Maori wedding traditions

guides, traditions
New Zealand wedding
Maori dance at sunset
Portrait of an attractive Maori couple

The History

Prior to colonisation, Māori didn’t have a marriage ceremony for low-ranking iwi members as such, but hapū and whānau approval was required before two lovers were married. In some cases, taonga would be exchanged between whānau members from the different families. Great feasts were usually held when rangatira married into another hapū or iwi. In 1909 legal recognition of marriage between Māori required a Christian minister to perform the ceremony, and marriage practises were completely anglicised by 1951.

By the 1960’s

By the 1960s societal rules around marriage in New Zealand began to loosen and it became more acceptable to live and wed how people wanted. Māori began to incorporate te Reo and Māori tikanga into their wedding ceremonies and hold them away from church. Now when people incorporate tikanga into contemporary wedding ceremonies, a ceremony usually runs like this:

One of the women from the iwi that the person is marrying into will karanga, or call to invite the person and their family into the place where the ceremony is being held. This can be anywhere from a marae to a church to someone’s back lawn. Depending on how formal the ceremony is, when the guests are assembled, there may be a karakia where the atua and whenua are welcomed in by the kaumatua or the iwi’s tohunga before the wedding formalities begin. The celebrant will take the couple through their vows to each other, and as a symbol of the love between them, the couple will place korowai around each other’s shoulders. The couple are announced married and presented to the assembled families and friends. Each person then greets the married couple with a hongi to welcome them into their new lives. The wedding ceremony is followed by a feast where family and friends will eat, sing, dance, or perform haka.

Marae Maori Meeting Grounds Interior
Floral decorations with sweet display at the wedding reception.
maori carved craft wooden texture pattern background photo

The Amazing Tradition of Maori Weddings.

According to the Maori folklore, a long time ago, on the Island of Mokoia, a great love was planted by the famous ancestors, Hinemoa and Tutanekai. Their great, endless love is evidenced in Maori history and the story is forever passed on from one generation to the next. To date, wedding nuptials that take place in Maori are carried out in the presence of their descendants, surrounded by the culture, lifestyle and tradition of the Polynesian Maori people.

About the Maori.

New Zealand Traditional Maori Weddings is an amazing wedding experience of the South Pacific. Maori traditional weddings derive their culture values from a proud noble race known as Te Maori. Their wedding ceremonies are performed with a blessing from a priest (Maori Tohunga) and their sacred ancestry Takitimu Canoe, who migrated to New Zealand in AD 1000-1300.

The Ceremony.

Maori Wedding Locations
There are recognized places where Maori weddings can take place. These include Mokoia Island, Tamaki Village, Pohutu Geyser, Aorangi Peak, Four Canoes and Fairy Springs.

Tamaki Village.

This village is located on the outskirts of Rotorua, providing couples with a perfect setting of peace and calmness. The surrounding is green, in a natural forest, with mysterious wildlife. Thus the ceremony is performed within an actual forest.

Mokoia Island.

It’s located at the centre of Lake Rotorua. It’s here that Hinemoa and Tutanekai planted their seed of love. Throughout the wedding procedure, the couple follows the famous steps taken by these young lovers.

Pohutu Geyser.

This famous geyser is nature’s way of celebrating a wedding in true geothermal style. Couples are welcomed into geothermal hot springs, thermal geysers and bubbling hot mud pools. The Maori people believe this is a sacred place. As the ceremony takes place, the Pohutu Geyser rises to the occasion, demonstrating a spectacular display of power by gushing water higher than 25 meters into the air. This is quite a memorable place.

Aorangi Peak.

Aorangi Peak, called “cloud of heaven” by the Maori people, is on Mount Ngongotaha and has spectacular surroundings and views that are breathtaking to witness on your wedding day. The Maori believe this is a sacred place that possesses supernatural power and is in the presence of their descendants.

Fairy Springs.

A sacred spring of Tuhoe with historic and spiritual significance to the Maori people, its lush greenery, native flora and surrounding streams of living waters make it perfect for wedding ceremonies. The Maori people believe this is the water of life. They believe that if a rainbow appears over the spring, their prayers will be answered. They say that the crystal waters that flow from the springs renew your love as you enter into the bond of marriage.

Four Canoes.

The four canoes include Takitimu, Horoutu, Te Arawa and the Mataatua. Throughout the journey, couples are guided by a school of whales. Takitimu Canoe is the most appropriate for a wedding ceremony. You can choose the canoe that suits you best.

Wedding reception venue decoration.
Holding hands at sunset.
Venue decorations for big wedding.

Starting the Wedding Procedures.

Te Karanga (Welcome Call).

Before entering the Maori location, echoes of the traditional Maori welcome call is heard across the courtyard. This invites the bride and groom to the sacred land.

Te Powhiri (Traditional Song and Dance).

After entering the village, a traditional song and dance for the bridal party is performed by the local tribe.

Korowai Ceremony (Marriage or Renewal of Vows).

The marriage ceremony is performed as a renewal of vows to each other. It is followed with a living and unique romantic gesture that reinforces both the husband and wife’s mutual love and respect for one another. The man then places a Korowai (Cloak of Love) around the woman, which symbolizes how his love will surround her for the rest of her life.

Te Manaakitanga (Priest’s blessing upon the couple).

When the ceremony is over, the Maori priest blesses the couple through prayer. After the blessing, people go forward to present Taonga (gifts) to the couple, symbolizing new beginnings and happiness.

When that is done, the Hongi follows. This involves the couple touching their noses, one to the other. This activity seals the Korowai Ceremony. The Maori people believe that, as the supreme God was creating man and woman, He breathed life into their nostrils. So, as the husband and wife perform this unique Maori custom, they unite their two breaths of life together as one being. This meaningful, intimate gesture symbolizes mutual love and respect.

Te Haere Atu (Departure).

The bridal party now departs in style, with a traditional Maori farewell song and dance.

Te Hakari (Wedding Feast and Celebrations).

Every wedding must have a feast and celebrations. The Maori do not neglect this important merriment. Preparations are always made to celebrate the couple’s wedding day. They have entertainment accompanied by a traditional Hangi feast at night. On this special night, the Maori tribe always honors the bride and the groom. When the party is over, the couple is allowed to go on their honeymoon.

Marriage Certificate.

New Zealand offers this certificate to anyone as long as they are legally free to marry.

If you want to get married, then New Zealand is the place to be. Many people give accounts of their unforgettable wedding ceremony and experiences. The good thing, too, is that you are allowed to include some of your own cultural beliefs and traditions.

Floral display for wedding reception.
Pink floral display.
Bunch of flowers.


Tips, guides and articles on weddings and wedding traditions

maori traditions 1
maori traditions 2
maori traditions 3
maori traditions 4
maori traditions 5
maori traditions 6

Related Posts

No results found.