Last Tuesday Kendel and I were interviewing a woman who began talking about how she was going to a wedding on Saturday. Our faces lit up with curiosity and I think she noticed because she invited us to come! She arranged to pick us up on Saturday and off we went! She said we would go a little early to help out so even though the wedding was not supposed to start until 4 she picked us up at 2. We saw some cooking but it was mostly a lot waiting. We did get to meet some cool people though.
(from top to bottom, left to right)
1. The grandmother of the bride making the traditional corn mush for the wedding. She only spoke Navajo and kept talking to Kendel and I who do not speak Navajo. We just kept smiling and looking at eachother.
2. The corn mush is poured into a traditional wedding basket for the bride to carry in.
3. Kendel got to taste the mush. “It tasted kinda like grits,” she told me.
4. Ellenita told us to dress modestly and cover up so I bought a long skirt at goodwill the day before. Kendel is wearing a new skirt (and shirt) too. Don’t we look purdy?
5. We met a man named Nelson who is a Council Delegate for the Navajo Nation. He told us more traditional stories and beliefs in half an hour than we’ve heard from anyone the whole time we’ve been out here. He knows his stuff and was not shy about passing it down and sharing it. We asked if he would set up an interview with us at a later date and he agree. He received the necktie he is wearing from the groom’s family (who gives out gifts while the bride’s family cooks and hosts). He told me you must inhale a gift four times, then it is yours.
6. Ellenita, the woman who invited us is so cute and funny and she loves to talk! Thanks Ellenita!
7. A traditional wedding must take place in a traditional dirt floor, east facing hogan. We were early enough to see the builders put the roof on this one (well most of the roof anyways, I guess they’ll finish it later). This hogan will most likely become the new families home.
The waiting continued (Kendel and I joke about the lack of attention to time out here. No one is concerned with being on time or staying late and we have learned to be very flexible). The wedding finally began around 6:30pm.
1. The bride carries the wedding basket with the corn mush into the hogan where the groom and his family is waiting. She is followed by the medicine man carrying the traditional water jug (I love his facial expression in this picture, haha).
2. The couple exchanging rings. The wedding was much more casual than I would have thought and the ceremony is very short and to the point. At this point Elders were shouting out, “put the ring on her finger!” This concluded the ceremony and the Elders shouted, “kiss the bride!”
3. The couple eats the corn mush after the medicine man has cleansed their hands with the water and poured water on the mush from each of the cardinal directions. The groom’s family helped to eat all the mush (this takes place before the exchanging of rings).
4. Here the bride’s father thanked everyone for coming and talked for a bit (in Navajo).
5. The bride’s family brings in all the food for the groom’s family to help themselves to. The must take it all home or eat it (or share it, which they did. Thank goodness because I was hungry).
6. There is a lot of food, but it was all gone in the end.
7. The cake is brought in and cut and shared. The couple feeds eachother and toasts (with sprite since alcohol is illegal on the reservation).
Overall the wedding lasted about 4.5 hours since the Elders then all take turns talking and sharing advice for the young couple (who already have three children). Although most of it was in Navajo, there were some random english phrases thrown in. I heard “life is short” and “take is one day at a time.” Good advice no matter the occasion.
Around 11pm Kendel and I were falling asleep in the car waiting for Ellenita. We had a great time and were really honored to be there, but it was a long day for us. We’ll make sure we ask more specific questions about the length of things next time we get invited somewhere. Until then walk in beauty!