• The Festival Celebrant

Blanket Ceremonies

Updated: Mar 4

The Native People of North America have developed a rich corpus of tradition involving the humble blanket. One of these is the ceremonial wrapping of guests of honour at important ceremonies and there are few more important ceremonies than a wedding!

The indigenous blankets were crafted from animal skins or textiles woven with plant fibres. When European traders arrived with woollen blankets, native people were quick to adopt and adapt them, adding embroidery and adornments and using them to create all manner of garments.

Bride and groom would arrive at their wedding wrapped in individual blankets signifying their separate status. During the ceremony these were put aside and the couple would be wrapped in a single large blanket signalling that they had become one.

If you chose to use a blanketing ceremony, you might want to follow the precedent outlined above. Or you could simplify the ceremony by just having a couple blanket.

Whichever way you go, think of the opportunities for symbolism! If you want to use individual blankets they might be personalised with colours, patterns or other decorations that represent your singleton self. Your couple blanket might then be crafted to incorporate and blend these decorations to symbolise your union. Or you might save all the decoration and symbolism for your couple blanket and keep the others plain.

I personally love the idea of a visually and texturally sumptuous couple blanket. You might want to choose a beautiful, ready-made textile. Or, if there’s time, how about inviting your families and friends to contribute fragments of cloth (preferably with some significance to them) to the creation of a bespoke patchwork blanket for you ceremony? If this seems too daunting, why not buy a good quality plain textile and ask your friends and family to contribute charms, trinkets and other personal tokens to attach to it? If you’re arty you could even decorate it yourself with fabric paints.

At your ceremony, your best man and head bridesmaid (or other VIP guests) can be appointed blanket bearers. You might want to showcase it as part of the ceremony, presenting it to your guests and explaining its symbols and significance. And when the moment arrives you’ll be wrapped in your beautiful wedding blanket and you’ll exchange your pledges/vows/aspirations.

And what about afterwards?

You could give your blanket pride of place in your home, or pack it carefully away as an heirloom to be used by future generations (You could start your own family tradition). Or you could do the opposite: divide the blanket up and gift a piece to each guest (keeping a couple of significant pieces for yourselves of course!). Some might say this sends out the wrong signal, fragmenting what is meant to be a symbol of unity. But it might also be an acknowledgment that marriage exists in the context of a community of families and friends. You might decide that gifting a fragment of the symbol of your union to your guests is a powerful gesture of trust, faith and respect in their future support and goodwill.

And Blanket Ceremonies are not only for couple celebrations. In Native American culture they’re used in investiture ceremonies for newly elected tribal officials or to honour outstanding individuals, so you might want to think about one in the context a Coming-out, Re-birthing or Coming of Age ceremony.

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