One of the best-known times to give the gift of a lei is for weddings. No Hawaiian wedding would be complete without a lei. Wedding leis are special leis that symbolize the love that the couple has for each other, the love of everyone who is there to witness the event and the spirit of aloha that presides over the ceremony.
The wedding lei of the groom is often made of maile leaves. While the maile lei is most common for the groom, there are also ti-leaf wedding leis that are made in the maile lei style for grooms. Sometimes, these leaves will be interwoven with flowers such as the pikake, a small white blossom. The bride often wears a lei of Hawaiian wedding flowers such as white and pink pikake, rosebuds, white ginger or orchids. Sometimes, a Hawaiian wedding lei is made up of two or three types of flowers all woven together in several strands to create a lush floral look.
Often, the bride also wears a floral headpiece. These may be made from local greenery and haku flowers to create a fragrant lei. Some couples will present their mothers with lei as well to show their love and respect for them. When the wedding ceremony is small, everyone may get a lei to show their support and love for the couple.
A common practice is for there to be special wedding leis for key members of the bride and groom’s families. Exchanging leis with everyone in the family welcomes them and makes them feel like an integral part of the wedding ceremony. For the mothers and grandmothers of the bride and the groom, an beautiful orchid lei is often given.
Leis in the Wedding Ceremony
Leis for weddings are full of meaning and are incorporated into the ceremony in several ways. Hawaiian wedding leis are exchanged by the bride and groom. Often, the wedding begins with each of them wearing the other’s lei. They may switch them early in the ceremony to symbolize their union. Sometimes, the flower girl will present the leis to the bride and groom during the right moment in the ceremony.
Many traditional weddings begin with the bride and groom’s parents giving the wedding leis to the couple. The groom’s parents may offer a wedding lei to the bride while the bride’s parents offer a lei to the groom so that each family can show that the recipient of the lei is a new part of the family. In some cases, the parents of each member of the couple will bestow a special lei on their own child before the ceremony begins. Each wedding couple and their family can choose how this lei is bestowed and which family will bestow which meaningful lei before the ceremony. After they have been presented with their own leis, many couples present their parents with wedding leis of their own to show their deep respect for their parents and their inclusion in the ceremony in spirit.
During the traditional Hawaiian wedding, a holy man, called a kahuna pule, would use a maile lei to tie the hands of the couple together in a symbolic binding of their two lives. This is a part of the ceremony that brings the tradition of using local greenery in leis together with the most intimate part of a wedding ceremony. This tradition shows that the couple will be woven together like the maile leaves are woven together to create the beautiful leis that Hawaii is known for all over the world. Today, a new tradition that has been added to some Hawaiian weddings is to have a long, floral lei that is wrapped around the couple to bind them together in love and beauty.
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