Indigenous Weddings I: Native American Tribes

Weddings are always sacred and emotional events; they represent a vital begging of journeys, uniting people to branch their own families and Indigenous communities worldwide, have their own amazing and unique traditions when it comes to weddings from ceremony themes to vows and attire. In this article, we'll take a journey to learn about wedding traditions amongst Native American Tribes.

Native American wedding ceremonies are full of rich tradition and rituals; while they may include similar elements to contemporary wedding ceremonies, they also differ significantly in some areas.

Timings and Season

wedding ceremony

wedding ceremony

The Native American celebrations calendar is full of meaningful ceremonies celebrating rites of passage, a commemoration of ancestral rituals, and honouring different elements of nature and life. While these events are of great importance to individual tribes, they are entirely independent of wedding celebrations. It is understood that Spring and Autumn when there is an abundance of food and natural beauty, was particularly promising. Still, weddings were not limited to this or any other season.

Different tribes hold their wedding celebrations at other times. For instance: The Hopis traditionally started the marriage rituals on the sunrise of the chosen date and concluded them two weeks later in the evening. The Cherokees exchanged intentions at their local townhouse and held the ceremonial rites at sundown by the fire seven days later. The Mohawks also traditionally got married at sunset and had a large feast afterwards.

Each tribe and each clan within the tribe will have their own customs; some very similar, some different. However, the common factor is the importance of sharing this special moment with the community. When choosing a time to hold your wedding ceremony, consider the elements you will include in the ceremony and the capacity of friends and family to join you. For instance, if you are having a fire ceremony, you may want to hold it near sundown.


wedding ritual

wedding ritual

Traditional Native American weddings ceremonies can include one or more of several smaller traditions within the larger one:

Fire Ceremony: The Manataka American Indian Council states that, in this ceremony, a fire circle is created using stones and seven types of wood. There is one large, unlit stack of firewood built in the centre of the circle and two small fires built that sit to the north and south of the circle. These small fires represent the bride and groom's individual lives. After the two small fires are lit, prayers are offered by the bride and groom, and they then push their individual fires into the centre stack of wood, igniting one large fire.

Water Ceremony: Brides may pour water on the groom's hands to represent their new union. Some notes stated that both the bride and groom wash their hands to remove old memories and past wrongdoings.

Basket Ceremony: In this ceremony, according to the Manataka American Indian Council, the bride and groom exchange baskets filled with gifts. The baskets symbolize the dowries traditionally required to be exchanged by the bride and groom's families. Gifts may consist of bread, corn, and meat.

Blanket Ceremony: Some tribes traditionally participated in wedding blanket ceremonies. In one example of this ceremony, the bride and groom are first wrapped individually in blue blankets. While wrapped in the blankets, the officiant blesses the couple's union. The blankets are then removed and the couple wrapped in a single white blanket. The blue blankets represent the elements of the couple's individual past lives, and the white blanket the couple's dedication to filling their new lives with peace and happiness. The blanket ceremony is used in Cherokee wedding ceremonies, according to the First Nation Ministry.

Attire, Jewelry and Music

wedding jewelry

wedding jewelry

For wedding Dresses and Groom's Attire, many couples wear ceremonial clothing for special occasions like weddings, often referred to as regalia. Native American brides usually wear red or other bright colours instead of white to their ceremony, and their dress may be passed down through generations, according to Native Net. Depending on the tribe, location, and type of wedding, some women and men may wear modern wedding attire.

Ceremonial clothing can differ from tribe to tribe. For example, in a Cherokee wedding, the bride wears all white garb consisting of a white dress and moccasins. The dress in colonial times was made from pieces of cloth that tribal women tore into squares or rectangles. Some women today wear traditional style tear dress (made of calico and featuring geometric shapes). Cherokee grooms traditionally wore black pants, moccasins, and a red shirt adorned with ribbons.

The Algonquin tribes’ brides and grooms wore traditional clothing made by hand; the Northern California tribes use symbolic colours like blue, yellow, and black in wedding attire, while the Hopis ware deerskin leggings as part of the bridal dress.

When it comes to Jewelry during wedding ceremonies, Native Americans did not create Jewelry like wedding rings. However, contemporary tradition includes them in metals like sterling silver using turquoise stones for ladies' rings or opal for men's rings.

As for music and dancing: Flutes, vocals, and drums were used during special ceremonies like weddings. Some tribes have special ritual dances that may be performed at social occasions like weddings. These dances may include the crow hop, shake dance, round dance, or ribbon dance notes of the Nanticoke Indian Tribe.


Each tribe has different events and sayings that occur during the exchange of vows. One of the processes of exchanging vows is referred to as the Rite of the Seven Steps. This Rite's creation can be attributed to numerous tribes throughout the nation, reports the Manataka American Indian Council. Although no "bridal party" as it is known today is involved in traditional Native American weddings, this exchange involves guests.

In the Rite, the couple takes seven steps clockwise around a sacred fire. The groom takes the first step, stops and recites a vow. The bride follows suit. This ritual continues until both the bride and groom complete seven steps. In some instances, the bride and groom exchange small gifts symbolizing their love and life together, such as ears of corn, feathers or stones, at each step. Corn represents fertility, feathers, loyalty, and stones strength. As the bride and groom take their symbolic walk, guests join hands and circle around them and the fire.

Nomadic Tribe Team