The Lei Stand
Probably the lei most associated with weddings is the lei maile. It's heady scent evokes images of romance, and indeed, throughout Hawaiian history, myth, and legend, it is associated with courtship and romance.
Often, both the bride and groom will wear maile, either alone or with floral lei kui intertwined. Sometimes only the bride will add a floral lei. Sometimes the bride will wear a fragrant floral lei intertwined with the maile, and the groom will wear `ilima intertwined with his lei maile.
For some `ohana, the custom is to wear the lei open during the ceremony and, after the consecration, to tie the lei closed.
In legend, the Maile Sisters act as go-betweens, enticing sweethearts to meet by luring them with fragrance.
There are many varieties of maile, each with a subtly unique fragrance. Among them are maile lau li`i, the small leafed maile; maile lau nui, the large leafed maile; maile kaluhea, considered especially fragrant; maile ha`iwale, which is somewhat brittle; and the maile pākaha, a branching variety.
Maile also is generally provided for the kahu or minister who performs the ceremony.
In ancient times, there was no ceremony comparable to the modern wedding. Marriage, as it is known in the Western World today, did not exist. There was no government licensing, no legal requirements, and no divorce - if a couple decided that their relationship was no longer productive, they simply parted ways. As children were reared by the entire extended family, there was little disruption in the life of the youngsters.
Royalty had far more elaborate ceremony when pairing off, though it was not intended to confirm a marriage in the western sense. The ceremony was to ask the blessing of the gods on the children of a royal union, to assure that they were born with perfect bodies and minds, and great mana, or spiritual power. Again, ceremonies varied according to locale and family, and could be as simple as the royal couple being escorted to their new sleeping hale and wrapped together in a sheet of pure white kapa with their family priests and chanters offering prayer and song for the union and offspring, to elaborate ceremonies of several days length involving hundreds of the courts' priests and chanters, relatives, and interested parties. These ceremonies are sometimes called ho`ao.
After the introduction of Christianity in 1819, the Christian style wedding was adopted by many families and eventually became the legal form.
Feeding each other cake, poi, or anything else, symbolizes that the couple will nurture each other through life, and HOW they do so on the wedding day is considered a symbol of how they will do so in the future. Mashing cake into each other's faces is considered in very poor taste, and taken as a symbol of serious future problems in the marriage!
While there was no such thing as cake in ancient Hawai`i, haupia, a coconut pudding, has been a popular treat here for over 1,000 years. Today, haupia cake is an island favorite, and very appropriate for weddings. In the most simple recipe, a coconut-flavored white cake is made, and coated with the haupia pudding, and often decorated with fresh island flowers and ferns.
Who Wears Which Lei at a Hawaiian Wedding?
There is really no such thing as "a man's lei" or "a woman's lei." Men often will wear a larger, heavier lei. Women often will wear a more delicate and more fragrant lei. But there are no hard and fast rules. Ideally, the couple will select lei which have meaning for themselves. One way to have a harmoniouslook, but maintain individuality, is for the bride and groom both to wear lei maile, but to wili (wind) other lei, such as `ilima for the groom and pikake, or tuberose for the bride.
Hawaiian Wedding Music
Music is an integral part of Hawaiian culture, and whether the celebration is an informal ceremony in a family's back yard or a formal ceremony in St Andrew's Catherdral, music will be an important part of a Hawaiian wedding. Traditional songs include Lei Aloha Lei Makamae, E Maliu Mai, and Ke Kali Nei Au. Of course, any song which has special meaning for the bride and groom, Hawaiian or not, should be included! Get to know the different musicians so you can plan your music with someone who understands your ideas. Hawaiian musicians often are booked far in advance, so schedule early.
Braddah Waltah Aipolani, in addition to playing more traditional Hawaiian music, is also known as the "Father of Hawaiian Reggae."
