First Nations wedding ceremonies vary from tribe to tribe – from formal to informal – but many of the traditions remain the same.
Understanding the People
Most First Nations people believe there is a Great Spirit in the universe. This spirit is the source of all life and is embodied in everything. The earth is the Mother of all spirits. The First Nations traditions and culture are greatly influenced by nature.
Here are a few common wedding traditions:
- Pipe Carrier (officiate) determines the responsibilities the couple must perform.
- The bride and groom choose four sponsors. Sponsors – Elders who are well respected and give marital and spiritual guidance to the couple throughout their lives.
- Everyone is invited by word of mouth.
- Bride’s family must make handmade gifts for guests. Gift depends on their talents.
- Ceremonies are preferably outside.
- Water is used as a symbol of purification and cleansing. The bride and groom have a ceremonial washing of hands to wash away past evils and memories of past loves.
- Their commitment is to the Creator. There’s no divorce; if they separate they are still one in the eyes of the Great Spirit.
- Each person makes a declaration they choose to be known as husband and wife, then they smoke from the pipe.
- At the ceremony, the sponsors make a commitment to help the couple.
- The bride and groom add rabbit leathers and personal adornments to their traditional skinned attire.
- The bride will wash herself in a body of water (lake, river, ocean, orpond) the morning of her union in order to be blessed by the spirit of the Earth.
- The food feasted on is indigenous to the location; squirrel, venison, bison, beaver, squash, beans, maize, berries and other fruit.
- The food is blessed symbolizing a happy life together.
- Music is often played by the men. Instruments are water drums, gourd rattles, flutes and whistles.
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