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Luana Maitland Shares Her Hawaiian Culture
I was born and raised in Hawaii, and am three-quarters native Hawaiian by ancestry. My heritage is important to me, and I’ve always wanted to work somewhere where I could incorporate my culture in my daily work.
In 2003, Outrigger gave me an opportunity to direct their cultural activities program at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach. At that time, it consisted of the Aloha Friday program, which included lei-making, hula lessons and interacting with our kupuna (elders). Outrigger asked if I could take their cultural program to the next level, and I put my heart into that effort.
As events and activities manager for the Outrigger Reef, I oversee a year-round series of cultural programs including opportunities to “talk story” with our island elders, learn how to play an ukulele, sample multi-ethnic foods, experience island art and music, make Hawaiian crafts, and even go sailing with Santa in Waikiki in an outrigger canoe, to name a few.
One of my favorite programs, however, is our Hawaiian Vow Renewal Ceremony, which we offer as a free, twice-weekly amenity to guests staying at the Outrigger Reef or Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach.
It began as a request from a guest who wanted to renew their vows at the property. Aside from the logistical details, I had questions: In Hawaiian culture, what’s the difference between a wedding and a vow renewal? What would make this vow renewal Hawaiian? Should the participants carry flowers in their hand or wear a lei? What should the kahu (priest) say? How do we make this a truly meaningful and authentic experience?
In collaboration with our Hawaiian cultural advisor, we created a vow renewal ceremony that tied into Hawaiian concepts about love and about being with someone you love. The vows are written in Hawaiian. The couples recite them in Hawaiian. The ceremony is based on an ancient Hawaiian custom called ho ao paa.
The outcome was tremendous. To date, more than 4,000 couples have renewed their vows with us. And, I’ve gained some truly wonderful memories in the process. I recall one couple on their first trip to Hawaii celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. During the ceremony, the husband turned to his wife and said: “Sweetheart, I love you.” Tears began falling from my eyes. As I wiped them away, I realized the woman next to me was doing the same. I told her I didn’t even know why I was crying; I had only just met this couple and yet they were so precious. She replied that they were her parents, and that coming to Hawaii had been one of their life-long dreams.
Since then, I’ve heard many stories of how couples would’ve liked to have gotten married in Hawaii on the beach, but weren’t able to because their families wanted the wedding to take place back home, or because they couldn’t afford a trip to Hawaii back then. Some of them waited 50 years to take their first romantic trip to Hawaii.
Another favorite vow renewal includes one in which a pair of parents, four of their children, and everyone’s spouses renewed their vows as a group, witnessed by their grandchildren. This family event celebrated marriages ranging from 4 to 39 years. I especially remember the visiting youth baseball team. One of the coaches wanted to surprise his wife at our vow renewal. She was the team mother and chaperone. The entire team served as their witness, and presented the couple with a tiki to commemorate the event.
When you see the faces of these couples and hear their stories, it’s moving to realize that what we do has had such a tremendous impact on someone’s life. That is why I love what I do. That is what promoting Hawaii is all about.