`Ohe hano Ihu
A delightful Hawaiian courtship custom dating from ancient times is the playing of the `ohe hano ihu, the Hawaiian nose flute. Originally, the flute would be crafted by a young man and played to court the object of his affections. Today, a number of Hawaiian atrisans make Hawaiian flutes which can be purchased in fine art galleries and on-line. Among them is Manu Josiah, a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) musician and artist who performs on Moku Hawai`i.
Selecting a Kahu (Officiant)
Kahu, ministers and wedding officiants, in Hawai`i are available to perform ceremonies ranging from interdenominational or non-sectarian to very traditional ceremonies from virtually any faith you can think of. It is important that your kahu be in tune with your beliefs and needs. Contact different kahu and get to know them before making a final selection.
Kumu Leilehua Yuen is licensed to officiate weddings and civil unions in the state of Hawai`i. She is honored to help couples create a personal ceremony which is a true expression of their unique love for each other. Kumu Leilehua can officiate ceremony in both English and Hawaiian. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 1-808-895-0850.
'Ohe hano ihu, the Hawaiian nose flute
Lei Hulu Manu - the precious feather lei of Hawai`i
Hawaiian Lei - Garlands of Aloha
Mele Lei - Celebrating the Hawaiian Lei with Song
Lei Pūpū o Ni`ihau
At right, a five-strand lei pūpū laiki made up of hundreds of tiny white shells from the island of Ni`ihau.
As prized as a diamond necklace, a lei of pure white laiki shells is a regal adornment for a bride. The most prized for weddings is the laiki ke`oke`o, a pure white shell. It takes years for the bride, her friends, and her `ohana to collect enough for a Ni`ihau-style wedding lei - anywhere from five to twenty five-foot strands worn in cascadiung loops.
In some `ohana, the bride is blessed to be able to include strands which belonged to her kupuna and were passed down from generation to generation.
For those not able to comb the beaches of Ni`ihau and Kaua`i, some Ni`ihau lei makers do make lei for sale. Also, vintage lei are sometimes available in antique shops. The above lei was donated to the Hilo Lei Day Festival, "He Mo`olelo ko ka Lei," by Don Nigro, of Hilo Antiques & Coins at 191 Kīlauea Ave, 1-808-969-1881. The lei is for the use of the Ni`ihau Princess in the Lei Day Royal Court.
Lei Hulu Manu
Some brides choose to wear lei hulu manu. The lei generally either are crafted to go with the wedding gown, or are an heirloom lei passed down from a beloved kupuna.White feather lei po`o (head lei) are lovely worn in place of a veil.
With the many colors in which lei hulu manu can be made, innumerable options are available. The lei can also be made to represent the bride's geneology. In a formal wedding, lei hulu manu, kāhili, and `ahu`ula. Today, the `ahu`ula generally are made from velvet or satin rather than feathers.
When wearing lei hulu, because of the structure of the feathers, these lei tend to "walk" as they are worn. to hold them in place, the ribbon may be pinned into the hair. A lei `a`i (lei worn on the neck) may be pinned through the ribbon to the dress, or even carefully stitched to the gown with matching thread..
In general, lighter colored fragrant floral lei, such as pīkake (shown at right), stephanotis, tuberose, baby rose, and mixes of these, are worn by the bride and female members of the wedding party, and darker, heavier lei such as maile, mauna loa, carnation, or cigar flower are worn by the groom and male members. This is not a rule. It simply works out that way because of the colors and styles of most wedding attire, and the tastes of most brides. However, some brides opt for brightly colored lei, and others for the elegant simplicity of lā`ī. The lei should be reflective of the bride and groom, and be as unique as the couple and their special day.
A song can also be a lei, and a very ancient tradition is to compose, or have a song composed, for the bride and for the groom. These personal songs are special gifts, and considered to be a lei of affectionate words strung on a thread of melody and rhythm. Examples of Mele Lei are the Kimo Henderson Hula, E Maliu Mai, Ka Manu, and Ka Ipo Lei Manu are classic mele lei.