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The Tradition Behind Open Leis for Expectant Mothers

Pregnant bride with an open lei in Oahu Hawaii
Photo by Katharine Kollman

At Oahu Officiant, we cherish the traditions that celebrate love and unity in every form - which includes upholding the traditions and beliefs of the sacred land you have chosen for your ceremony. With Mother’s Day Around the Corner (May 12th, 2024 if you need a reminder!), we’d like to highlight the tradition behind open leis for expectant mothers. In the tradition of giving a lei, the type and how you wear the lei matters. In this blog post, we’ll explore why closed leis are avoided during pregnancy and how to adorn yourself with tropical florals in a safe and culturally sensitive manner that honors the traditions of Hawaii. 

The Significance of Leis in Hawaiian Culture: 

Leis hold a special place in Hawaiian culture, representing not only love, respect, and honor but a gift that is exchanged to signify important events. Major life events such as graduations, weddings, and births are celebrated with leis. Leis can take on a variety of forms - from fresh blooms, shells, ribbons, and even a lei of cash (popular at graduations!). When heading to a birthday, a shower, or even picking up a loved one from the airport, a lei is an added gift of love followed by big hugs. 

The Difference Between Closed and Open Leis: 

A closed lei is the kind you picture when you think “lei.” It is a circle of blooms, shells, or ribbon that is continuous. Worn around your neck like a necklace. A closed lei, on the other hand, is not a continuous circle but a long strand of woven foliage and flowers that is NOT closed. Think of this like a graduation stole - or a scarf that isn’t tied.  

Why Closed Leis Aren’t Recommended for Expectant Mothers: 

In Hawaiian folklore it is taboo to wear, or give, a pregnant woman a closed lei because a closed lei symbolizes the baby’s umbilical cord wrapping around its neck - a superstition associated with bad luck and misfortune. 

Alternatives or Additions to an Open Lei: 

Flower Crowns. 

If you want to avoid lei all together, a flower crown can be a great addition or alternative that adds the beauty of flowers to your special day. In addition to my officiating services, I would love to hand craft a flower crown to suit your special day. After writing your vows with love and care, I enjoy weaving well wishes with every bloom of your flower crown. Bonus: It also helps control your hair during windy Hawaiian beach weddings! 

Crown yourself like the life giving goddess you are. 


A handheld bouquet is traditional in weddings and can be a great accessory to your day. Let me know what your vision is and I’d love to create a handheld piece of art that is as unique as your love. 

Bonus: Posing with a bouquet really helps the age-old confusion “What do I do with my hands?” 


In Hawaiian culture, the lei is more than just a decorative accessory - they are symbols of love, connection, and respect. For expectant mothers, choosing the right type of lei is not only a matter of tradition but a consideration of the customs of the land in which they are celebrating their love. By opting for an open lei or floral alternative, soon-to-be mothers can celebrate with ease and enjoy the Hawaiian traditions without compromise. At Oahu Officiant, we are honored to be part of your journey and look forward to creating unforgettable memories with you. 

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