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.
The couple may be required to perform certain responsibilities in preparation for their wedding. These responsibilities are determined by the officiant. In addition, the wedding couple must choose sponsors. The wedding couple has four sponsors. Sponsors are older, well respected persons chosen by the wedding couple. 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.
The 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 officiant, 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 officiant. At the ceremony, the sponsors make a commitment to help the couple.
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.
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 officiant will eat first, then the bride, groom, sponsors, and other guests. None of the food is wasted. All the food is either eaten or given away to the Elders.
In preparation for the Giveaway, the future wedding couple make (or buy) hundreds of gifts. A gift will be given to each person attending the celebration. The type of gifts is dependent upon the talent and financial ability of the couple.