Kiana Lodge Native American wedding

Celebrating their Native culture, Joe and Michelle were married in a blending of traditional Coast Salish and mainstream wedding ceremonies on May 25, 2013, at Kiana Lodge.

“We wanted to have a formal, classic wedding mixed with our traditions, adding the feel of a black-tie event,” says Michelle.

For Joe and Michelle, the setting was no small part of the ceremony. “Kiana Lodge is built upon what was the traditional land of my family,” explains Michelle. “To be able to get married in such a meaningful location just added to the magic of our wedding day.” To add to the significance, the Native artwork and carvings that decorated the buildings and grounds had been created by Michelle’s parents’ friend. “Including his work in our wedding pictures meant a lot to my parents,” remarks Michelle. “Honoring ancestors and honoring guests are very important traditions in our culture, and my family worked very hard to make certain that this happened during our ceremony and reception.”

Traditional native food, personal touches

“Our family loves good music and great food and we wanted to be sure both were a big part of our wedding and reception,” says Michelle. A feast of the foods traditionally eaten by the couple’s ancestors — all harvested or hunted by family friends — included clams, geoduck fritters, smoked salmon, roast elk, venison with blackberry sauce, turkey with rhubarb-raspberry compote, nettle soup, hazelnuts, wild rice and an assortment of vegetables. In addition to the wedding cake, guests were treated to Michelle’s mother’s homemade desserts, including sugar-free angel food cakes and cheesecakes, gluten-free chocolate mocha tortes, and chocolate-dipped strawberries. A family friend presented homemade blackberry pies.

The ceremony and ensuing celebration all went off without a hitch. To entertain children during the day, there was a kids’ table loaded with toys, coloring books and activities, plus a designated childcare provider, who looked after the children. “There was not one meltdown during the nine-hour day,” says Michelle.

DÉCOR: The red and black color scheme was a natural fit with the Native designs incorporated into their day — from the blanket patterns to the custom artwork on their wedding cake.

UNIQUE DETAILS:  The couple requested that the florist select flowers from the Pacific Northwest. A family friend made cedar-bark roses for boutonnieres. Sacred Water, a traditional drum group, performed before and after the ceremony.

TRADITIONAL GIVEAWAY: Following Native tradition, the bride’s family hosted a giveaway during the reception. “It’s a chance for the bride’s family to honor every guest for witnessing the wedding ceremony and to thank everyone for sharing the couple’s big day.” The giveaway lasted nearly two hours. The 250 guests received hand-mixed herbal teas and bath salts, homemade jam, handmade cedar roses, bundles of sweet grass and rolls of cedar bark for basket weaving, traditional baskets and carvings, artwork, jewelry, sage and canned salmon. The family also gave away hundreds of blankets, Pendleton blankets, scarves, shawls, beads, toys and household items. To carry the gifts home, guests were given a reusable shopping bag imprinted with the artwork created for the wedding cake.

ECO-FRIENDLY: Nearly all the food was harvested or hunted locally by family and friends. The couple did not use any disposable items. To reduce car travel, the ceremony and reception was held in the same location. Out-of-town guests were encouraged to stay at the nearest hotel, which provided shuttle service to Kiana Lodge. The rehearsal dinner was held at the hotel where everyone was staying. The favors and most giveaway items were handmade from local resources.

SPECIAL MOMENTS: One of the bride’s favorite moments during the reception was seeing her parents dance alongside her grandparents.

Michelle works in education, and Joe works in construction. They make their home in Bellingham, WA.

PHOTOS: Aubin Ahrens Photography

VENUE: Kiana Lodge
CAKE: Mike’s Amazing Cakes
FLORIST: Rented Elegance and Design

Click on a photo to enlarge.

Published on March 30, 2016.

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