The traditions of Native American courtships and marriages were filled with romantic symbolism. Many of those admirable traditions evolved over time and found their way into modern marriage ceremonies, albeit with some altering and changes.
Here are a few examples of the more popular American Indian wedding ceremony traditions:
Ceremony of the blanket
Two blue blankets, representing the couple’s past lives, were draped around the bride and groom. After a blessing by the Spiritual Leader, the couple would shred both blankets and then be enveloped in the embraces of their well-wishing relatives and covered by one white blanket. The singular white blanket represented unity, happiness, fulfillment and peace. The couple would share their first marital kiss and embrace under the white blanket, and display it thereafter in their new home.
Ceremony of rings
In earlier days, indigenous Native Americans did not use rings in their marriage ceremonies. The custom evolved however, and to this day the exchanging of rings is an integral part of the Native American wedding ceremony, symbolizing an unbroken circle of love. Love with no beginning and no ending, no giver and no receiver, for both are givers and receivers. The rings are a constant reminder of the vows exchanged.
Ceremony of fire
Materials were gathered for three fires; two smaller ones in the north and south, and one large one in the center of the circle. The two smaller fires, representing the two separate lives about to be joined, were lit and burned while the bride and groom recited prayers and songs. Then the bride and groom swept the two smaller fires into the center of the circle to ignite the one large fire, which symbolized the Creator and their blessed union.
Ceremony of the baskets
Native American brides and grooms exchanged baskets of gifts. The bride’s basket contained foods, such as bread and corn. This symbolized her desire to nurture and support her mate. The groom’s basket held meat and skins, indicating his intention to feed and clothe his bride as the strong provider in the union.
Ceremony of the wedding vase
One component of the Native American wedding ceremony was the wedding vase. This was usually a pottery pitcher or jar with a handle on both sides and two spouts. The bride and groom would each drink from the vase to toast one another and their union. Then both would drink from the vase together. The belief was that if both drank from the vase without spilling a drop that was a sign of good understanding and cooperative spirits, assurance that their marriage would be peaceful and enduring.
Today’s wedding ceremonies incorporate versions of many traditions practiced by the early Native American counterparts. The exchanging of rings, the bride and groom’s toast, lighting of the Unity Candle, and the showering of the bride and groom with gifts from well-wishers.
If you have an upcoming wedding and wish to research further into Native American traditions for potential use, obtain the book, “Native American Courtship and Marriage Traditions” by Leslie Gourse. This book is full of hints for incorporating the romance of Native American customs and traditions into modern wedding ceremonies.