In the spirit of the month of Thanksgiving, we will explore an American Indian nation and its wedding customs. The Cherokee Indian Nation has been regarded as one of the most socially advanced Native American tribes, since their first introduction to European settlers in the late 1600’s. Their culture is vibrant and deeply rooted in nature, customs, and beliefs. The perfect illustration of which is the Cherokee wedding, which we will explore in this post.
A Cherokee wedding ceremony is a beautiful event, and the ancient ceremonies may have differed from clan to clan. However, there are some common ritual elements shared within the Cherokee culture. For example, during the ceremony both bride and groom are covered in a blue blanket. This symbolizes their lives as separate entities, and then further through the ceremony, a priest or priestess removes each blanket and covers the couple with one white blanket, symbolizing their new life together. The couple would also drink out of a Wedding Vase, which had two openings for both the bride and groom to drink at the same time.
Before the custom of switching rings became the modern norm, the bride and groom would have traded food items. The groom would bring venison or other game to symbolize his capability to provide as a hunter. The bride would provide corn or another grain to show her ability to provide nourishment and careful attention to the household. This reflects the roles of Kanati (first man) and Selu (first woman).
The spot of the ceremony would be carefully chosen, and would endure an extensive blessing process that lasted for seven days. A sacred fire was built, where the priest/priestess would guide the bride and groom. They were blessed, as were all of the guests and participants in the ceremony. Songs would be sung, and because the Cherokee society clanship was matrilineal – both her mother and her eldest brother would represent the bride at the ceremony. The eldest brother has an important role in the future children’s’ lives for the new couple: the uncle in Cherokee culture guides the children in spiritual and religious teachings.
While certain aspects of wedding culture may no longer be observed in Cherokee traditions, there are some beautiful beliefs that are still incorporated into modern ceremonies. It is important to note that adding any amount of ancient tradition into a wedding ceremony or celebration is a beautiful and eye-opening experience for the bride, groom and guests as well.