How to Make a Lei and Give One

When May rolls around and graduation season nears, you’ll find my family busy making leis. Their material of choice? Typically yarn or ribbon because they last. But you’ll find leis of all kinds. Candy leis. Money leis. And the ever popular flower lei.

How to Make A Flower Lei


Last month at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, my daughter had the opportunity to make her first flower lei. It was made of dendrobium orchids, which hold up well when strung into a lei. My daughter started by plucking the stem from each blossom. Given that a lei needle (6-12 inches in length with a pointed end on one side and a hooked end on the other) was involved, I helped. I pierced the needle through the center of the orchids and my daughter moved each orchid down the twine. It took 72 orchid blossoms to complete the lei.

DIY Paper Lei


Two years ago, my daughter made a paper flower lei for a graduate with her then 95-year-old great grandmother. Our materials:

Construction paper (various colors)



Hole punch

Plastic straws (cut to approximately 1 inch)

Paper clip


I drew a flower on construction paper, cut it out and used it as a stencil to cut dozens of additional flowers. We selected paper in the colors of the graduate’s school. I punched holes in the center of each flower, then cut the yarn and plastic straws to size. Great Grandma straightened out a paper clip, leaving a loop at the end and tying one end of the yarn to it. Then, the little one and her great grandmother got busy stringing the flowers and straws, alternating one at a time. It was a fun activity for them to do together and a treasured lei for the recipient herself.


When To Give A Lei

So when do you give a lei?

Leis can be worn, received, or given for nearly any occasion. My family will give leis for birthdays, graduations, promotions, anniversaries, recitals, and award ceremonies. If there’s an event worth celebrating, we’re showing up with a lei.

How to Give A Lei

Do you know the proper way to give a lei?

Traditionally, a Hawaiian lei is presented to another by gently placing it around their neck, accompanied by a kiss on the cheek or a hug.

How To Store a Lei

A fresh flower lei can last several days with proper care. To preserve the lei, sprinkle it with water, place it in a ziploc bag and place it in the refrigerator.