Hawaii Beach Weddings: What is a Lei Exchange Ceremony?

This is a question we get asked all the time couples have usually heard of the lei exchange but are never really sure if they should do it and what it really is. Let’s take a minute to explain…  A lei exchange ceremony is a beautiful island tradition usually held during the wedding ceremony and led by your officiant, priest or pastor.  A few Hawaiian sayings are personalized for the couple by the officant expressing the love the couple shares for one another.  Then, the couple is asked by the officiant to exchange leis as a symbol of their love and commitment to one another.  This is usually followed by a kiss on the cheek.  Next, the couple is instructed to offer leis to their the parents as a symbol of the couples gratitude, respect and love.

Photo Courtesy of Crystal Chanel Photography

Photo Courtesy of Crystal Chanel Photography

What kinds of leis do you usually use? Traditionally the grooms are presented with a Maile lei.  Maile is a Hawaiian leaf which is woven into a lei that hangs around the grooms shoulders and down the front of his suit. Maile leis are often intertwined with fresh pikake or tuberose florals and can range anywhere from $45 – $150. Brides are usually presented with a fresh floral lei, generally this is a Pikake Lei.  

We would suggest you stick with something white since many colored florals (orchids, etc.) may have some dye in them… AND that will stain your dress.  A beautiful choice is the Pikake lei. The pikake is a tiny white Hawaiian flower that is what I would say – the sweetest smelling flower on the island. Most times pikake leis are sold by the strand and a bridal lei usually consists of 3 or so strands woven together.  Pikake leis can cost anywhere from $30- $100.  Most Hawaii florists carry Maile and Pikake leis and they can easily add them to your order and deliver them on your special day.

Incorporating a Hawaiian Lei Ceremony is the perfect way to say I love you, honor you and can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.  Plus, parents L O V E being recognized! You can always see it in their eyes.  It is not uncommon for this part of the ceremony to be very emotional.  They are afterall, so very proud of you.  Each couple is different and it’s really up to you whether you really want to include the lei exchange.  In our opinion however, it is a Hawaiian tradition that has been around forever and for good reason, it’s really a beautiful tradition to keep alive.

Most Hawaii pastors and officiants are very familiar with the Lei Ceremony, you just need to let them know you are interested in having one.