Manataka American Indian Council









Algonquin Weddings Northern California Tribes
Delaware Traditions Wedding Vase Story
Hopi Weddings Yaqui Wedding Ceremony
Indian Wedding Joke


Basket Ceremony Navajo Baskets & Pottery
Blanket Ceremony Old Cherokee Weddings
Ceremony of the Rings  Planning an Indian Wedding
Cherokee Wedding Attire Rite of the Seven Steps
Cherokee Wedding Prayer Wedding Dresses & Regalia
Fire Ceremony Wedding of the Cat and Mouse
Manataka Wedding Questionnaire Wedding Vase Ceremony
Matrimonial Customs

Algonquin Traditions
Algonquin speaking people include the Cree, the Ojibwa or Chippewa, the Ottawa, the Montagnais, the Naskapi and others.

When a young man chooses a mate in the old way, he went with her family (matriarch society). The custom was usually determined by the growing season. In warmer climates, where women would raise crops to support the families, they were considered the providers. In cooler climates where families subsisted on hunting performed by the men, the communities were considered patriarchal.

Algonquin Marriage Requirements
The couple may be required to perform certain responsibilities in preparation for their wedding. These responsibilities are determined by the officiant. In addition, the bride and groom must choose sponsors.

The bridal couple has four sponsors. Sponsors are older, well respected persons chosen by the bride and groom. The sponsors are to give spiritual and marital guidance to the couple throughout their lifetime. At the ceremony, the sponsors make a commitment to help the couple.


Algonquin Marriage Ceremony
Ceremonies are preferably outside, or in a ceremonial lodge or under an arbor. Their commitment is to the Creator, to God. There is no breaking that commitment, and no divorce.

The Pipe Carrier, the official, makes sure they are well aware of this commitment. If the couple separates and goes their separate ways, in the eyes of the Creator, they are still husband and wife. The Pipe Carrier will not perform the ceremony unless the couple is very serious.

Each person makes a declaration that they choose to be known as husband and wife. Then they smoke from the pipe. Tobacco is offered and accepted by the official.

At the ceremony, the sponsors make a commitment to help the couple.

Algonquin Wedding Attire
Brides, grooms and sponsors dress in regalia - traditional clothing, usually made by hand. The bride will wash herself in a body of water (lake, river, ocean, pond) the morning of her union in order to be blessed by the spirit of the Earth.

Algonquin Wedding Festivities
A wedding is a time of celebration. Everyone is invited by word of mouth unless they live outside the community. There is no formal invitation. There is feasting, visiting and a giveaway.

Food items for the feast include fry bread, venison (deer meat), squash, beans, corn, corn soup, potato soup and many desserts. Fresh fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, and the 'heart' berry, strawberries, are served if available. There may also be a wedding cake. In a traditional wedding, the food is placed on a blanket, served buffet style.

The food is blessed. The Elders and the official will eat first, then the bride, groom, sponsors and other guests. None of the food is wasted. All of the food is either eaten or given away to the Elders.

Algonquin Giveaway
In preparation for the Giveaway, the future bride and groom make (or buy) hundreds of gifts. A gift will be given to each person attending the celebration. The type of gifts is dependant upon the talent and financial ability of the couple.
  These gifts are also known as wedding favors.

Delaware Traditions
A Delaware Native American girl who reached puberty may have had her union prearranged by her parents. Often a couple just lived together as man and wife. To mark the occasion, there was a simple exchange of jewelry, blankets or a belt of wampum to the girl's parents. If the parents accepted the gifts the union was sanctioned. 

The young bride would wear a knee-length skirt of deerskin and a band of wampum beads around her forehead. Except for fine beads or shell necklaces, the body would be bare from the waist up as was the standard form of dress. If it were a winter wedding, she would wear deerskin leggings and moccasins and a robe of turkey feathers. Her face would be painted with white, red and yellow clay.

The following was submitted by Bob MŤsoxwenteme Davis

Turkey feather robes were not wedding attire.  Turkey feather robes were worn by chiefs and other high ranking elders.  They are commonly referred to "a chief's robe".  And, robes, of any kind, by anybody, were generally worn only in cold weather.  LŽnape marriages were not arranged by the family with the prospective bride and groom having no say or choice.  The groom made the choice of who he wanted to marry, and the bride had her choice of whether to marry the man or not.  After a family conference, the groom's family sent an ambassador to the bride's family to speak on behalf of the prospective groom. The prospective bride's family decides whether or not to accept the proposal.  If they do, they send an ambassador to a particular member of the groom's family to announce the acceptance.  On the day after the wedding, the bride's parents present the couple with useful presents.  After this presentation, it was common for the couple to travel on what we now call a honeymoon.  The above information is universal to all three divisions of the LŽnape people.  In some practices there are some differences in ceremonial procedures between the three divisions - for example:  while the basic funeral ceremonies are the same for both the Monsi and the Unami, the Monsi procedures for what occurs after the burial are different from those of the Unami.  Likewise, there may be some small differences in detail between the marriage practices of the Monsi, Unami, and Unilaxtigo.

