Mystic Hawaiian customs for your beach wedding ceremony
Below are various rituals you can include in your beach wedding ceremony be it religious or nonreligious. To utilize them all would be overkill, so pick and choose the optional ones that most resonate with you.
Rare Seaside Setting (optional)
The incorporation of sea shells and starfish in a beach wedding can be a uniquely elegant touch. They can be arranged along the sand in a myriad of imaginative ways in the creation of a distinctive aisle, combined with other materials to construct a stunning arch or both. The shells and starfish are at times also arranged in what is called a “Circle of Love” in which the couple stands during the ceremony.
Arrival of Guests and Processions
As common in Hawaiian beach weddings, guests arrive hearing the mellifluous sounds of the ukulele. After most of them have been seated, the wedding officiant, customarily a Kahuna Pule a.k.a. Kahu (Hawaiian minister) adorned with a flashy, leaf haku lei (head garland) recites a mele (chant), popularly Oli Aloha, as he escorts the groom to the forefront of the proceeding. The chant translates as follows:
This is the sight for which you have longed.
Now that you have come,
Love has come with you.
There was a seeking of a loved one,
Now she is found—a mate is found
Someone with whom to share the chills of your winters
And the warmth of your summers.
Love has made a plea that you are to become united here in Hawaii.
Hawaii is a perch—a perch in the Heavens.
You two are now to become one for the day is here at last:
You are to be wed!
Next in order down the aisle are the mothers of the bride and groom with their escorts followed by the bridal party frequently including bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girl and ring bearer. As an alternative to tossing flower petals as she walks down the aisle, the young girl can scatter sea shells along the sand from a basket.
Blowing the Pu (Conch Shell)
Minister in Hawaii blowing the conch shell
The Kahu officially commences the ceremony by blowing the Pu (conch shell) in all directions representing the repelling of antagonistic spirits and the calling forth of that which is highly revered in the form of the elemental powers to attest to the majesty of the ceremony and the imminent appearance of the bride.
Subsequent to the sounding of the Pu, the bride reveals herself, traditionally walking down the aisle alone while a Hawaiian chanter performs a mele. In a mixed tradition ceremony, the bride might come down the aisle with her father, brother, other close male family members, or friend.
Words of Welcome
Once bride and groom are at the head of the proceeding, the Kahu says a few words of welcome similar to this:
Welcome to the wedding of Mary and John.
They have come here today to openly proclaim and legally bind
the love that is already in their hearts.
May the concerns of life never get in affection’s way;
Indeed, may Mary and John fall in love again each day!
Invoking the Elemental Powers (optional)
The Kahu might continue by verbally petitioning the elemental powers, to bless the union:
We implore you, fierce Spirit of Fire to be with Mary and John throughout the years destroying anything that is disruptive and inharmonious.
We summon you, O gentle Spirit of the Air that your Cool Breeze may ceaselessly allow Mary and John to exhale tension and breathe in peace.
We beseech you, vast oceans and seas that your ebb and flow may ever leave Mary and John resting together calmly upon the shore.
We request, precious Mother Earth that, through your nurturance, the seeds of Mary and John’s love may continuously blossom and thrive.
Lei Exchange Between Wedding Couple (customarily included but optional)
The best man then hands a ti leaf or maile leaf lei (garland necklace) to the bride, as the maid of honor hands a white pikake, or white ginger flower lei to the groom. The bride begins this ritual by placing the long open ti leaf or maile leaf lei around the groom’s neck symbolic of him embracing her. The groom, in turn, places the shorter closed white pikake or ginger flower lei around the bride’s
neck representing the never ending circle of Aloha (i.e. love). The Kahu might introduce the exchange of the leis by saying something like:
And now bestow upon one another these leis
As part of your vow preparation
And as a symbol of your Aloha,
Meaning your love and admiration,
Following this by a cheek kiss.
Lei Exchange Between Wedding Couple and Parents (Optional)
The wedding couple might also choose to present their parents with leis and a kiss on the cheek while saying to each:
Accept this lei along with my tears
For all the devotion and patience
You have shown throughout the years!
Binding of the Hands (optional)
Next, while binding the hands of the wedding couple with a maile leaf lei as a symbol of togetherness, the Kahu might say:
Hold the hand of your very best friend,
The hand that will support your worthy goals without end,
The hand that will encourage you in times of sorrow,
The hand that will rejoice with you today:
And every tomorrow.
Proclamation of Intent (necessary in Hawaii)
And now do you John/Mary take Mary/John, this day, to be your lawful wife/husband?
