The exchanging of the leis is a popular tradition in Hawaiian culture. Giving someone a lei symbolizes the love and affection you have for them. As a Hawaii wedding photographer, I’ve seen this tradition many times and it is always a very memorable experience. There are all kinds of leis and different symbolism between the leis, and I’d love to share with you.
Women traditionally wear the pikake lei for their wedding. Pikake is the Hawaiian word for the jasmine flower, and was named so because Princess Ku’iulani thought the scent of the flower was as beautiful and magnificent as the peacock. Men typically will choose a maile lei. These fragrant leaves are hard to find in Hawaiian foliage, and as a result is often used in important and special ceremonies. Another important detail that you may want to consider when choosing a lei is the island you’re having your wedding on. Each of the Hawaiian Islands has a flower specific to them, and may be nice to include in your leis or floral arrangements.
During the ceremony, there are a number of ways in which people exchange lei. Sometimes the bride and groom start out wearing the traditional leis and swap so that the bride is wearing the maile lei. In other instances, it is reversed, where the bride is wearing the maile lei to give to the groom. Sometimes in these ceremonies, the ends of the leis are tied together to symbolize the union of the couple.
There are also different exchanges that can happen within the ceremony itself. For instance the bride and groom will present leis to their immediate family. This involves the family in the wedding and makes a statement to the attendees of your love for your family and the bonding of your families.
The tradition of the lei exchange is a beautiful tradition that I love to witness while photographing weddings in Hawaii. It never gets old and is renewed like the flowers time and time again.
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