Originally published April 11, 2022 and updated May 10, 2023.
This flower money lei tutorial is easy to make and the perfect gift for graduation or any special occasion. This Hawaiian lei graduation tradition is a fun and unique graduation gift idea and way to celebrate a memorable achievement.
I grew up in Hawai’i and experienced graduation lei gift giving and receiving. It’s a beautiful tradition that has spread far beyond Hawai’i and can be seen at many high school graduations and college graduations on the mainland.
It can be difficult and expensive to send a traditional flower lei to graduates on the mainland, so a ribbon lei, candy lei or money lei is the perfect solution to celebrate your favorite graduate.
There are several different styles of money leis.
A traditional money lei looks like the fan fold dollar wheel money flower lei in this photo. This is where the bills folded accordion-style.
Money Lei Tutorial with Ribbon Lei – The Hawaiian tradition of giving a money lei for graduation is a memorable gift. This tutorial is easy to do & makes a comfortable to wear graduation lei.
And there’s the money lei in the maile lei style option, too. It contains bills folded in the shape of a leaf seen in the traditional maile lei.
And the origami money flower lei that is shared in this tutorial. And you can find the video tutorial to learn how to make the money flower lei at the bottom of the post.
Flower Money Lei
This easy money lei tutorial can be adapted by adding more money flowers or even adding beautiful fresh flowers.
It will take you an hour and a half to two hours to make your first lei with money, but with a little experience, you should be able to make one in an hour to an hour and a half.
What you need to make a money lei
- 1/2 inch satin ribbon
- You can choose any ribbon color you’d like, but the tradition is to choose the graduate’s school colors.
- This ribbon lei tutorial will walk you through how to make the ribbon lei part of the money lei.
- Crisp dollar bills or your choice of denominations.
- The bills don’t have to be new, but they do need to be crisp so that they hold the folded flower petal shape.
- Each folded money flower requires 3 bills.
- You should decide how many flowers you want on your lei. I chose to make this lei with 7 flowers, but you can certainly make it a fuller lei by adding more flowers.
- Consider how many flowers you would like and how much money you plan on giving.
- Determine how many of each denomination of bills you’ll need to make 3 petals for each of the number of flowers you’ve chosen and hit the dollar amount you’ve chosen.
- I used 21 $5 bills for this lei.
- Floral wire or green thread and needle
- 1 bead for each flower.
- You can choose any color of bead, but it is usually one of the school colors
Step-by-step flower money lei tutorial
After you make the ribbon lei, you need to make the money flowers.
You can choose to fold the money so that the front shows or the back shows. The folded fronts and backs of different denominations have very different looks. You may want to try folding a bill each way and see which you prefer. You can also mix both the front inside and the front outside folded flowers, if you’d like.
Line the edges up carefully and fold the bill in half. Crease each fold well with your thumbnail or a bone folder.
Open the bill up, bring the ends together and then fold each edge neatly to the center. Crease each fold.
Open the bill up and fold each end in to the fold line from step 2.
Smooth the bill out. Fold each corner in to match up evenly on one end. Repeat for the other end of the bill. Crease each fold.
Fold the long edges in to the middle. Line edges up evenly.
Crease all folds well.
Fold the bill in half longways with all the folds on the inside. Crease the fold. This is one folded flower petal base.
Fold three bills to create one flower. Place the folded petal bases on top of each other and line edges up.
Cut a length of floral wire about 6-8 inches long. Fold the wire in half to find the center. Thread one bead on the wire and center it on the wire. You could use a small rubber band for a plain center of the flower. You would then slip the floral wire through the rubber band.
Place the bead on the center of the edges of petal bases. Have the bead on the shorter side of the points (see photo) so that the flower petals will open up on the side with the bead. Twist the wire tightly around the center of the flower without bending the flower petal bases. You may have to hold the bead centered in place while you twist the wire.
Make all the folded money flowers you have determined you need. Use your thumbs to open and shape each of the six petals. They should be open and slightly curved.
Determine the flower placement on the ribbon lei. It’s best to leave adequate space for the ribbon lei to lay comfortably around the neck, creating a money lei necklace. Attach each money flower to the ribbon lei by weaving the floral wire through the ribbon lei. Twist the floral wire in the back of the lei.
Attach all the money flowers. Make sure you’re satisfied with the placement of the flowers. You should also try the lei on to make sure that none of the flowers are uncomfortable or poking you in the neck. When you are happy with the lei, clip the ends of the floral wire off and hide any ends inside the back of the lei.
Expert Tips for making a flower money lei
- Plan ahead for the graduating seniors you know. I usually start making graduation leis four to six weeks before graduation season.
- You can make fuller money flowers by stacking two flowers on top of each other to create upper petals and lower petals.
