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Iripa & Jess | How to weave Te Ao Māori Traditions and Rituals into your Wedding Day

We have had the honor of chatting with Iripa and Jess to ask them a few questions on how to incorporate Māori culture, traditions or rituals into your wedding day. Iripa and Jess have recently being featured as part of “Aroha Nui” – a tv show about the lives of Māori wedding celebrants, guiding couples of their journey to their altar, and the special connection they have. We are so lucky to have their knowledge and experience to guide us through these ways to incorporate Māori culture into a couple’s special, from Karakia (blessing) to Taonga (treasures / gifts).

Photographer: Lydia Rachel Photography

How it all started

From the moment we decided to continue this mahi past a request of wonderful friends to be their Kaiwhakahaere Mārena (celebrant), our passion and commitment was to give back to Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) by ensuring couples around the motu (country) had the opportunity to weave in Te Reo Māori (Māori language) and concepts of tikanga (practices) into their special day.  

When approached to participate in the new TV series, Arohanui: Say I Do; it was a no brainer! Although we knew watching ourselves on the screen could be all kinds of cringe, the kaupapa (purpose) was bigger than ourselves. It allowed us to play a very small part in lifting the platform and awareness of Te Ao Māori in a mainstream space. Luckily for you this isn’t a blog on the fact we shouldn’t need to bring something into mainstream that should already be there.. so we will park that whakaaro (thought) here.

Now let’s be clear, tikanga comes in many forms throughout Aotearoa and we are by no means experts. Our role is to guide, collaborate and help bring a vision to life that is truly reflective of our couples down to their core. We place huge importance on the involvement of whānau when deciding what is right for each individual ceremony. In the words of Six60 ‘Kia mau ki tō ūkaipō – don’t forget your roots’.

Coming into our third year of weddings, here are some of the ways we have been incredibly honoured to support our couples experience and incorporate Māori culture into this aroha (love) filled milestone.

Reo (language)

The use of Te Reo Māori is best summarised by one of our grooms ‘identity is in the language’. It is the words of our tīpuna (ancestors) and therefore a direct link to them on your day as you continue down the path that they have helped carve for you. No matter your background, be proud to have Te Reo Māori throughout your ceremony. It can be used alongside an English translation for those who don’t understand – no man, our guest in this instance, left behind!  

Karakia (blessing) 

Those living in Aotearoa will be familiar with the importance of karakia to open and close proceedings. It is used to prepare what follows for a favourable outcome and to lift anything that shouldn’t be there – bad juju kind of vibes. More often than this though, we are asked to use karakia to bestow blessings or good wishes upon the marriage and the couple’s future. It is highly important to identify who the most appropriate person is for this job – rangatira (family leaders) are there for a reason, be a sponge to the knowledge they hold.

Puoro / Waiata (music / song)

In Te Ao Māori, music is used in many ways. For example, to tautoko (support) or to whakangahau (entertain). Music is often an extension of your personality as a couple, and is a beautiful way to set the mood for your ceremony. There are many incredible Māori artists to set the tone of your day during special moments such as walking up and down the aisle, or signing your registry. Think Stan Walker, Maisey Rika, Teeks… the list goes on!

Karanga / Pao / Waerea (welcome call / chant) 

As a greeting to guests before the ceremony, or in the place of aisle music, some are lucky enough to experience a karanga or pao (call) or waerea (chant) to welcome them onto the whenua (land), and/or into the immediate space. 

Whakataukī / Whakatauākī (proverb / quote)

While readings and poems are commonly used throughout ceremonies, we remind our couples of whakataukī and whakatauākī as a way to infuse Māori wisdom into their day and give them a break from all the waterworks.

Taonga (treasures / gifts) 

To us, taonga is self-defined. It is anything that you treasure; however, in ceremonies we often see it in the form of carving or jewellery made from pounamu, wood or bone. We have experienced taonga exchanged between the couple instead of rings, gifted by the couple to acknowledge the whānau they are marrying into, or given to children to symbolise their importance to the couple.

Korowai (cloak)

A korowai is often used in significant life milestones to symbolize admiration for what someone has achieved, like getting married – yay! It is often a family heirloom that carries mana (prestige); and its whakapapa (family history) is enriched as it passes from one generation to the next. When it becomes a part of your story, you too become a part of its story. 

Tā moko (tattoo)

There is an increasing number of couples who are choosing to forego metals and stones that link to western traditions, and are instead using tā moko to visually represent their commitment and love for one another. Unlike rings, a tā moko cannot be lost – it is carried with you wherever you go, whatever you do. 



Used to acknowledge the significance of the occasion; whānau and friends commonly use Haka as a sign of respect for the couple. The timing of a haka is determined by what feels right or appropriate to those doing it. In our experience this is often seen as the couple leave their ceremony, enter their reception, or during speeches. No matter how many ceremonies we facilitate – a haka never fails to send shivers down our spines. 

This is far from an exhaustive list of ways Te Ao Māori cultures and traditions can be weaved into your special day, but the blog Gods control the word limit, and we are on our way to a novel so will wrap this up!

It is hard to put into words just how humbling it is to be a part of someone’s wedding in any capacity, but for a couple to trust us to share their story is next level. We are #blessed by the learnings each one leaves behind, allowing us to do better for those next to cross our path. Wherever you are in your wedding planning journey, we hope this encourages you to let nothing (except the legalities) get in your way when building a ceremony that is perfect for you and your wairua (spirit).

 – Iripa Rangi & Jessica Phillips

Mārena na Iripa

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