A Traditionally Hawaiian, Culturally Classy Wedding

How to keep your destination beach wedding from becoming a tourist trap

Explore these Hawaiian wedding traditions

Hawaiian-themed weddings can quickly turn from trendy to tacky without proper planning. If you’re looking for more substantial and traditional elements than simply leis and Hawaiian shirts on your wedding day, try these culture-infused ceremony and reception tips.

Traditional Hawaiian wedding ceremonies begin with a warm welcoming chant, or “mele,” performed by a local minister. The chant, appropriately named “Oli Aloha,” meaning happiness, love and respect, overflows with passionate and appreciative lyrics for the soon to be newlyweds. 

“Oli Aloha”

Fragrant with hala and lehua

A house of leua for the mist

It is mine to cherish

Longing for your arrival

For when you come

Love comes with you

In native Hawaiian culture, the environment plays an extremely important role in people’s everyday lives. The significance and use of flowers, particularly during a wedding, is essential.

Native Hawaiian flowers bring fragrant and vibrant elements to the wedding ceremony. Supplying your wedding with local and indigenous flowers, instead of flying them in from the mainland United States, can help you keep your wedding eco-friendly. Indigenous plants such as the deep red and yellow red tower ginger, or tie-dye-esque purple bamboo orchid, provide unique and distinctly Hawaiian decoration to the venue.

Upon the bride’s arrival, before her procession down the aisle to meet her groom, a member of the bridal party carries out the “Blowing of the Conch Shell,” or “pu.” This tradition marks the actual beginning of the ceremony.

He or she will blow quite loudly into the colorful swirl-shaped shell, allowing the bride’s presence to be known and to pay tribute to the four elements of life: earth, sea, air and fire. The earth and all things that grow are spiritual and integral parts of Hawaiian culture. This part of the ceremony pays tribute to just that.

Hawaiian brides traditionally wear loose fitting, floor length dresses for the ceremony and word “muumuu” has been thrown around when referring to these outfits. However, consider a more flattering and trendy dress that you can wear again after easy alternations.

Leis are a vital part of all Hawaiian celebrations. The necklaces typically contain 40-50 brightly colored flowers that, when strung together, create a kaleidoscope of color and symbolize love and respect, the very essence of “aloha.”

The couple may elect to start the ceremony by wearing each other’s leis and then switch. Further, at the end of the ceremony they may choose to throw their leis into the ocean. It is believed they will be carried out by the tide and reach deceased family members, who will return them as gesture of “aloha.”


If you are planning a beach reception as well as ceremony, it is essential to have appropriate lighting after the sun goes down. Because of the wind, candles are easily blown out and lighting becomes a problem. Hiring a Hawaiian Torchbearer instead of using candles is a great way to add yet another ecofriendly element and cut costs for your traditional Hawaiian wedding.