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The Offbeat Bride: Alicia, herbalist

Her offbeat partner: Jonah, recording engineer

Date and location of wedding: A.M (MAC) Cuddy Garden, Strathroy, Ontario, Canada — June 16, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Our ceremony was a traditional Ojibwa wedding, performed by an Ojibwa elder. Ojibwa is an eastern Canadian Native American tribe which is Jonah's ancestry. Our wedding was held outdoors from ceremony to pictures to dinner to reception. The reception was held at night under a patch of trees. We danced on a grass dance floor.

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The wedding was held in a botanical gardens/horse farm run by Fanshawe College with a heritage house on site for the bathrooms. We had a live band with a set list of reggae, Neil Young, Sublime, and other rock music. It was a mix of acoustic and electric instrumentals. We made our bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpieces, and cupcakes ourselves. We also got a lot of our supplies and decor from thrift stores. In fact, my dress was a discounted find that we reconstructed to incorporate some of my aunt's wedding dress.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
Our Ojibwa ceremony consisted of the following:

  • Smudging with sage and cedar
  • Fathers and son smoking a tobacco pipe
  • Prayer
  • Saying our vows with eagle feathers in our left hands
  • Tying a piece of our hair together and burying it in a cedar box
  • Exchanging of the rings and the kiss
  • Gifting all witnesses who partook in the ceremony
  • A post-ceremony sweat lodge ceremony to bind our spirits together

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The nature-based Ojibwa was a very personal and spiritual experience. These traditions are something we are both trying to practice and learn together, so our ceremony brought a lot of that together.

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Our biggest challenge:
Working with a small budget was definitely a challenge. We had to find a nice outdoor location with electricity access for under $1000. Thankfully, we found the gardens that worked out well. The centerpieces were also pretty eclectic and made up of thrift store finds, which saved money. Plus, we planned everything in just two months!

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My favorite moment:
Dancing at night to live music and singing with the band to our favorite bands was really amazing. I loved twirling around with all the children. Celebrating with family and friends is so important and not practiced enough. We really enjoyed it.

We also loved running with the horses in the stables located behind the reception area.

My funniest moment:
Trying to speak my vows out loud from memory was funny. I ended up reading them off of the paper located in my bra. And then Jonah's ring wouldn't go on and I had to force it!

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Comments on Alicia & Jonah’s nature-focused Native American wedding

  1. I think this is the most amazing wedding I’ve ever seen. So much joy. So much spirituality. So much nature. LOVE.

    • MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY! The way he looks at her… this was just all around a GORGEOUS wedding full of love 🙂 #inspired

  2. The bride has such beautiful eyes! And what a handsome groom, too. Lovely wedding!

    • One of the first things I thought while looking at the pictures was, “What stunning green eyes she has!” The second thing was, “. . . and she nabbed her a hottie! You go, girl!”

  3. Is it just me or did anyone else think that the grooms hair was fabulous?! I have to say I’ve never been too fond of dreads in a wedding, but the way his were made him look quite dapper! And adding those feathers in throughout the women’s hair – ugh I love it!

    My grandmother was Native American and the soft nature theme of this beautiful wedding really makes me think of her. They did a fantastic job and it looked like they all had an amazing time!

  4. This wedding was beyond incredible. The traditional customs that they did were just beautiful and amazing. The look and feel of this wedding was so welcoming and inviting.

  5. What a beautiful atmosphere – the vision and intentions behind the choices really shine through in every element! Great blend of modern elegance, carefully thrifty aspects, and ancient profundity. 😀
    Congratulations and blessings on your journey!

  6. A beautiful couple and a beautiful wedding. I love the groomsmen’s outfits, coordinated but not “matchy”.

  7. This wedding seems so personal & meaningful. The photos & outfits are gorgeous (as is the groom). Congratulations on a beautiful wedding and wishing you a beautiful marriage!

  8. Gorgeous couple!! Such a unique wedding, that I can tell is so clearly them. I love the native American heritage that went into it.

  9. What a breathtaking event! I love every aspect of it, and I wish them all the best.

  10. OMG, they are two of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen! The wedding sounds amazing and what a lovely way to start married life! Slainté!

  11. Beautiful! One thing bugged me though….it’s not “Native-American” if it’s a Canadian First Nation.

    • Hi Melissa! Offbeat Empire copyeditor (and fellow Canuck) here. That raised a flag to me too as I have been taught that, as well. However, it was the bride’s submission that used “Native American,” and it isn’t our place to change that. If the couple would like me to change it, I’m happy to do it. But as it stands, we will leave it as it was when the couple submitted it to us.

      • Fair enough! Her culture, her prerogative. Maybe the groom is from the US. It just stuck out like a sore thumb and seemed very US-centric.