Hopi Traditions
The Hopi Native girl, after undergoing important rites of adolescence, (usually between the age of 16 and 20) is ready to receive suitors. In former days it was customary to give an informal picnic on the day following an important ritual.

If a girl had decided on a youth as a future mate, she would extend to him an invitation to accompany her and would present him with a loaf of qomi, a bread made of sweet cornmeal in lieu of somiviki (maiden's cake). Since this invitation was tantamount to being engaged, boys would only accept the invitation from girls they were willing to marry.

A Hopi young man would propose to a maiden by preparing a bundle of fine clothing and white buckskin moccasins. He would leave the bundle at her doorstep and if she accepted it, she accepted him as her future husband.

Approving the Marriage
If the prospective Hopi bride and groom expected the marriage to be sanctioned by society, there were several restrictions which must be followed. No marriage was allowed within the nuclear family or to someone who was previously married.

Once the decision to marry is made by the young couple, the boy goes, after supper, to the girl's home and states his intentions to the girls parents. If approved, he is instructed to return to his home and inform his parents. The girl will grind cornmeal or make bread and take it to the home of her prospective groom. If the mother accepts it, the wedding plans move forward.

Hopi Wedding Preparations
The bride returns home to grind more cornmeal, and the groom fetches water and chops wood for his mother. On the evening when these chores are completed, the bride dresses in her manta beads and her wedding blanket. She, with the boy, walk barefoot to his house. She presents the cornmeal to his mother and prepares for a three day stay at his home.

For three days prior to the wedding, the bride will rise and grind cornmeal for her mother-in-law. During this period, the groom's paternal aunts visit and "attack" the bride with mud. Her future mother-in-law steps in to protect her.

Consummation of the Marriage
On the morning of the wedding the bride's female relatives brought to the groom's mother's home, the ground corn and piki bread that the bride had prepared.

The females then washed the hair of the engaged couple in a single basin. The hair of the bride and groom was then entwined to signify their lifelong union.

With hair still interwoven the bride and groom walk to the edge of the mesa to witness and pray to the rising sun.

Hopi Wedding Attire
They remain at the girl's home until her wedding garment is complete. The garments are woven by the groom and any men in the village who wish to participate. The garments consist of a large belt, two all-white wedding robes, a white wedding robe with red stripes at top and bottom, white buckskin leggings and moccasins, a string for tying the hair, and a reed mat in which to wrap the outfit. (This outfit also will serve as a shroud, since these garments will be necessary for the trip through the underworld.)

Conclusion of Hopi Ceremony
In about two weeks, she will dress in her wedding garments and return to her home where she is received by her mother and relatives. The groom's relatives accompany her and an exchange of gifts are made. During that evening, the groom comes and spends the night at his mother-in-law's. The next day he fetches wood for her, and from then on is a permanent resident in her house.

Northern California Traditions
A custom among the Northern Californian Native Americans*, which was unique to them, is that of half-marriage and full-marriage.

In a full marriage, two kinsmen represented the future bridegroom. After agreeing on a price, in accordance with the family's wealth and social standing, the bridegroom - usually with his father's help - would pay the bride's family. The future social status of the family and the children depended on the price, therefore the bridegroom was willing to pay as much as he could possibly afford.

In half-marriage, the man would pay about half the usual price for his bride. The man would live in his wife's home under her father's jurisdiction. A man might have to half-marry because of a lack of wealth or social standing, or if his father did not approve of his bride. A woman's family might allow her to half marry because they had no sons and needed another man in the family, or if there were Shaman powers in the family. About one in four marriages were half-marriages.

The bride's dress may be woven in symbolic colors: white for the east, blue for the south, yellow (orange) for the west; and black for the north. Turquoise and silver jewelry are worn by both the bride and the groom in addition to a silver concho belt. Jewelry is considered a shield against evils including hunger, poverty and bad luck.

*The tribes of northern California include the Klamath, the Modoc and the Yurok.

Music Expression
Singing is the dominant form of musical expression, with instrumental music serving primarily as rhythmic accompaniment. Native American love songs are often played by men on flutes. Principal instruments have been drums and rattles, flutes and whistles.

A very powerful musical presentation may be that of a group of men sitting around a large double-headed drum, singing in unison and drumming with sticks.

Music styles vary from region to region. For example, music in the Great Plains is tense, pulsating, forceful, with a high range and preferably falsetto; in California, it is produced by a relaxed throat.


Usually a week or two before they are married by a priest, the future husband's parents make the Wedding Vase.

When the vase has been made, the husband, along with his parents and all his relatives go to the bride's house. The bride brings out everything she will need to establish their new home together: clothing, utensils, mattress, moccasins, corn and any other homemaking essentials, including her white manta wedding dress.

The parents of both the bride and the groom give the young couple advice to help them have a happy and successful marriage.

Indian holy water is placed in the wedding vase, and the vase is turned around and given to the bride.

She drinks from one side of the vase, turns it around again, and gives it to the groom, who then drinks from the opposite side. This ceremony unites them as one.

