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The Traditional Tahitian Wedding

This wedding, having commenced with a Civil Marriage at the Town Hall, would be celebrated in a spectacular and emotion-charged Traditional Tahitian Wedding in a truly stunning location.

In a seamless transition, we glided from the Town Hall by catamaran over the turquoise blue waters of every hue for which Bora Bora is world famous for.

Moana means ocean or sea in Tahitian & appropriately, the name of the bride. Our destination is an indescribably beautiful setting on the coral fringe that surrounds Bora Bora. It overlooks Mt Otemanu, where legend holds god descended atop a rainbow on the land of the gods – Bora Bora.


More than seventy guests, a twenty-strong dance group & a traditional orchestra & the tahua (priest) with his assistants awaited the bride & groom as well as the sixty-odd other guests arriving by catamaran.

All were here to celebrate what would be Bora Bora’s biggest-ever wedding, to participate in the Traditional Tahitian Wedding & feast. Apart from using Bora Bora as a place for a destination wedding, many choose to spend their honeymoon here as well.

A private motu (atoll) with powder-white sands fronting the world’s most beautiful lagoon awaited those who had come from every corner of the globe.


Words can’t describe an event such as this so I’ll let the photos try.

The bride & groom descend from the catamaran, a vessel significantly invented by Polynesians thousands of years before. The tahua, clad in red & yellow – the sacred colors of royalty – uses the pu (conch shell) in a tradition that dates back several thousands of years to call upon the divine.

It’s used to call down the ancestors & to welcome the bride & groom:


The flower girls are first to descend, followed by other members of the bridal party before the bride & groom make their entry:


To one side, musicians played traditional drums, ukuleles & guitars, singing traditional songs celebrating the story of eternal love.

The tahua leads the couple to where the ceremony will take place. There’s a sacred protocol followed in the blowing of the pu. Here blown in the 4 directions of the earth & as a call to the elements of earth, sea, air & fire:


No stress or panic here:


There are 3 essential elements in a Tahitian Traditional Wedding:  

The auti – the plant sacred to Tahitians.  

Water – taken from the ocean (moana), the greatest temple on earth.

Tiare Tahiti – the wonderfully perfumed flower which symbolizes harmony & the sharing of all things.

In recognition of the marriage is sacred, the wedding is first blessed using auti:


The sacred bond, the union of the two, is recognized by the tying of a strip taken from the back of the auti leaf, which will call in good & protect the couple against evil. In ancient times Tahitians would tie the strips to the entrance to their fares (homes) to protect their privacy:


The water marks the purification of the wedding:


The exchange of Tiare Tahiti – the leis have been given to the groom by the parents of the bride as a sign of his having been welcomed into the family as one with other family members. The Tiare Tahiti is the symbol of the love for one another.


The exchange of vows – a moment charged with emotion “off the Richter Scale” for all present but particularly, as the photos show, for those making the commitment. That the man was still ‘head of the household’ brought a grin to the face of some.


A very, very deep breath……..for all!


Married as Tahitian tradition would have it:


The exchange of rings flows from western traditions:


The couple is then wrapped in a tifaifai; red signifying royalty & love, being wrapped together to signify their union. The union gave the benediction of the tahua.


Members of the family would then wrap the couple in a second tifaifai, blue to signify moana – the ocean, the sea. Another moment of great emotion:


It’s a tradition in such marriages to be given wedding names. Finding the names is a complex issue involving copious research into the fundamental genealogies of those to be married from which the origins of maraes (temples) and the rights to carry certain titles flow.

In tracing to Taaroa Tahi Tumu de Vaearai, Ofai Honu & Marotetini – the 3 founding lineages – the couple were given the names Tane & Vahine Te Moana Rau Tehea Nohomarae O Marotetini.

The names are recorded on tapa & the document given to the couple during the ceremony.


The ceremony is over so it’s time to celebrate, to take a photo with tahua, & one big family photo:


Mr & Mrs Daniel Torr:


Nothing short of sensational!

Maa Tahiti – the Traditional Tahitian Feast – would follow together with much tamure – traditional Tahitian dancing to celebrate a major, notable event.

Wedding guests would move to witness the opening of the hima’a – a traditional Tahitian in-ground oven.


Agricultural pursuits on Bora Bora are minimal. To assemble both the range & the quality of the produce required for such a large event necessitated that those responsible for the Ma’a Tahiti would travel to & fro Tahaa by boat to obtain all that was required.

