A Hopi Bride. — Photo by Colton
The Hopi Native girl, after undergoing important rites of adolescence, (usually between the age of 16 and 20) is ready to receive suitors. In former days it was customary to give an informal picnic on the day following an important ritual. If a girl had decided on a youth as a future mate, she would extend to him an invitation to accompany her and would present him with a loaf of qomi, a bread made of sweet cornmeal in lieu of somiviki (maiden’s cake). Since this invitation was tantamount to being engaged, boys would only accept the invitation from girls they were willing to marry. A Hopi young man would propose to a maiden by preparing a bundle of fine clothing and white buckskin moccasins. He would leave the bundle at her doorstep and if she accepted it, she accepted him as her future husband.
Approving the Marriage
If the prospective Hopi wedding couple expected the marriage to be sanctioned by society, there were several restrictions which must be followed. No marriage was allowed within the nuclear family or to someone who was previously married. Once the decision to marry is made by the young couple, the boy goes, after supper, to the girl’s home and states his intentions to the girl’s parents. If approved, he is instructed to return to his home and inform his parents. The girl will grind cornmeal or make bread and take it to the home of her prospective groom. If the mother accepts it, the wedding plans move forward.
Hopi Wedding Preparations
The bride returns home to grind more cornmeal, and the groom fetches water and chops wood for his mother. On the evening when these chores are completed, the bride dresses in her manta beads and her wedding blanket. She, with the boy, walk barefoot to his house. She presents the cornmeal to his mother and prepares for a three day stay at his home. For three days prior to the wedding, the bride will rise and grind cornmeal for her mother-in-law. During this period, the groom’s paternal aunts visit and “attack” the bride with mud. Her future mother-in-law steps in to protect her.
Consummation of The Marriage
On the morning of the wedding the bride’s female relatives brought to the groom’s mother’s home, the ground corn and piki bread that the bride had prepared. The females then washed the hair of the engaged couple in a single basin. The hair of the wedding couple was then entwined to signify their lifelong union. With hair still interwoven the wedding couple walk to the edge of the mesa to witness and pray to the rising sun.
Hopi Wedding Attire
They remain at the girl’s home until her wedding garment is complete. The garments are woven by the groom and any men in the village who wish to participate. The garments consist of a large belt, two all-white wedding robes, a white wedding robe with red stripes at top and bottom, white buckskin leggings and moccasins, a string for tying the hair, and a reed mat in which to wrap the outfit. (This outfit also will serve as a shroud, since these garments will be necessary for the trip through the underworld).
Conclusion of Hopi Ceremony
In about two weeks, she will dress in her wedding garments and return to her home where she is received by her mother and relatives. The groom’s relatives accompany her and an exchange of gifts are made. During that evening, the groom comes and spends the night at his mother-in-law’s. The next day he fetches wood for her, and from then on is a permanent resident in her house.