spiritual worlds, establishing a harmonious environment for the couple’s vows.

Personal Reflection and Intentions

It is also a time for the couple to reflect inwardly, setting their intentions for their marriage and their future together. They may meditate or pray, seeking clarity and peace as they prepare to step into a new chapter of life.

This personal ritual is a grounding experience, reminding them of the sacred commitment they are about to make.

The pre-wedding preparations are not merely tasks to be checked off a list; they are the first notes of a love song to the Hawaiian culture, a dance of preparation that sets a reverent tone for the sacred union to come.

Each step is taken with purpose, each decision imbued with respect for the land, the culture, and the love that the couple shares.

Post-Wedding Traditions and Beliefs

Following the festivities, the couple and their families might partake in the ‘Aha’aina Poina ‘Ole, a meal not to be forgotten, symbolizing the lasting memories created.

The concept of Ho’ao Pa’a, the enduring bond between the couple, is also celebrated, a reminder that the wedding is just the beginning of a lifelong commitment.

‘Aha’aina Poina ‘Ole – The Unforgettable Feast

After exchanging vows and celebrating union, the ‘Aha’aina Poina ‘Ole, or the unforgettable feast, is a significant post-wedding event.

This meal is more than just a gathering for food; it symbolizes the abundant life the couple aspires to lead together. The dishes served are often traditional Hawaiian foods, which carry deep meaning and are chosen to invoke blessings for a prosperous future.

This feast reinforces the communal spirit, as the sharing of food is a profound expression of aloha—love, compassion, and kindness.

Ho’ao Pa’a – The Lasting Bond

The post-wedding period is a time to honor the concept of Ho’ao Pa’a—the firm bond that the couple has entered into.

This concept extends beyond the physical joining of two individuals; it encompasses the spiritual and emotional commitment to nurture and maintain a lasting relationship.

The belief in Ho’ao Pa’a reinforces the idea that the wedding is merely the inception of a journey of growth, learning, and mutual support.

Sharing of Ha, the Breath of Life

In some traditions, sharing Ha, or the breath of life, can be an intimate post-wedding practice.

The couple engages in a symbolic exchange of breaths, pressing their foreheads and noses together and inhaling simultaneously.

This act is a powerful embodiment of their unity, signifying that they are now of one breath, sharing life together in its fullest sense.

Planting of a Native Tree

Another post-wedding tradition that some couples may choose to follow is the planting of a native Hawaiian tree.

This ritual represents the growth of their relationship and their commitment to each other and the land—Aloha ‘Aina. As the tree grows and thrives, it stands as a living testament to their love and care for nurturing their relationship.

Reflection and Respect for ‘Aina

Finally, as part of the post-wedding beliefs, couples are encouraged to reflect on their relationship with the ‘aina, the land.

There is a profound respect for the environment and an understanding that taking care of the land reflects the couple’s care for one another. A harmonious relationship with the land is believed to promote a harmonious marriage.

These post-wedding traditions and beliefs weave the concepts of sustainability, respect, and unity into the very fabric of the marriage.

Participating in these rituals reminds the couple that their union is a continuous journey of shared experiences and that their love, like the ‘aina they cherish, should be tended to with reverence and care for a lifetime.


As the warm hues of a Hawaiian sunset embrace the landscape, we’re reminded of the deep spirituality and enduring beauty of Hawaiian wedding traditions.

Each ceremony, enriched by ancient rituals and modern love, unites two hearts and pays tribute to a rich cultural heritage.

The unforgettable ‘Aha’aina Poina ‘Ole feast and the symbolic planting of a tree signify a couple’s ongoing commitment to their shared values and the land that nurtures them.

These are not mere formalities but profound affirmations of a sacred union, honoring the deep connections to each other and to the earth.

Aloha Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas extends the invitation to infuse your special day with this storied aloha spirit, marrying the soul of Hawaii with the charm of the mainland.


What is the significance of the lei exchange in Hawaiian weddings?

The lei exchange in Hawaiian weddings symbolizes love, respect, and the unification of the couple. Both partners exchange these garlands as a gesture of their commitment to each other, with each lei’s flowers and construction holding specific meanings related to love, harmony, and mutual respect.

How is the Hawaiian concept of ‘ohana’ incorporated into weddings?

‘Ohana, meaning family in Hawaiian, plays a central role in Hawaiian weddings, emphasizing the importance of family unity and cooperation. The ceremony often includes rituals that honor both the couple’s ancestors and their connection to each other’s families, symbolizing the joining of two families into one larger ‘ohana.

What role does water play in Hawaiian wedding ceremonies?

Water, often sourced from a sacred location, is used in Hawaiian wedding ceremonies to symbolize purity, cleansing, and the flow of life. It is used to bless the couple and their new journey together, signifying the washing away of past troubles and the nurturing of a fresh start.

Why is the ‘kapa’ cloth important in Hawaiian weddings?

The ‘kapa’ cloth, made from the bark of the wauke or paper mulberry tree, is significant in Hawaiian weddings for its symbolic representation of protection and the couple’s new beginning. It is often used as part of the ceremony’s decor or as a wrap for the couple, signifying warmth, shelter, and the wrapping of their lives together.

What is the traditional Hawaiian wedding chant, and what does it signify?

The traditional Hawaiian wedding chant, or ‘oli aloha,’ is a call to the gods and ancestors to recognize and bless the union. It welcomes everyone present and invokes the blessings of love, prosperity, and happiness for the couple’s future. The chant is a powerful expression of the spiritual aspects of the marriage and the deep connection to Hawaiian culture and traditions.