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Pro Surfer Carissa Moore Weighs In on Hawaiian Wedding Traditions

And how she is incorporating them into her wedding.

carissa moore pro surfer walking on the beach in hawaii holding her surfboard
Photography by: Zak Noyle/Red Bull Content Pool

Carissa Moore has celebrated a lot in her life—like the fact that she's a three-time surfing world champion. But Moore is about to celebrate something a lot sweeter: her upcoming wedding. She got engaged last June to longtime boyfriend Luke Untermann, and is counting down the days until she gets to say "I do." In the meantime, the Hawaiian native has been planning the big day, from finding the perfect dress to creating a wedding ceremony. As someone who was born and raised in Hawaii, Carissa says tradition is a huge part in her life and family. "The Hawaiian version of a wedding doesn't exactly fit the modern or western definition," she says, "but there are definitely ways to bring Hawaiian traditions and motifs to a wedding." See how Moore is incorporating these traditions into her wedding ceremony.

 

A Traditional Hawaiian Wedding in Maui

Saying Symbolic Prayers

 

First that comes to mind is the prayers. In the book "Na Pule Kahiko: Ancient Hawaiian Prayers," there are some prayers that were used to 'officiate' relationships. A snippet from one goes like this…

 

'E'ele mimo ka lani

'Uwe'uwehe ke ao ho'okiki'I

Kiki'I ke ao 'opua lani e

'Ola'olapa ka uwila 

Ho'oku'I,nei, nakolokolo ka hekili 

Ke wawa supina'i nei I Ku-Haili-moe

O Haiha'ilauahea

O na wahine I ka puoko o ke ahi 

O 'imi'imi, o nalowale a loa'a

Loa'a ho'I ka hoa e.

Pupu'u ako o ke anu o ka Ho'oilo 

Ke 'iloli nei ka lani

Loa'a ka hale kipa maha o Hako'ilani

 

In English that means,

The sky is covered with darkness,

The tilting clouds begin to part,

The leaning bud-shaped clouds in the sky.

The lightning flashes here and there,

The thunder reverberates, rumbles and roars, 

Sending echoes repeatedly to Ku-haili-moe, 

To Ha'iha-'I-lau-ahea,

To the women in the rising flames.

There was a seeking of the lost, now it is found-

A mate is found,

One to share the chills of winter.

The sky is changing,

For Hokoi-lani, the house of welcome where rest is found.

 

The author, June Gutmanis, does a good job explaining the joining of partners in Hawaiian tradition. It also contains two prayers that were the key elements of the ceremony involving that "joining."

 

Finding a Kahu or Kupuna

 

Then there is the integration of a local Kahu or Kupuna, which is a well-respected elder (like a minister or reverend), to recite these prayers. I already know a Hawaiian Kahu, Kahu Billy Mitchell, from surfing events that could recite these prayers and do the rest of the ordaining duties. As a surfer, minister, and Hawaiian practitioner, he would be a great fit for something like this. It's always best to pick someone close to home that knows you and your fiancé, and may be more knowledgeable about more Hawaiian traditions. 

 

 

Exchanging of Leis

 

Some couples exchange leis before exchanging rings; the bride often gives the groom a maile lei and he gives her a lei of white flowers. In Hawaii, leis are given during big life moments as a token of love, gratitude and respect. Flowers in general are also a huge part of Hawaiian culture. During my wedding I know I will also be wearing a flower crown that my mom is making me.

 

 

Performing the Hawaiian Wedding Song

 

There's a "Hawaiian Wedding Song" (known as Ke Kali Nei Au) written in 1926 by Charles King and performed by many Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian artists and groups—even by Elvis Presley for the movie Blue Hawaii in 1961! 

 

 

Incorporating the Right Food and Décor

A Hawaiian wedding may also have Hawaiian food, decorations (torches, flowers, name plates), and traditional Hawaiian music, which all add up to a beautiful wedding. Some of my favorite Hawaiian foods include hirame, sashimi, moi poke, or roast pig cooked in an in-ground oven (also known as Imu).

 

As much as I'd love to say that traditional Hawaiian weddings are about the "money dance," a fun Hawaiian line dance, or "Pandanggo," a traditional dance, they are most importantly about celebrating family and ancestry. Often you'll see wedding where the couple honors family members who couldn't be there that day and giving respect to parents or close friends in your circle. They are to show Aloha to your loved ones. I'm proud to be Hawaiian and I love the traditions that carry along with it.

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