Congratu-lei-te a graduate

For as long as I can remember, I have always watched my mom make fresh-flower leis whenever graduation season rolled around. In Hawaii, my mom’s home state, a lei is a symbol of affection or a way to say aloha. Though traditionally made with flowers, flowers can be substituted for candy or even some cash for your graduate.

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Photo credit: Jian Bautista

Flower leis

Ideal graduate to give it to: Someone who likes sentimental gifts, as this lei can be dried after use and kept for a long time.

What you’ll need:

  • Thick, durable string like kite string or embroidery string
  • 2 bouquets of flowers (mini carnations, mini roses or daisies are recommended)
  • A long sewing needle
  • Scissors
  • Curling ribbon (optional)


  1. Measure the string to hang to mid-chest to navel. Double the length and cut.
  2. Thread your string through the eye of the needle and pull until it’s halfway on the string. The string should now be “folded.” Since the string is twice as long as desired, the flowers will be threaded through two strands for extra support.
  3. Tie a knot where the strings meet. You should have a giant loop now. Snip the stem off a flower and start threading from the bottom of the flower. Pull needle gently through flower, making sure it’s in the middle. Some gentle tugging may be necessary — don’t get your needle lost in the flower!
  4. Repeat step 3 until you’ve reached the maximum flower capacity on the string. Cut the needle-end string, removing the needle and tying the ends of the strings together in several knots. Removal of a flower may be necessary to make room for the knot. Add curling ribbon to cover the knot, if desired. School colors are always a nice touch.

If not gifting the lei until later, wet paper towels and gently wrap the lei in the towels and place in a plastic bag. Store somewhere cool until lei-giving time is near.

Candy leis

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Ideal graduate to give it to: Someone who may want a sweet snack on their way home from commencement.

What you’ll need:

  • Lei candy tubing, netting or poly tube (can be found online, at party stores or at some drugstores in the party aisle)
  • Approximately 10-20 pieces of wrapped candy (“fun-size” candies recommended)
  • Curling ribbon
  • Scissors


  1. Measure the tubing to hand mid-chest to navel area. Cut the tubing.
  2. On one end of the tubing, tie the ribbon in a knot around about an inch from the end.
  3. Start snaking candy down the tubing. Tie curling ribbon over tubing after each candy to separate each one.
  4. When the tubing is filled, top off the open end with a ribbon to secure and then tie the ends together.

Money leis

Ideal graduate to give it to: There are not many graduates who won’t like this one!

  • What you’ll need:
  • Curling ribbon
  • Approximately 10-15 dollar bills
  • Scissors
  • Beads and or plastic or paper straws (optional)


  1. Measure ribbon to hang to mid-chest area and cut. Tie a knot at the end.
  2. Fold the dollar bills in a paper-fan-like pattern, width wise.
  3. Cut straws into inches or use beads to slide down the string for decoration, if desired. After each straw or bead, place a dollar bill on the ribbon and gently tie a knot around the middle of the folded up dollar bill. Fan out the folded parts of the bill.
  4. Repeat step 3 until lei is complete. Tie the two ends together of ribbon together and add more curling ribbon, if desired.