        • Actually, the author of the post writes: “Our ceremony was a traditional Ojibwa wedding, performed by an Ojibwa elder. Ojibwa is an eastern Canadian Native American tribe which is Jonah’s ancestry.”

          Incidentally, as the very Canadian copyeditor of every post on the Offbeat Empire, rest assured that I am fighting the good fight to avoid US-centric language.

          • Perhaps the author of the post opted for the use of “Native American” because she or he was considering their potential audience and wanted the greater reach. I’m Canadian as well, and found the use of this term jarring, but it is up to them and I am sure no offense was meant.

        • The Ojibwa nation actually encompasses parts of eastern Canada AND the northern United States.

          I don’t personally feel as though calling them “Native Americans” is US centric simply because they are one of the largest groups of First Nations people in the North American continent. Unless I missed something and Canada is no longer part of North America ;P

          • Thank you for saying this. I actually came back to comment on this after having the original comment weighing on my mind all day. We are talking distracting-from-work weighty thoughts, because I *am* part Native American, and also happen to be a born citizen of the United States of America.

            What makes USA-centric language so insidious is that it has managed to cause others to think that any time the word “America” is used, it is a direct reference to the USA. There are two continents with the name “America”, both with rich history of both native peoples and colonization. We can roll the colonization of native lands in here, since that is truly the beginning of my issue:

            The Native Americans are people from both North America and South America who were living in permanent civilizations well before the colonization of their lands by European settlers. These people are native to the Americas, the continents, because of their history. They predate all national borders on both continents, including that of the USA and Canada.

            By assuming that people native to the Canadian side of the border are not Native Americans, we give the white settlers who created the boundaries of the United States of America and Canada, through treaties which were largely detrimental to the native peoples affected, the right of history and name. Those people were not Native Americans. They were French, Spanish, Portuguese, Scottish, English, Welsh, Irish, German, or hailed from the Scandinavian countries. They do not get to create a border which then defines a people who were here long before their boats and gunpowder, before the murder of innocent people and taking of their lands.

            Native Americans share a history of amazing cultures, separated by space and tribe, but woven together by a shared continent of origin and the story of how it came to be legally recognized as the countries it is today- and how that ended tragically for almost every tribe within its shores.

            So, please, let us all be Native Americans. Our history on this continent is all some tribes have left.

          • I think those are very good points! As a European, I didn’t read this as US-centric, since the article did mention the Canadian region.
            Native American to me just means the original inhabitants of the American continent(s), like Destiny said. Before reading these comments I had honestly never heard of the term ‘Canadian First Nation’.
            Also… I just noticed this post is 2yrs old, but I still want to add my comment 🙂

          • many, many years ago, there was NO boundary lines as today – the Border crossing….so we were not called U.S. or Canadian aboriginal people. It was the government of the day, if you will, that titled us,

          • This is also for the comments below, but native American is still a name given to first nations people by colonizers.. in Canada they call themselves first nations.. the first nations of turtle Island. And that should be respected.. instead of others telling them what they should call themselves, wether we are also indigneous or settlers.. if you call yourself native American, that’s your prerogative.. but thats not the general term of choice in Canada and should be respected

  12. I love the sweat lodge after the ceremony idea! That never would’ve occurred to me.

  13. That groomsmen shot! I want to watch a movie with those guys as the main cast, they look badass. Very pretty wedding, gorgeous photography!

  14. Hey offbeat bride, is there any way that you could pass on my contact info to the couple or give me theirs please? I live not too far away from where they had their ceremony and am trying to work with my fiancé to combine my United/Anglican faith with his Ojibwe traditions. Problem is that he himself didn’t pay attention as a kid to marriage traditions and isn’t too sure who to ask about them now. I was pleasantly surprised to find this article, the wedding looks great!

    • You could speak with someone at the tribal communications/administration office closest to you and they should be able to give you information on who to speak with that can perform marriage ceremonies.

      • Thanks 🙂 Without a car, it’s impossible for us to get out to his reserve but we can probably just find a phone number…

        • Many tribes now have websites and things to get in touch with someone in administration. At the very least they definitely have a phone number you can call.

  15. What a stunning wedding! I love every single detail. The beautiful couple look so in love and wow, the groom is gorgeous!

  16. I do not follow traditional world religions, and love the natural world, so I was searching for something very spiritual to tie the knot with my beau. Neither of us are First Nations, but the deep love of living things and the life force in nature is something that we both genuinely love. My ideas aside, I have to say how incredibly beautiful all of the pictures of the wedding were. The bride and groom really looked like they were suffused with love! The bride was, in a word, beautiful! The groom is very cute and they make a fantastically adorable couple! May they be very blessed.

  17. I love this! The look and feel, the way they clearly love each other, … And her hair! I’m stealing the little braids idea! I already had a similar idea in my head, but now I’ve finally found an actual picture 😀

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