Native American Wedding Traditions

A Cultural Celebration

Like African wedding traditions there are many Native American wedding traditions, due the diversity of cultures and customs from Nation to Nation. As it would be lengthy to mention every tradition in full detail, only the more unique or widespread Native American wedding traditions are explained:

Algonquin Weddings: prior to the wedding ceremony the couple chooses four sponsors to spiritually guide them throughout the wedding and their marriage. Sponsors are esteemed elders selected for their wisdom, compassion and trust. Ceremonies are held outside, so the couple may be closer to the Creator (God). By exchanging vows the couple commit themselves to the Creator for eternity; even if the couple goes their separate ways they are forever joined in the eyes of the Creator. After confirming their commitment before the pipe carrier (the wedding officiant) the couple and their guests smokes from a tobacco pipe. During the wedding reception and feast that follows the bride and groom give a gift to every guest.

Hopi Weddings: once the bride has decided on her prospective groom she invites him over to her parents' home where she serves him qomi; bread made of sweet cornmeal. By accepting the bread the male accepts her proposal of marriage and they are engaged. A groom can also propose; he leaves a small bundle of fine clothes and white buckskin moccasins on her doorstep. If the woman brings the bundle into her home she accepts his proposal. The bride then grinds cornmeal and makes bread which she presents to the groom's parents; only after the groom's mother has accepted the bread is the engagement officially approved. On the wedding day the bride and groom's hair is washed together in one basin then interwoven to symbolize their lifelong union.

Pacific Northwest Weddings: blankets are used for both their practical and symbolic purposes; during the wedding ceremony the couple stands on the blanket and food is laid on it during the feast that follows. For its symbolic use, the blanket is wrapped around both the bride and groom demonstrating their unity. Blankets are also given to guests. The bridal veil is also heavy with symbolism. It is detailed with shells (representing fertility); coins (representing wealth); thimbles (representing that she's a good provider) and bells (representing that she is ever alert to her family's needs).

Cherokee Weddings: the ceremony location is blessed for seven days prior to the wedding day. On the day of the wedding the couple approaches a sacred fire (a living memorial to ancestors) and is blessed by a priest. Each is covered with a blue blanket (symbolizing weaknesses and sorrows) and the priest removes these blankets and covers them both with one white blanket (indicating their new life together of peace and happiness). Instead of wedding rings the couple exchanges baskets. The groom's basket contains venison and skins (indicating his ability to feed and clothe his new family); the bride's basket contains bread and corn (indicating her promise to support and nurture him and their children). Lastly the couple drinks together from a wedding vase, a jug with two openings.

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