In the wedding tradition of Navajo Native Americans, there were several interesting and very important issues to be followed. Today, most of them are left in the past, so when a modern Native American couple gets married – even if it’s a traditional wedding ceremony – these rules are mostly left out, while the spiritual rituals and traditional activities are still performed. Such things as arranged marriages or marriages at a very young age, etc rarely occur these days. Centuries ago, there was a reason for these wedding traditions, but we can easily go without them now.
So, what wedding traditions were important for Navajo people in the past? And which of them are still being followed?
#1 Arranged marriages
Many Native American tribes traditionally had the arranged marriages. The couples were formed by the parents, often when the future bride and groom were still kids. Navajo tribes had arranged marriages as well. Why was this wedding tradition common? Because people mostly lived in clans, the contacts of young girls with boys from other communities were somewhat limited, so it was hard for young people to find a loved one not related to them by blood. To avoid incest, the tribes had to make some effort. Today, a lot of people meet their future spouses in college or university, at work (especially if they find a job in another city or even state), etc. Centuries ago, this wasn’t possible because people mostly stayed in one place for their whole life. That’s why a tradition of arranged marriages appeared, when different clans met and made arrangements to wed their young ones to interchange the blood and genes.
#2 No courtship
As most weddings were arranged, there was no courtship between the boys and girls before the wedding. Very often, they didn’t even see each other before the big day. So, they didn’t date, didn’t meet, and, of course, didn’t have any intimate relationships before the wedding. Courtship was a luxury young Navajo didn’t have. The needs of a clan in offspring were more important than personal relationships between brides and grooms.
#3 Grooms moved to their brides’ home
While in many Arab and African societies women move to their husband’s home after the wedding, in Native American communities it was vice versa. Usually, the groom followed his bride and became a new member of her clan, no matter if that was another tribe or region or even state. And in the Native American culture, people were very protective of their in-laws, they never abused or humiliated or even talked bad of their new sons-in-law or daughters-in-law and didn’t let other people in the clan do so – this was an unwritten law. And when clans arranged marriages between their youth, they could be sure that those boys and girls wouldn’t be hurt in the new clan. A lot of modern newlyweds can only dream about such good and respectful relationships with their new parents-in-law.
#4 Anyone could perform wedding ceremony
Among Navajo Native Americans, practically any person can perform a wedding ceremony. You don’t need a Medicine Man, shaman, or clan chief to be the officiant. It can be a male relative or any man you want – traditionally, it is preferable that a wedding ceremony is performed by a man. But if there is no man available, a woman can also officiate a wedding.
#5 No divorce but one option was available
In the Navajo culture, there were no divorces permitted. But there was one situation when women could chase away their husbands. If a man didn’t care enough to teach his children the spiritual knowledge they needed to know, his wife could banish him from their home. She would just put his saddle and some of his belongings outside of the house to let him know that he isn’t welcome there anymore. The husband could try to get her trust back by working harder on teaching his kids. If he changed and became more capable of upbringing their children, the wife could take him back. This is how important spiritual knowledge was to Native Americans!