For a Cherokee wedding, the bride wears a special style of dress called a “tear dress.” The groom wears a ribbon shirt and black slacks. They both wear moccasins. In lieu of rings, the bride and groom exchange gift baskets.
Cherokee Wedding Attire
The bride fashions her “tear dress” out of cotton or organza. Traditional Cherokee families typically did not have scissors. Thus, they made their dresses out of torn pieces of material. For a wedding dress, the Cherokees favored shades of white and ivory. Of course, upon her feet she wore moccasins, possibly made from white doeskin.
Her groom wore a red ribbon shirt. A ribbon shirt consists of a formal tunic decorated with ribbons in blue, red, white, and/or green. These ribbons formed a chevron pattern across the chest with loose ribbons hanging down on either side. He finished his wedding outfit with black slacks and moccasins.
Just before the Cherokee wedding ceremony, a family member draped blue blankets over the bride’s and groom’s shoulders. These blankets represented the shadow of sadness, weakness, and failures they lived under up to this point.
A Cherokee Gift Exchange
During a Cherokee wedding, the bride and groom do not traditionally exchange rings. Of course, modern influence has amended this custom. Therefore, many contemporary Cherokee couples do exchange wedding rings during their ceremony. They often choose turquoise for the men and opal for the women.
During a traditional ceremony, the bride and groom exchange baskets. The groom offered his bride a basket filled with meat and prepared skins. This served as his promise to clothe and feed her all the days of her life. By the same token, the bride offered her groom a basket filled with bread a corn, her promise to nurture and feed him.
Contemporary Cherokee Wedding Attire
Today’s Cherokee bride often chooses white cotton or organza decorated with lace or taffeta. These dresses are made in what we might call an old-fashioned prairie style. She wears doeskin moccasins in white or light brown.
Her wedding dress must be more elaborate than her daily wear dresses. In light of this, she might decorate her dress with leather fringe along the sleeves, the waist, and the hemline. This fringe can be mid-length, or it can hang all the way to the ground. She might also wear a native-style beaded necklace.
For the groom, ribbon shirts remain in fashion, as do black, white, or tan slacks and moccasins. He might also wear a suit with a leather vest or black jacket, but not a tuxedo. It remains customary for the couple to walk together toward the officiant wearing blue blankets on their shoulders.