Old Cree Marriage Ceremony
As Told by the Late Mary Diamond

Before Anglican ministers arrived, weddings were quite different. There were no engagements and no wedding ceremonies at all. Usually the fathers of the bride and groom made the arrangements. Beavers would also be given to the groom's family as part of the marriage arrangement between the two fathers who were arranging the marriage. The new bride would then clean the 7 beavers with some help from her mother. The meat would then be cooked for the wedding feast if there was one. When there was no celebration the newly weds just went off by themselves to live off the land for the winter season. Marriages were mainly arranged during the summertime when families would be closer together.

Long, long ago, there was no church and Cree people had a different way of getting married. When a man wanted a wife , he would ask the father of the young woman whom he wanted to marry. If the father agreed, he would tell his daughter to pack her things and go to her man to live with him. That way, people knew they were a married couple.

Sometimes, a man would ask a young woman's father for her hand. If the father said ‘Yes', the groom would say, "Bring your daughter down to the river bank when I am ready to go to the bush". When the man was ready to go trapping and his canoe loaded with his winter supplies, he would send for the young woman. If the father decided he'd still say ‘yes', he and his wife would take their daughter down the river. At the riverbank, the newly wedded woman would say ‘Goodbye' to her parents. The groom would also say goodbye to his new mother and father-in-law. Finally, the newly wedded couple would leave for the winter and not return until late spring the next year.

Often, after a couple was married a feast would be held in their honor. If the groom and the bride's father had any meat, it would be prepared for the feast. The Chief of the village or the oldest person in the village, would be in charge. The feast was intended to help the groom's hunting luck. Also with the chief's presence at a wedding feast, it would signify his blessing upon the newly wed couple for a happy life together. People who came to that feast shared in the hope that the groom would have good hunting luck. As soon as the feast was over, the floor would be cleared for a dance.

Long ago, dances would last up to the late afternoon after all night celebration. The dance would begin with a ribbon being tied to the fiddler, which was the only kind of music in town at the time. The ribbon was to be removed by the fiddler only, when the dance would be over. The dance did not end until the bride and the groom left for the night. When the wedded couple did leave, the fiddler would then put his fiddle away. It was considered bad luck for anyone but the fiddler to open the case after the fiddle had been put away. When the bride and groom went home, they would usually stay in the home of the bride's family. Sometime later, if they wished, they would stay with the groom's family or on their own. But today with churches and ministers in the community, getting married is different than it once was.

Long ago, when the fathers wanted their son or daughter to get married they would choose who they wanted their children to marry. There's a story about a man seeing a girl and his father told him that he was going to marry another girl whom his father had chosen for him. When the husband-to-be told his girlfriend that his father wanted him to marry someone else, his girlfriend told him that she loved him and she cried. The son had no choice but to marry the other woman. That was how marriage used to be in the old days when it was arranged by the fathers.

Yet today it's really different when a man wants to be married to a woman. They get to choose who they wish to marry. In the early days, when a couple was getting married they didn't have many bridesmaids or groomsmen and no flower-girl or ring boy either. They would only have a bridesmaid and a groomsman. When people get married today sometimes they have 4, 5 or 6 even 8 bridesmaids and groomsmen or 2 flower-girls and a ring boy. Atfer to the wedding ceremony a feast is held and after the feast they have a dance, no fiddle player, just a tape with a fiddle music.

Years ago, when a woman wanted to get married she didn't care how young she was. I heard that one lady was 14 years old when she was wedded to a man about 20-25 yrs old. Today, when people get married, when they're about 19-25 yrs old they sometimes think that they're still too young to get married. It's really different these days. Some people live with each other and have kids but they don't get married.