Story by Kyle Ellison | Photo by Chris Evans
TITLE: Kahu (Wedding Officiant)
PROPOSAL ACCEPTED: Pia Aluli hasn’t always spoken at weddings—he started by singing at them. “I used to play music at hotels,” recalls Aluli, “and eventually that segued into singing at weddings. Two of the kahu performing ceremonies at the time said they thought I’d be good at it, so I gave it a try, and the next year they both retired.”
That was in 1998, and he’s been busy ever since. These days, he marries up to thirty-five couples every month.
HE’D FOLLOW YOU ANYWHERE: Over the last two decades, Aluli has officiated for couples saying “I do” from the top of Haleakalā to West Maui valleys that can only be reached by helicopter. He’s flown to Lake Tahoe and Costa Rica to help people exchange their vows, and he’s even paddled his longboard out to marry people in the surf.
Although he is happy to perform more traditional ceremonies that follow a Western script, couples often seek Aluli out for his Hawaiian version, which includes an oli, or chant, and a bellowing blow on the conch shell.
WITH THIS LEI: Aluli encourages couples to exchange lei with one another, and offer them to friends and family who have come to see them tie the knot. “It helps blend the families together, but it’s also [a symbol] of life’s fragility, a reminder for couples to cherish this day for as long as they live.”
His floral advice can be practical as well as metaphorical, reminding the soon-to-be bride and groom to “make sure you aren’t allergic to the type of lei you plan to wear for the ceremony. Also make sure the colors don’t match your dress; it’s tough to see white on white.”
As for the kuleana (responsibility) his job represents, the smiling Aluli once again takes a contemplative tone: “It’s not just a gig. I’ve been given this gift to bring people together and get them started on the right path.”