by Michael Kabel
You've seen them every time a television show goes to Hawaii, or whenever a movie wants to explain the gentle character of South Seas people. The flowered lei, known throughout the world as a symbol of Hawaiian tourism, remains a perfect symbol of congratulations and celebration.
The Lei of the Land
The flowered lei is traditionally a garland made of a particular type of flower, usually plumerias, lehua blossoms and orchids. In Hawaii and in other exotic ports of call along the Pacific Rim, the flowered lei is used in celebrations and diverse as weddings, birthday parties and college graduations. The lei can also be given as a symbol of affection, gratitude, and welcome - three attitudes your wedding reception will certainly want to show in abundance.
Flowered leis are becoming available outside the island paradises of the Pacific for the first time in many years, with many florists shipping them both throughout the United States and to international customers. They're excellent accessories to give guests as they enter the reception hall, and make a great conversation piece to get the party started.
Including Leis Into Your Wedding Event
Leis can be ordered in groups or lots, and are shipped to your reception much like any other flower arrangement. Fresh lei arrangements have approximately the same lifespan as other flowers without water or soil to draw from, so they should be treated accordingly.
It should be mentioned too that not all flowers are available for leis year round. Many, such as the orchid, are seasonal and very delicate even under the most favorable conditions. Florists offer leis in dozens of style, though, including a variety of color schemes and designs and sizes, so there's something to coordinate with every decoration plan.
Obviously leis work figure most naturally into design plans and wedding themes that include some type of tropical, ocean, or nautical motif. Beach-themed weddings, for example, naturally lend themselves to Hawaiian luau decorations. However, with a little imagination you can extend the beach side idea to include any sort of escape.
Lei Customs and Traditions
While the occasion to wear leis remains more or less constant throughout Hawaii, Polynesia, Guam, and other Pacific islands, there are certain traditions and etiquette involved in their wearing and use that vary from place to place. As a whole, though, the following customs remain true for most uses of the lei garlands:
- Modern lei etiquette includes giving a kiss when presenting a lei. Traditionally, however, the lei is held over the heart while the presenter bows.
- Only open lei garlands are given to a woman who is pregnant.
- If a person cannot wear a lei for whatever reason, it is considered polite for them to keep the lei in a place of prominence at the celebration - for example, in front of their place setting.
- Leis should not be thrown away but rather returned to where they came from, or recycled by planting, hanging on a tree, or burning.