5 Beautiful Real Hawai‘i Weddings with a Cultural Twist

We love how these couples went traditional—but not how you think.
Honolulu Wedding cultural
Photo: Courtesy of Roy Nuesca Photography


Sure, we’re pretty familiar with Western weddings, from the white dress to the toasts to the confetti toss, post-kiss. In the ethnic melting pot that is Hawai‘i, however, couples from a bevy of cultures are finding ways to beautifully incorporate their own special customs and backgrounds into their big day. Some of our favorites? Seeing beautiful new brides performing a special hula for their guests at the reception, the exchange of lush lei between the family and the betrothed and, of course, the famous (and oh-so-fun!) money dance, which is always a blast.


For a glimpse into the spectrum of traditions, we snagged Natalie Christensen from local coordination company Aloha Bridal Connections between events to pick her brain for some of her most memorable and colorful cultural experiences. As a gal-on-the-go who’s constantly hopping from festivity to festivity, Christensen attends dozens of wedding celebrations and has gotten an intimate, behind-the-scenes peek into how Hawai‘i couples are turning their nuptials into a culture bash.

  Cultural wedding traditions

Photo: Amber Schoniwitz of Schyne Photography


Bold and beautiful

“We experienced a traditional Hindu wedding, where wearing the boldest and brightest of colors was the utmost form of respect and tradition. The more extravagant the outfit, and the brighter the color, the more you fit in! As vendors, we were even asked to change our typical black uniform look to fit in better with the group, and wear the brightest of clothes we owned and bedazzle ourselves in jewelry! Out of professionalism and functionality (hard to run around in a dress and big bangles), we had to kindly decline, but they talked the DJ and photographer into some bold aloha shirts that were a great addition to the night.”


And behind door no. 4 is … your wife!

“The Chinese door games are probably the most entertaining traditions we’ve come across. The meaning behind these games comes from ancient times. In modern society, however, it has come to represent how much the groom really loves his bride—and how hard he’s willing to work for her. The bride is hidden from the groom, and he and his supporting entourage are tested by the bride’s friends through many forms of games and challenges in order to ultimately win their respect to allow them to bring her out of hiding. The challenges and quizzes are normally done outside of the door the bride is hidden behind, thus the naming of door games, and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours! We’ve seen the groom’s party sing songs, write poems of his undying love, gamble money for the bride’s worth, go through challenging physical and mental tests, and more. The most memorable game I saw was the groom’s party being blindfolded and fed concoctions of food and pantry items, resulting in some sick groomsmen later in the day.”


Talk about breaking the tension

“The breaking of the glass is a Jewish tradition in which a glass is crushed beneath the feet of the couple at the completion of the ceremony, followed by the guests yelling ‘Mazel Tov,’ which means congratulations or good luck. There are a few interpretations, some ancient and some modern takes, but from our couple’s perspective, we’ve heard that it represents how life and marriage are as fragile as glass, so the couple should enjoy every day together not knowing what the next day brings. It’s also significant as the first act the couple does together, emphasizing the value of working through challenges together and strengthening their bond. In addition, for interfaith ceremonies, it symbolizes the breaking down of barriers between their different cultures and faiths. We’ve seen the glass covered with a cloth to protect feet and flying pieces, but it ends up being an energizing act for the couple—because who doesn’t like breaking stuff!”


Let love take flight—because sometimes the doves and butterflies won’t

“Traditionally, the dove releases involve two white doves—a male and female—released after the couple’s kiss. To my knowledge, this has ties to Filipino traditional weddings. A modern rendition, with no historic origin, is the releasing of butterflies. Dove and butterfly releases symbolize purity, harmony, peace, freedom and the letting go of any inhibitions in your relationship. In reality, our own experience has been more humorous than anything. Imagine two caged birds, eager to be freed in any moment, flapping wildly in every direction! We’ve had many startled couples, but it always ends with lots of laughter and makes for a great candid moment. As for butterfly releases, the misconception is that they, too, are eager to escape, which definitely isn’t the case. Most butterflies are hand-fed and comfortable in cages, so we’ve had couples shake the containers, individually reach in and throw each butterfly out, and more. It’s all followed by a little awkwardness but lots of light-hearted chuckles from them and the guests.”


Hey, marriage involves some elbow grease, OK?

“In a tying-of-the-knot ceremony, the bride and groom take part in tying a fisherman’s knot together with two separate thick ropes (normally different colors). The knot symbolizes the strength and support in the couple’s new marriage and how, like a good knot, the marriage will grow stronger under pressure. The tug-o-war we’ve witnessed to assure the knot is as tight as possible during the ceremony has resulted in some seriously funny and memorable photos!”