Cherokee Registry

Cherokee Weddings

It has been very common for over 150 years for people to have both a state wedding and a Cherokee wedding. People who search their family tree for their ancestry and marriages of their ancestors often find both documents for a civil and a Cherokee wedding. The bride may want to consider wearing a "tear dress" for your Cherokee wedding. You will find these available (hand made) online.

The Cherokee Nation has a marriage law, and Cherokee couples are allowed to marry under this law instead of the State marriage laws. This is because Cherokee Nation is a sovereign government. The couple is not required to obtain a license; however, the person(s) conducting the ceremony must be licensed by the Cherokee Nation in order to do so.

The religious leader will need to contact the Cherokee Nation District Court (918-458-9440) to obtain the required form, complete it, and send it in to the Cherokee Nation court clerk. IMPORTANT: THIS HAS TO BE DONE 30 DAYS BEFORE THE MARRIAGE! If there are no objections (there usually isn't), the court clerk will prepare a certificate. This paper shows that the couple were indeed married in a ceremony by a religious or spiritual leader licensed to do so. You must be married within the fourteen county jurisdictional area of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. Only one of you have to be Cherokee to be married this way. The certificate is then returned to the Cherokee Nation District Court after all parties have signed it, and filed in the official records. This is normally done after the ceremony.

There is a lot of false information on the web regarding Cherokee culture. The authentic information below is from the Cherokee Nation.

The Cherokee wedding ceremony is a very beautiful event, whether it is the old fashoned, or 'ancient' ceremony or a modern one. The original ceremony differed from clan to clan and community to community, but basically used the same ritual elements.

Cherokee National Treasure Tonia Weavel with tear dresses. The Cherokee tear dress is the official tribal dress for women of the Cherokee Nation by proclamation of the Tribal Council.

Because clanship is matrilineal in the Cherokee society, it is forbidden to marry within one's own clan. Because the woman holds the family clan, she is represented at the ceremony by both her mother (or clan mother) and oldest brother. The brother stands with her as his vow to take the responsibility of teaching the children in spiritual and religious matters, as that is the traditional role of the uncle (e-du-tsi).

In ancient times, they would meet at the center of the townhouse, and the groom gave the bride a ham of venison while she gave an ear of corn to him, then the wedding party danced and feasted for hours on end. Venison symbolized his intention to keep meat in the household and her corn symbolized her willing to be a good Cherokee housewife. The groom is accompanied by his mother.

After the sacred spot for the ceremony has been blessed for seven consecituve days, it is time for the ceremony. The bride and groom approach the sacred fire, and are blessed by the priest and/or priestess. All participants of the wedding, including guests are also blessed. Songs are sung in Cherokee, and those conducting the ceremony bless the couple. Both the Bride and Groom are covered in a blue blanket. At the right point of the ceremony, the priest or priestess removes each blue blanket, and covers the couple together with one white blanket, indicating the beginning of their new life together.

Instead of exchanging rings, in the old times the couple exchanged food. The groom brought ham of venison, or some other meat, to indicate his intention to provide for the household. The bride provided corn, or beanbread to symbolize her willingness to care for and provide nourishment for her household. This is interesting when noting that when a baby is born, the traditional question is "Is it a bow, or a sifter?". Even at birth, the male is associated with hunting and providing, and the female with nourishing and giving life.

The gifts of meat and corn also honor the fact that traditionally, Cherokee men hunted for the household, while women tended the farms. It also reflects the roles of Kanati (first man) and Selu (first woman).

The couple drank together from a Cherokee Wedding Vase. The vessell held one drink, but had two openings for the couple to drink from at the same time. Following the ceremony, the town, community or clans provided a wedding feast, and the dancing and celebrating often times continued all night. Today, some Cherokee traditionalists still observe portions of these wedding rituals. The vows of today's ceremony reflect the Cherokee culture and belief system, but are in other ways similar to wedding ceremonies of other cultures and denominations.