JOINING IN JOY | REFLECTIONS OF A NATIVE WEDDING CEREMONY IN COULEE DAM, WASHINGTON FROM YOUR CELEBRANT FOR LIFE AND PNW WEDDING OFFICIANT

Exchanging rings during an intimate Family Wedding at Coulee Dam, WA

A Wedding Officiant for All People

As a wedding officiant, it is one of the real pleasures of my job to become a chameleon for my couples. What do I mean by this? I mean that every couple- their history, customs, religion, culture, orientation -is different and unique, and should be honored. The uniqueness of their love is honored largely by their wedding officiant on their wedding or elopement day. 

Contact Chanelle about Officiating Your Ceremony. – pc: Roxanne Best

Your wedding officiant is more than just the person who helps you legalize your marriage. They are more than a moderator for a wedding ceremony. They are storytellers. They are given the great privilege of understanding what is important to a couple, where they came from, where they are going, and who they are, together and separate, in all aspects. 

Officiant for a Traditional Native Ceremony

I was honored to officiate my husband’s cousin’s wedding ceremony in Coulee Dam, Washington. Each couple that asks me to officiate their wedding honors me. This wedding was even more so, because it was family and also because I was asked to participate in a sacred, traditional, native joining ceremony. I have never witnessed this kind of ceremony before, let alone had a part to play in it. 

It was a bright, warm, sunny spring day – the equinox, actually. Brenda and Jason’s big moment was actually six years in the making. Children were outside in the front yard waiting, and adults were inside the house preparing food, arranging chairs, also waiting patiently. Soon enough, we heard the bell. The ringing bell says it is time! It’s time to come together. It’s time to begin. It’s time to join this couple and their families together.

Every Aspect was Sacred

Jason and Brenda honoring their children

As we gathered indoors, we moved to our separated seating areas: Women on the left. Men on the right. Every aspect of this ceremony was a tradition passed down. From an elder between the two seating areas praying as the ceremony commenced, to every song that was sung. After three songs, which initiated the ceremony, the wedding party began to enter.

First to enter was the groom, Jason,  dressed in his traditional wedding clothes. As he came forward toward the elder, he was escorted by his eldest son, Chris. They gracefully danced around the wedding blanket on the floor and took their places in front of where the women guests were seated. 

Next, wearing her beautiful, red traditional wedding dress, the bride, Brenda, entered with her eldest son, Jaymon and eldest daughter, Monica. The couple was then joined by their remaining five children. The elder offered prayer and songs and then called the elders of the two families forward to exchange gifts. 

This gift exchange is an acknowledgment that they all support the marriage of Jason and Brenda. In previous generations, they may have exchanged horses, but on this day, they exchanged beautiful Pendleton blankets and shawls chosen specifically for the occasion. 

Every Wedding I Officiate Makes Me Better at Living my Purpose

On a personal note, I can share that as I stood, watching, listening and taking part in the traditional joining ceremony and waiting for my part as the officiant, I felt wholly inadequate. I felt underdressed, and quite nervous. I so wanted to make sure Brenda and Jason’s wedding was all they hoped and dreamed it would be. They had waited six years and been through much alone and together.

With each couple, whose wedding I am honored to officiate, I spend time getting to know them and to learn more of their story. I learn about the details that most people don’t know: their dreams, their fears, their favorite things about each other and their frustrations. Then, we create their sacred ceremony. 

Every couple who works with me deserves their own version of a sacred ceremony. I spend time with them to learn what’s most important for them? For Brenda and Jason, it was always about their family and their children – all eight of them. Their lives revolve around them. Their ceremony should, therefore, include and honor their children and all children of the family. 

A beautiful, blended family

One more song, then onto the second part of the ceremony…my part. This included sharing their story, leading them through their vows to each other, to their children and finally, after six long years, pronouncing them legally married! Even at this moment, this brings tears to my eyes!

Even though this was the first wedding of this traditional background I had ever done, when it came time to do the work, I felt at ease and well capable. I have officiated more than a hundred weddings that have brought a couple’s unique journey to life, and honored them. This was no different! 

In my process, I take the time to deep dive into my couples’ stories. This allows me to connect, to envision, to fully comprehend, and embody. I may not have come from the same heritage or cultural experience as Brenda and Jason, but I was certainly able to learn, to listen, and to celebrate them and all that they are. After the ceremony and the vows were spoken, I watched Jason, Brenda and their guests as they took in the last of my storytelling and the sacred vows. Watching the love and joy fill the room filled me with so much gratitude for what I get to be a part of.

After the Vows were Spoken

After a blur of hugs, laughter, photos, and congratulations, the groom called everyone to the tables with the sacred bell. As their officiant, Brenda and Jason had me sitting at their left, in a place of honor. This gave me a chance to ask lots of questions, which Brenda kindly answered for me. I have to say, I  felt just like I did the first time I traveled to Europe in my 20’s. It’s so exciting to experience and admire traditions from other cultures. 

Once the guests were seated, a prayer was sung, the tables were set, water was poured and food was served. Once the food was placed on the tables, the daughters joined the family at the table, the groom again rang the bell and sang in prayer. He then explained what would happen next. He would call for the water, we would drink. He would call out the traditional foods, we would honor each and then we would eat what we needed to nourish ourselves. Food was passed around in a traditional manner, and then we were encouraged to join in feasting and speech-making!
 

Find a Wedding Officiant Who will Celebrate You

I could go on and on about how much it meant to me to be a part of this ceremony. To be embraced in such a sacred tradition, such a precious event, was truly a privilege. I aspire to learn and grow from every wedding officiating experience I have. What can I take from this experience into the next? What have I learned? What will I remember? I want to speak to any couple who has found their way here! If you have not yet found your wedding or elopement officiant, I encourage you to think about the following things:

What about your history, traditions, customs, culture, make you and your partner, together and individually unique? Is it important to you that these things be honored on your wedding day?

Do you dream of having a custom wedding ceremony written for you that honors the details and nuance of your story?

Imagine having a wedding officiant who creates a custom wedding ceremony that makes you laugh, cry, brings you down memory lane, and makes you feel completely understood. On that believes as strongly in the success of your marriage as they do your wedding day.

I would be honored to talk with you and answer any questions you may have as you journey forth in choosing an officiant and planning your elopement or wedding ceremony.  Please feel free to reach out!

Photo credit: Roxanne Best

About Chanelle:

Chanelle Carlin is your Celebrant for LifeTM. She is an ordained minister, professional wedding officiant, author, gratitude coach and owner of Chanelle Carlin Weddings, LLC. Chanelle believes that life and love should be celebrated every minute. She collaborates with couples who’ve found “The ONE” to create custom, memorable ceremonies for their intimate wedding or elopement in the naturally beautiful Pacific Northwest. She lives with her family in rural Okanogan County, Washington, USA and LOVES traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest to officiate weddings. You can visit Chanelle at www.chanellecarlin.com, on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.

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