The couple will treasure the Vase throughout their married life. Should one of them outlive the other, the remaining person will give the vase to a couple known to be living a happily married life.

The wedding vase is treasured and protected always-it is never broken, discarded or destroyed.

As told by Margaret Gutierrez, Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico.

Voolo-Hiaki Wedding Ceremony

Maria Florez de Amarillas, Jesus Cordova, Sarah Garcia

This is a description of a Yaqui Indian Wedding Ceremony.

The Pascolas dress in regular street clothes except for the tenevoim and the koyolim. The padrinos put the scarves and ribbons on the pascolas. The pascola, representing the bride wears a pink scarf and a pink ribbon on his hair,  which is tied in a topknot. The padrinos also put scarves and ribbons on the laveleo and apaleo, who are the musicians and wait at the groom's home. The bride's pascola is at the bride's home and the groom's pascola is at the groom's home.

The pascola, acting as if he is the bride, cries and wails like a young woman and carries on about having to leave her parent's home. He carries a basket with toiletries, as he walks with the wedding party to the groom's home.

The bride's padrinos are carrying bundles or baskets or food decorated with pink ribbons. When they arrive at the front of the groom's home, they place the food on a blanket, which has been placed in front of the patio cross. The patio  cross has been decorated with crepe paper flowers and ribbons. Most Yaqui homes contain a patio cross that is located in the front of the yard.

The food bundles and baskets from the bride's padrinos and family members are also decorated with pink ribbons. They contain tamales, bread, tortillas and sweet bread. They also have bucket of vannaim, the sweet pudding made from piloncillo.

The bride's family stands in front of the patio cross and the groom's family stands behind the patio cross. The food baskets and bundles are place on the blanket by both parties. The bride's family brings  a Maehto to speak for them. The groom's family has also brought a spokesperson with them.

The daughters in law that have married into the groom's family take the young bride and show her the patio. They tell her that this is the patio where she will sweep, they then take her to the house and show her where she will cook and wash dishes. At one point, the mother in-law leads her to the metate and corn supplies to show her where she will grind the corn. Then she is taken to a back room where the groom is waiting. They leave the bride alone with the groom.  The bride's family is then asked to sit down and eat. A plate of food is taken to the bride and groom who are still in the room. After everyone has eaten, the bride and groom are brought outside and the Maehto begins to counsel and advise them.

The pahko then begins and the pascolas play all afternoon, at times mimicking the newlyweds. The lavaleo and apaleo play Hamut Bwanim, Vino Huktia and Mamnia Saalim. (Women's Cry, Choke on Wine and Greens)



Maria Florez de Amarillas, Jesus Cordova, Sarah Garcia



My Big Fat NDN Wedding...



20 of the 'finer' points about an Indian wedding

1.    Nobody has invitations...only maps.

2.    Family orders the invitations 3 months in advance & mails them out a day before...

3.    An average of 12 people attend per invitation -- Indians never RSVP.

4.    No one goes to church for the wedding, but everyone goes to the reception.

5.    The first dance as man and wife is usually a Cumbia!

6.    Wedding guests are dressed in their best t-shirts that they got free from the latest tribal event.

7.    Most of the wedding gifts are wrapped in blue Wal-Mart bags.

8.    All the centerpieces are gone...and the reception has just started.

9.    Everyone's kids are running around like crazy & all you want to do is throw a bottle at them -- 

       and they're usually the bride and groom's kids!

10.    Meal includes kool-aid, beans and fry bread...

11.    People are taking food plates home... "for those backward Indians that didn't come."

12.    Half of the people at the reception have to leave together because they all rode in the back of 

        one big pick-up.

13.    People are carting out huge pieces of cake home...

14.    One of the relatives is drunk and trying to start a fight with the new in-laws......

15.    There are STILL people partying at the Reception the next morning, though the Band has left.

16.    There is always a strange person passed out in the yard the next morning that neither the bride 

        and groom know or even invited to the wedding.

17.    There's usually the one guy that stays in the car and drinks 'til he has the courage to join the 

        party -- by then he is blitzed and obnoxious!

18.    The keg always runs dry within the first hour of the reception.

19.    Not sure what to get the Bride and Groom; they've been shacked up for a while and already 

        have everything!

20.    The cops have to be called because the Bride and Groom get drunk and start fighting each 


Submitted by Jennifer Whitefeather


Take Your Power Back:

Money Saving Wedding Planner

Plan fast, elegant, inexpensive weddings

275 pages of power packed information

Click Here 


CP684 - Native American Courtship and Marriage Traditions

by Leslie Gourse

A specialist in music biographies and jazz histories, Gourse here sets off in a new direction with a treatment of love, courtship, marriage, and family traditions among several North American tribes, including the Hopi, Navajo, Iroquois, and Oglala Sioux. She describes old traditions and their evolution during modern times, and provides hints for brides and grooms who would like to incorporate these customs into their wedding ceremonies. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR.  Hippocrene Books, Inc. Soft Cover, 119 pp.   $14.95