A Hawaii Wedding On the Mainland: Tips and Tricks to Succeed


It’s really difficult to plan a wedding that includes some traditional Hawaiian wedding items. Maybe it shouldn’t be that hard, but I live on the mainland and I don’t have family back home who can send stuff. I know that I can order things from Hawaii, but overall everything is really expensive (and I recognize too that even if the wedding were to take place in Hawaii, it would be equally as expensive). I just wish that I could have the tropical floral and greenery of Hawaii to make my own haku lei po’o, a Hawaiian flower crown, because I would love ti leaf and orchid leis, and those are easy to make when in Hawaii. A part of me is imagines too that if I had more money, we would be able to have tons of Hawaiian food, or at least ship over some poi and luau leaves.

However, it’s not like that here. Although there will be some locals coming to our wedding, I the bulk of people will be haole. I also recognize that a mainland wedding (at least in Utah) has different expectations. When I moved here and attended wedding receptions, I observed the differences between a Hawaii and a mainland wedding. With mainland weddings, they tended to have chocolate cake pops, clear glasses of lemonade, cream-filled pastries, and fruit platters. Mainland wedding receptions mean desserts; nobody expects a meal. In Hawaii, a wedding reception and celebration means lots of food, where everyone seriously eats until they’re full.

I had to be OK with my mainland Hawaiian wedding. I had to compensate and figure out what were the best ways to make up for the things I lacked. Hopefully with this article I can help a Hawaii girl or boy who is planning their wedding, and offer ideas and services to make it all a little easier, or at least those who know me will understand a little of how I felt about planning the wedding. 🙂

Everything won’t be authentic

From the food to the flowers and everything else, I just came to the conclusion that nothing would be authentic. I pride myself on being super real about everything, especially about being a real Hawaiian, but I had to accept that things wouldn’t be authentic, and I had to be ok with that.

I ordered a fake maile lei and fake haku lei, and they turned out really nice—you wouldn’t be able to tell they’re fake unless someone said something (and since I said something, now you know). I know that weddings are a huge deal, and that real foliage is idea, but it’s just not that accessible for me, sadly. 😦 And I had to learn to be ok with fake stuff—after all, they looked just as good as (if not better than) the real stuff. 🙂

Use what you can, with the skills you have

Flowers and Foliage

About two years ago, I taught myself how to make haku leis. I love the Hawaiian flower crowns, and I’ve fallen in love with making them to the point that I want to start a side business of making flower hakus, something representative of me and something that would be unique on the mainland. I probably would have ordered a fresh haku lei from Hawaii, but we scheduled our bridals separately from the wedding day so that would mean two fresh haku leis, and two fresh maile leis. And that would probably add up to about $300 for four leis and four hakus.

Wedding things added up and I decided to make my own haku lei using fake foliage. At first I wasn’t sure if it would turn out, but by the time I finished it and put it on my head, it pulled everything together.

I also made my own bouquet, and the bouquets of my bridesmaids. Each bouquet cost less than $10, and the cool thing is I could finish them ahead of time, and they’ll last. That’s one less thing to stress about for the wedding day. 🙂 


Another thing that you can do yourself is the food. My fiancé and I love kalua pig, and that’s a staple at Hawaiian weddings. Since we aren’t having a full-out luau, having kalua pork would be enough. With a side of rice and salad, kalua pig is a delicious classic that we’ll be able to make ourselves and everyone can eat and be full.


Hawaiian music is another thing that I felt would set the mood for the wedding. While many luaus in Hawaii have live music, it’s ok to have a playlist of Hawaiian music (you can use my playlist here if you want too).


We went for an ocean theme, more than a Hawaiian theme. Anything that was blue or had seashells or marine life were a perfect fit. The nice thing about buying seashells is that you can keep them to decorate your house after too! 

Bridesmaids and Groomsmen

We got kukui nut leis for all of the groomsmen, which they would wear with a white shirt and slacks (the link to buy those are here—these were the best deal I could find, and the nice thing is that these leis are actually made of real kukui nuts). The girls each got a pair of earrings I bought when I was back in Hawaii (they were $2 a set at the Farmer’s market and they are made of real shells), and a shell lei (which you can buy in bulk here). It was a nice little Hawaiian addition to the wedding, and it was a wonderful gift for our friends and family.

In conclusion…

After writing this article, I discovered that it maybe it’s not that hard to have a Hawaiian wedding on the mainland. I can still have elements of Hawaii even though things won’t be as authentic as I think they should be. And, it doesn’t have to be incredibly expensive. The bigger thing I learned from planning and incorporating Hawaii into the wedding is that I don’t have to pretend to be Hawaiian or have all Hawaiian things, I am a Hawaiian. And if you’re a local getting married on the mainland, whether you decide to go with a Hawaiian theme or anything else, remember that you don’t have to try to be Hawaiian, just be Hawaiian, pono in your attitude, generosity, and and character.


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