The Wampanoag people, being Native American, have a lot of nice wedding traditions. All Native Americans are rather spiritual people, their rituals (not only wedding rituals but any other ceremonial activities) are deeply meaningful and symbolic. It’s fun to compare modern Western-style wedding traditions and centuries-old Wampanoag wedding traditions. Sometimes, they’re even the opposite.
The Wampanoag (Wôpanâak) people are a Native American ethnic group. In the 17th century, they lived in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Today, there are only around 2 500 Wampanoags in the US.
The 17th century was a hard time for the Wampanoag people. There were multiple wars with white settlers, epidemics (some of the diseases were brought by the colonists), slave trade (colonists often sold their captives as slaves), and so on. But still, this ethnic group survived and continued to preserve their old traditions.
Of course, modern Wampanoag wedding traditions may differ from those wedding rituals performed in the 1600s. But here’s what we were able to find out about the 17th-century Wampanoag wedding traditions.
Marriages for the Wampanoags were sacred, they created a union between a man and a woman for life.
It’s interesting that the Wampanoag lifestyle was matrilineal – the kinship was traced through the female line. So, when a couple got married, the groom moved to the bride’s family. Whenever that was – even when she was from another region or state or another ethnic group. The man always followed his new wife to her community.
If to talk about the wedding day, all of the friends and family of both the bride and the groom would come together to celebrate. They sat in a circle. And the bride would perform a specific ritual wedding dance. She would wear her traditional blanket on top of the wedding attire and dance, opening up her blanket in turn for her groom and for her family. This symbolizes her devotion to both her new family (a husband) and her relatives, she won’t leave out any of them, she will love and care about her tribe and her new family equally. At the end of the dance, she would lay her blanket in front of her groom and they would wrap it around both of them and walk in a circle to show that they’re together for the rest of their lives and will share everything.
There was one particular Wampanoag wedding tradition that is the opposite of our modern Western-style marriage rituals. They gave wedding favors instead of receiving wedding gifts. So, when you were attending a Wampanoag wedding, you didn’t have to bring a gift, rather you would get something from the couple, some handmade item to remember the wedding. It’s really generous. And the bride and groom would spend weeks or even months preparing all these presents for their wedding guests.