Native Americans are rich with traditions within all aspects of life. Weddings are no exception to this rule. Just as customary American weddings have important traditions, Native Americans give a nod to their heritage and background during their weddings. Here are some interesting ways that Native Americans incorporate their traditions into their wedding ceremonies.
Regalia is the traditional clothing worn by the bride and groom on their wedding day. This clothing is woven by hand by people in the tribe, showing that they are in support of the new couple. The wedding dress usually symbolizes the color of the tribe. White symbolizes the east, orange symbolizes the west, black symbolizes the north and blue symbolizes the south. A silver “concho” belt is worn by both the bride and the groom.
Traditionally, Native Americans did not have a traditional wedding ring. More contemporary tribes allow brides and grooms to wear Native American wedding bands. They are usually made of sterling silver and are adorned with opal, turquoise and other natural stones indigenous to the tribe. The bride and groom both wear silver and turquoise jewelry on the day of their wedding. It is thought to protect them against evil.
Although singing is the normal form of expression using music, many tribes use special traditional instruments to perform music during the wedding ceremonies. The most common instruments used in Native American ceremonies are the drums, flutes and whistles, along with a rhythmic accompaniment. Music styles vary from tribe to tribe, but the most idealistic music for Native American wedding ceremonies are the circle of men pounding on the drums and singing in unison.
The ceremony usually takes place outdoors, or in a ceremonial lodge if the tribe has one. Once a commitment to the Creator is made at the ceremony, there is no way to break the commitment. The leader that performs the ceremony is called the Pipe Carrier and will only perform it if he deems the couple to truly be in love.
Water is an important aspect of the Native American wedding ceremony. It is symbolically used to show a cleansing and purification among the bride and groom. They will wash their hands together during the ceremony in this water to signify their ridding themselves of past loves and past memories.
The food is an important part of any wedding, and Native American weddings are no exception. Some common foods eaten in celebration are maize pudding, which is eaten instead of the traditional wedding cake in some cultures. Also, Native Americans eat fried bread, venison and berries, as these are commonly found in nature. Other popular foods eaten at Native American wedding celebrations are squash, corn, vegetable soups, beans, and fresh fruits and berries.
Food is served in a traditional way, on a blanket, and buffet style. Usually the tribe leaders will eat first, followed by the newlywed couple, then the parents, and finally the guests. It is important to the culture that all food be eaten, and none of it wasted.
When planning the wedding ceremony between the Native American bride and groom, there can be many traditional elements, and there can be many modern-day elements as well. Brides and grooms can plan and prepare to have the wedding of their dreams, while still upholding their Native American heritage.