John and Mary respectively respond I do.
Personal Vow Exchange (optional)
The Kahu then invites the couple to repeat their creative vow(s) after him or exchange it/them by heart. An example is:
Today, I openly give to you, and you alone,
My heart, soul, mind, and understanding
I will smile with you, sigh with you,
Laugh with you, cry with you,
Indeed, in both calm and tribulation
I will embrace you without cessation
I will be faithful and never swerve
From giving you the respect you deserve
And I solemnly pledge that as we together grow old
I will all these promises uphold.
Ring Exchange (customarily included but optional)
For the ritual of the rings, the Kahu immerses a Koa bowl into the sea filling it with water. Koa is a hard wood symbolizing strength and integrity. Next, the Kahu dips a ti leaf, symbolic of prosperity and health, into the bowl of water and sprinkles the rings three times while performing a Hawaiian chant which translates:
“May peace from above rest upon you and remain with you now and forever.”
The sprinkling represents the couple’s sending any past hurts and relationship impediments back into the sea and their embracing of new beginnings as husband and wife. The couple then exchanges rings, while respectively saying something similar to:
Mary/John, receive this ring—an unending circle
And token of my Aloha forever unbroken.
Ritual of the Sand (optional)
A tender ritual that often follows the ring exchange is that of the Unity Candles where the bride and groom combine the flames from their single taper candle in the lighting of a larger one in the middle of them, symbolic of the uniting of two souls. However, since candles typically blow out when used outdoors, the lighting of the fire torches or the Hawaiian Sand Ceremony is a lovely alternative. Two small vessels, each with sand of a different color, are placed on a table with a bigger empty one in between them. For a sentimental touch, the three containers might be heart-shaped at the top with one of the smaller ones monogrammed with the name of the bride, the other with the name of the groom, and the biggest one with the surname of the soon to be newlyweds. At the appropriate moment, the couple simultaneously pours their individual vessels into the larger one representing the integration of their two lives.
Words from the Kahu might include:
Just as once blended, these sands can never again return to their original state,
so, once wed, neither of you will ever again be the same.
The achievable goal is that you merge your better halves
into one extraordinary whole.
Sand rituals can also be performed using an hourglass which the couple reverses each year on their anniversary to symbolize the intensification of their union as the sands mix more densely. Furthermore, additional small vessels, each with its separate color of sand, can be incorporated into the ritual to represent the uniting of families including parents, siblings, and children.
Ritual of the Seashell (optional)
Either instead of or in addition to the ritual of the sand, at the conclusion of the wedding, guests are sometimes asked to pick up a seashell, proceed to the shore, and then silently make a wish for the bride and groom while tossing the shell in the water.
Words from the Kahu for this ritual might be:
Seashells are symbols of love and prosperity.
Wish upon one for the newlyweds,
Then cast it to the sea
In the hope that their marriage will be largely carefree.
Ti Leaf and Lava Rock Ritual (optional)
Still another addition to or replacement for the Sand and Seashell rites is that of the Ti Leaf and Lava rock. As a symbol of their commitment to one another, the newlyweds wrap the lava rock in a ti leaf and leave it as an offering at the wedding site. The Kahu might introduce ritual by saying:
May this Ti Leaf and Lava Rock represent
Mary’s and John’s committal
To a life that is content.
Final Blowing of the Pu
The Kahu blows the Pu one last time to mark the end of the ceremony.
Signing of the Marriage Certificate
After the conclusion of the wedding ceremony but before the reception, the newlyweds sign the marriage certificate which is then completed by the Kahu and later filed with the state of Hawaii.
Dramatic Reception Exit (optional)
A classical and sensational closure for an outdoor reception might be the live singing of Roger Quilter’s music version of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem, “Love’s Philosophy” with the newlyweds exiting the gathering by embarking on a boat and sailing away while kissing during the last line of the song:
The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one another’s being mingle–
Why not I with thine?
See, the mountains kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower could be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;–
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?
Carse, Lisa. “Hawaiian Wedding Customs and Traditions.” https://www.theknot.com/content/hawaii-wedding-traditions
Grant, Maribeth. “The Traditional Hawaiian Wedding Ceremony.” https://blog.borrowedandblue.com/post/the-traditional-hawaiian-wedding-ceremony
Heiderstadt, Donna. “Hawaiian Wedding Ceremony.” https://www.tripsavvy.com/hawaiian-wedding-ceremony-1532936