Since earlier today I posted about my next novel, I thought I would take the time to show off my resources for Finding ‘Ohana. When I was writing Cinnamin and Naali’s wedding, I based it off of the information I found at the site linked above, with the obvious changes necessary for a ceremony with two brides.
I started researching Hawaiian weddings so I could understand how Naali might want their wedding to be like. But once I saw exactly what the customs are, I couldn’t help but incorporate them in the story. What can I say, I’m a sucker for symbolism.
When Naali and I had stood on this beach four years ago, I had been so nervous, knowing that all those eyes were on us. I had wriggled my bare toes in the sand, happy to have the long gown conceal my fidgeting. All I had wanted was to be somewhere, anywhere, alone with Naali and to kiss her all over, starting with my two favorite freckles on her shoulder, just above her collarbone.
“Love is an eternal bond,” the Kahuna said after he had welcomed our friends and Naali’s family to celebrate our marriage. “Just as these leis are unbroken circles, so will your love for one another have no end.” He pulled two leis from the small table that had been set up behind him. Also on the table were a large leaf and a wooden bowl filled with water.
“Each flower in the lei,” the Kahuna said as he handed one lei to Naali, “continues to have its own individual beauty when it is added to the circle.” He handed me the other lei. “Its beauty is enhanced by the rest of the flowers. In your marriage you will keep your own individual identity and beauty. Also like the lei, your beauty is enhanced by the beauty of your partner – it is with the support of your relationship that you will grow more fully into the person with whom your partner fell in love.”
Naali reached up to put her lei around my neck. “Lei no, au ko, aloha.” Please wear my love like a beautiful lei.
I closed my eyes as the lei fell over my face. I felt the tips of Naali’s fingers brush my cheek. She did not let go of the lei until it was resting on my chest, and I could feel the warmth of her hands lingering on my skin. My face became hot and my smile turned embarrassed as I wondered if anyone had noticed. But I only briefly thought about the other people there; when Naali’s hands left my chest, I opened my eyes, and all I could see was her.
I gingerly put my lei around Naali’s neck, too embarrassed to touch her as intimately as she had touched me. “Lei no, ow-koh, aloha,” I fumbled through the line I had practiced with Naali yesterday.
She reached up to flip her hair out so that the lei rested underneath it, and slid her hands to grasp mine, still at her shoulders. She squeezed gently, reminding me that we were the only two people there – the crowd was watching a wedding, but we were the only ones experiencing it. I relaxed, and was able to feel the warmth in her skin instead of only touching it. We moved our hands in front of us again, so our bodies were connected by two sets of arms reaching toward each other.
“Continue to celebrate your love,” the Kahuna said. “And may these leis be a reminder to you of the bond you share.” We’d had the leis preserved after the wedding. They were still hanging behind glass on the wall in our living room. I had not been able to bring myself to take them down when I went to our house after the hospital, to get the things Kalani and I needed.
‘Apona handed a ring to Naali, and Lucas handed the other to me. I turned it over and over in my hand as I listened to the Kahuna recite the vows.
“Manaali‘i, do you take Cinnamin to be your wife, to have and to hold from this day forth, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health? Do you promise to treasure her in your heart as the special makana that she is to you? And do you promise to respect, love, and cherish her, as long as you both shall live?”
Naali’s voice was strong, and unwavering, as it always was. But she allowed softness to it as well. She drew out the last vowel, sinking it into a whisper. Her promise was not for the ceremony, or because it was the standard response to the question she had been asked, it was for me. Only for me. I saw our lives stretch out in that promise, further than the ocean stretched into the horizon. I saw us both as old women, hands still entwined as they were when we began.
I answered the same when the question was posed to me, and I tried to give Naali my full meaning in those two syllables. I squeezed her hands, trying to make all my love for her flow down my arms, concentrate in my fingers, and course into Naali’s hands so that she could feel exactly what I felt. When I told her this later, she’d said she did feel it, for me.
At the Kahuna’s request, Naali and I reached out, with our rings resting in the palms of our hands. He took the wooden bowl and the leaf from the table behind him. Naali had told me beforehand that the bowl was made of Koa, the most precious hardwood in Hawai‘i – it represented integrity and strength as the foundation in our marriage. It was filled with water from the ocean not twenty feet from us.
The leaf was a Ti leaf, the symbol of the gods, and represented prosperity, health, and blessing of mind, body, and spirit.
The Kahuna dipped the leaf into the bowl of water, and sprinkled three drops first onto the ring in Naali’s hand, and next onto the ring in mine, symbolizing all of our relationship’s hindrances being washed into the Pacific. Both our separate and shared pasts were cleansed in the salt water so that we could begin anew.
“Ei-Ah Eha-No. Ka Malohia Oh-Na-Lani. Mea A-Ku A-Pau,” the Kahuna chanted. May peace from above rest upon you and remain with you, now and forever. “E Ke Akua, E Ka Uhane Hemolele.” Bless these rings and those who wear them. May they be eternally surrounded by Divine love and light.
Naali placed her ring on my finger and repeated the Kahuna’s words: “With this ring, I wed you, Cinnamin, my Evangeline, for today, for tomorrow, and for all the years to come. Please wear it as a sign of my love and that you have chosen me to be your wife.”
I did the same for Naali when she was done. When the Kahuna said, “You may now kiss your bride,” I nearly glanced out at the crowd of faces staring at us. But Naali squeezed my hands, and I shifted my gaze to her face. She was beaming. I forgot that anyone else was there on the beach. Our lips met, and moved together slowly. It felt sweet, with a hint of passion underneath.
And the Kahuna pronounced us married. We did not have a marriage license or certificate, but Naali had said that did not matter. When we had first announced our engagement, Ihupani told me that we were already married, as far as their family was concerned. I was already part of their ‘ohana.
“The wedding itself isn’t even so much about making it official,” Ihupani had said. After all, nothing was really being made official on that day. “It’s more about celebrating the bond you already have.”
Still, as we entered Kamea and Ihupani’s house for the wedding reception, we were introduced, for the first time, as Manaali‘i and Cinnamin Makaiau. And it felt official.