- You can replace the ribbon bow with a bow made from curling ribbon in the school colors. You can find inexpensive ribbon at the dollar store.
- In Hawaiian culture, you present the lei by gently placing it on the graduate’s shoulders and give them a kiss on the cheek and congratulate them. You should place the lei so that about one-third to a half of the lei hangs in the back. This can be difficult when the graduate received many leis, but do your best so that the weight is more evenly distributed and not hanging on the back of their neck.
- This technique doesn’t require double-sided tape, but you may find it helpful to use a small piece of tape if your folded petals don’t stay in place.
- You can replace the wire with a piece of ribbon to tie the bead in place.
- Bonus – you can also make money bouquets with the folding techniques in this tutorial.
Looking for a video lei tutorial?
You can print the tutorial on how to make a graduation money lei from the tutorial below.
- 1/2 inch satin ribbon to make the ribbon lei
- Crisp bills, 3 for each flower
- Floral wire
- Pony Beads, one for each flower
- Line the edges up carefully and fold the bill in half. Crease each fold well with your thumbnail or a bone folder.
- Open the bill up, bring the ends together and then fold each edge neatly to the center. Crease each fold.
- Open the bill up and fold each end in to the fold line from step 2.
- Smooth the bill out. Fold each corner in to match up evenly on one end. Repeat for the other end of the bill. Crease each fold.
- Fold the long edges in to the middle. Line edges up evenly.
- Fold the bill in half longways with all the folds on the inside. Crease the fold.
- Fold three bills to create one flower. Place the folded petal bases on top of each other and line edges up.
- Cut a length of floral wire about 6-8 inches long. Fold the wire in half to find the center. Thread one bead on the wire and center it on the wire.
- Place the bead on the center of the edges of petal bases. Have the bead on the shorter side of the points so that the flower petals will open up on the side with the bead. Twist the wire tightly around the center of the flower without bending the flower petal bases. You may have to hold the bead centered in place while you twist the wire.
- Determine the flower placement on the ribbon lei. Attach each money flower to the ribbon lei by weaving the floral wire through the ribbon lei. Twist the floral wire in the back of the lei.
- Attach all the money flowers. Clip the ends of the floral wire off and hide any ends inside the back of the lei.
Frequently Asked Questions about Money Leis
In Hawai’i, graduation leis are generally given after the graduation ceremony. The lei is given to celebrate the graduation and so it is given after the ceremony. Family and friends search for the graduate after the ceremony and present leis with hugs, a kiss on the cheek and good wishes.
I have seen students at both high schools and colleges on the mainland wear leis during the ceremony. Many schools however, set rules that leis may not be worn during the ceremony, so be sure to check any limits if the graduate wants to wear leis during the actual ceremony.
If you are unable to attend the ceremony on graduation day, you can send the lei to a family member or friend of the graduate so they can present it to the graduate after the ceremony.
You can also give a lei at a graduation party, especially if you didn’t attend the graduation ceremony.
Leis are generally 48 inches long, but you should take the graduate’s height into consideration. Additionally, it is helpful for graduation leis to be a bit longer if the graduate is expected to receive more than a few leis.
In Hawai’i graduates often receive many leis. This photo is from my high school graduation and many of my peers received 25 percent more more leis than I did.
It is more comfortable for the graduate if the leis are a bit longer than they are if you will only be wearing one. Those extra few inches make it easier to stack the leis comfortably,
You can choose how much money to include in a money lei when you make it yourself. Choose the value of the lei you want to give. You can then make the money flowers on the lei with the denominations that will add up to your budgeted amount. You can adjust the number of flowers and the denominations of the bills you choose to create the look you want for the cost you have budgeted.
In Hawaiian culture a lei is a gift given in friendship, love and appreciation. It is also given as a gift to welcome someone or honor them at a ceremony. A money lei is traditionally a gift given to high school or college graduates.
A money lei is a beautiful and fun way to give a financial graduation gift and is a memorable gift to replace giving a simple gift card or monetary gift in an envelope.
Other lei tutorials you might have missed
9+ Lei Tutorials – Step-by-step tutorials to make different types of leis, such as ribbon leis, candy leis, yarn leis and more!
Ribbon Lei with 3 Colors – How to make a ribbon lei with 3 colors in about 30 minutes. Hawaiian ribbon leis are traditionally made for graduation in the graduate’s school colors.
Be sure to pin this flower money lei tutorial so you can find it every graduation season for gift giving.
Find all our best Hawaiian lei tutorials, crafts and recipes in the table below. You can scroll though the table and look for ideas or search for specific ideas with the magnifying glass in the upper right-hand corner (on desktop). Click on the topic and then click through the specific article.
I’m a mom of 3, a veteran and military spouse. I’ve moved into 20+ homes all around the world. My passion is helping busy people make the space and time for what’s really important to them.