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Incorporating Te Reo, Māori Tikanga into your wedding

By Philippa Thomas



Kō te mea nui kō te aroha. The greatest thing is love.

Kia ora koutou, nau mai, haere mai! Hello and welcome to Aotearoa New Zealand, land of the long white cloud. Choosing to get married in and around Lake Wānaka and Queenstown, at the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand can seem like a no-brainer, as the scenery is unlike anywhere else in the world. Whether you are a Lord of the Rings fan, keen on snow sports, or just want to get away, there is something here for every couple.

Increasingly, couples are choosing to incorporate some Māori culture into their weddings here in New Zealand, as a sign of respect both for the whenua (land) that they are choosing to marry on, and also for the tāngata (people) for whom this land belongs.

Māori people are indigenous to Aotearoa New Zealand, having arrived from eastern Polynesia sometime between 1320 and 1350 AD. Much of tikanga Māori (Māori culture, customs) has been carried through generations and plays a large role in many Kiwi households today. Simple things, such as not sitting on tables where food is prepared or eaten, are taught from a very young age, and basic Te Reo (language) is a big part of the curriculum in schools.

Many Māori place names are derived from the land, as in the pre-settlement days there was no written word so Māori people were identified by where they lived and who their tūpuna (ancestors) were.

Wānaka derives from the South Island pronunciation of the word Wananga, meaning “place of learning”. Lake Wakatipu, where Queenstown sits, is from the name Whakatipu wai-māori, which means “growing bay” or “bay of spirits”.

As a marriage celebrant and proud Māori woman, it’s always an honour to incorporate any element of my culture into a wedding ceremony, whether that be a simple greeting, a Māori proverb, a ring blessing or something entirely different. While I was born and raised in the North Island (Te Ati Awa, Taranaki), I have a great respect for the iwi (tribe) in this area and take guidance from both my own whanau (family) and the local iwi when looking at new ways in which to intertwine tikanga Māori into my ceremonies.

Most importantly, as a people Māori are welcoming to anyone who chooses to embrace our culture, whether that be by reading some history of the area, learning basic Te Reo (language) or allowing the language to be spoken during your wedding ceremony.

You’ll even notice when you get married in Aotearoa New Zealand that your marriage licence has parts written in Māori, and you can in fact have an entire ceremony in Te Reo if you choose, as Māori is one of three official languages here (along with English and New Zealand Sign Language)!

So how can you incorporate Te Reo, Māori Tikanga and a bit of New Zealand into your wedding ceremony?


Your celebrant can welcome everyone in Māori and may choose also to say a brief mihi - a short introduction of who they are and where they are from. Aotearoa New Zealand has some wonderful waiata (songs) that fit perfectly into a wedding, perhaps walking back down the aisle to the New Zealand classic, Poi E once you are married (any kiwi guests will LOVE this song choice!).

There is a wonderful Māori whakatauki (proverb) that I use often in ceremonies, it is a great way to finish the ceremony and bless your future, your marriage and acknowledge the land around you:

Kia hora te marino; kia whakapapa pounamu te moana; kia tere te karohirohi i mua i tou huarahi.

May the calm be widespread; may the surface of the ocean glisten like the greenstone; and may the shimmer of summer dance across your path forever.

As well as all things Māori, Queenstown and Lake Wānaka are, of course, filming locations for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Hobbit movies, and it’s so easy to incorporate anything from these movies into your wedding as well, from using Tolkein-inspired fonts on your invitations, to quoting Bilbo Baggins (“It’s a dangerous business, going out your door …”) and exchanging wedding rings with the paraphrased, “Two rings to rule them all, two rings will find them. Two rings to bring them all and in this marriage, bind them”.

Aotearoa New Zealand has a wealth of culture and knowledge to be explored, and your local wedding vendors are always more than happy to help you find unique and personalised ways in which we can incorporate these into your wedding ceremony. There are so few “rules” when it comes to getting married in Aotearoa, and it’s easy for anyone to come here and get married, so you really do have full freedom to create the destination wedding that is for you.

He aroha te aroha – love is love


Photos provided with thanks to: Eva Bradley Photography, Alpine Images, Emily Adamson 

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