The farmers had been engaged to produce what was required some months before. The hima’a operates essentially as an underground steam oven. A pit in the ground, a little over 1.5m deep, is dug to reflect the size of the meal to be prepared.

It’s then filled with large amounts of dry wooden material for firing & covered with porous volcanic basalt stones, which hold heat excellently, before being fired.


Firing will take 1.5 to 2 hours until the stones are at their maximum heat. Once at their maximum heat, they are leveled by a tree branch to an even surface over the remaining coals.


Green plant material is then added, having been selected to avoid scorching the food.


More green matter is added, essentially to produce steam, but also selected so as to add flavor as preferred.

Coconut fronds & the leaves of the purau, a local hibiscus are favourites. Hessian sacks & then dirt, or in this case tarpaulins, are then used to seal in the steam.


So, to get to this stage all the food has had to be specially prepared & wrapped.

The stones heated for some 2 hours & the oven stacked then left to cook for 4 hours (6 hours or more are required for a whole pig!) It’s a very laborious, time-consuming procedure and one where a high level of expertise is required.

The freshly cooked ingredients are prepared for the feast. A detailed account of dishes prepared in an ahima’a for Ma’a Tahiti can be found in this report.

It’s interesting to see how coconut fronds are plaited into different shapes and baskets in which to cook, bowls for serving and as plates from which to eat.


Here poe is being prepared, a sweet confection eaten to complement the main course or taken as dessert.


If there was one plate missing it was surely the fafaru, a delicacy much loved by the Tahitians & made from fermented fish with an odor to match!

Back to what its all about in Tahiti:


Lunch would start as tradition holds with a prayer:


The fermented coconut milk pictured below makes the meal. One can see clearly in the photos the use of plates & bowls made from coconut fronds. Tahitians normally eat Ma’a Tahiti with their fingers.


A local band played before the sound of the pahu (large Tahitian bass drum) announced the arrival on scene of dancers – most Tahitian men play various instruments & love to sing. All Tahitian girls can dance the tamure.


An aparima – danced by women, especially for those married, as it expresses the deepest sentiments of love. Note how the men dancers spend their break playing guitar & singing away.


As tradition has it, an invitation to dance follows. Some images of the invitation to dance – always a highlight of any such gathering:


A moment would follow that would leave the crowd presents lost for words and then clambering for more.

The bride & groom appeared unrecognized by those present, disguised as just 2 further dancers in the group. The traditional first dance at the wedding would be the tamure — what a sensation it would be, what a total knock-out!

The groom beckons his bride to dance:


She accepts the invitation:


Ah yes the following sequence, a sequence as only Dan & Moana would have it:


A well-deserved moment to cool off, to take it all in, to celebrate:


All & Sundry, to a man, were mesmerised, bursting with excitement and exhausted all at once. It was no moment to stick with tradition, to follow a schedule and the wedding broke for a moment’s rest from the tempo in the warm waters of Bora.

Strength would be regained over basketball before the speeches & throwing of the bouquet would take center stage.


The most memorable of marriages it was! UNBELIEVABLY, it didn’t end there, given the potential electricity issues on the motu it had been decided months in advance to continue the wedding on the white sands of Matira. It would continue with a traditional fire-dance at the water’s edge.

Fire dancing has its roots in Polynesia – started by them centuries ago, using war clubs, as a means for warriors to show their fighting prowess. 

The fire-dance forms an integral part of a Traditional Tahitian Wedding symbolizing the giving of ‘light’ to the newlyweds. The ceremony was SPECTACULAR. How good are the following shots taken by New York based photographer Ian Brewer.


More great shots from Mal Lyons – Good images of fire-dancing are hard to take. Check out how the flame lingers on the tongue of the guy in the third shot!


A great DJ ensured wedding guests danced their way right through the night on the extensive, coconut-fringed, golf-course green lawns of Hotel Matira. This also included the white sands of Matira Beach as they dipped into the world’s most beautiful lagoon.

What a fabulous setting for a fabulous wedding!


These events were prepared & organized by Roderick Page, as were all those mentioned on Wedding Bora Bora Facebook (as mentioned in all Wedding Bora Bora Testimonials as well as extensively on TripAdvisor & so on). Please make contact as follows:

  • Via PM on Wedding Bora Bora Facebook
  • DO NOT use the Wedding Bora Bora website, as it has been hijacked.