First Nation wedding at beach

A room with a view – a Tofino wedding

The broken shells of the path crumble under our feet as we walk over it. It leads us, winding through this temporal rain forest. At our left, the ocean is luring with its distant thunder that is the breaking of the waves. The salty wind is making the leaves of the majestic trees rustle. Complemented with the singing of the seagulls, it is a perfect natural symphony to our family hike. I hold my husband’s hand as he carries our 1-year old in the back carrier and while my oldest son is running ahead of us, on the lookout for scavenger hunt.

As we pass a little bay, a low human voice hums through nature’s song. Like a two-part song, it sings contra-sono. Steadily, as a bass for the sea, the wind and the birds. We look down and see a group of people at the beach. Actually, there are two. On the right side, the center of the group is formed by a girl dressed in white, with ribbons in her hair, obscured from view with a blanket. The left side group is looking onto the water, where 3 canoes are laying in the water. Two boats harbour 3 men. In the third little boat a young man is sitting alone.

And then it hits me. It’s a wedding.

We pause to witness this ceremony. I feel a bit akward. A wedding is a public event, and at the same time o so private. I feel like I’m peeping at this intimate moment, from my high ground looking down. But I just can’t help myself and stop looking. It’s too enticing.

Then, in one of the canoes, an old man stands up and shouts over the roaring of the surf: “This is my son. He loves your daughter. He loves her mother, her sisters, her cousins. He wishes nothing but to love your daughter, to care and provide for her. He wants to give her the children she longs for and the wealth she deserves. My son wants to honor your daughter and her family, as long as he lives. He asks your permission to come ashore!” 

A moment of silence, full of tension between two families. The suspension is almost tangible. Then the father of the bride answers: “Come ashore! You are welcome.” Is it a sigh of relief or just the wind blowing? The canoes move to the beach. When the group sets foot on land, more honors are exchanged between the elders of the two families. The bride and groom are still playing a supporting role in this rite, patiently waiting for their turn.

It is obvious, how a First Nation wedding is more then a commitment of man and woman. How it involves their family, their tribes and their cultural history. Marriage as one of the many links in history. I like that thought. 

Marriage is underrated. Many couples decide not to marry, mainly because they feel it wouldn’t change their relationship. And although I respect their choice, I deeply feel that they’re wrong. I wished they could experience the magic of marriage. That they could feel how it is to be able to call each other husband and wife instead of that childish ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ or that cold ‘partner’. How it is to share a family name.

The commitment of marriage gave me the peace of mind I needed. No philosophical questions if this is really it. No wondering if the grass is greener or if there are other fish in the sea. Marriage killed the egomaniac in me, always wondering what I needed, wanted or deserved. Now that I’m married, I think first about what my family needs, what my husband wants and what my children deserve. And by putting them first, my husband and my sons give me what I want, what I need and deserve. 

At times when my toddler is having a nervous breakdown in the supermarket, my pre-teen ignores his chores or when it seems a lifetime ago that my husband and I shared some time with just the two of us, I take myself to that beach in Tofino again and remember:

Marriage is bliss.

Dit is een aangepaste vertaling van een artikel dat ik in 2013 in het Nederlands schreef. Het origineel kun je hier lezen.

8 thoughts on “A room with a view – a Tofino wedding

  1. As someone getting married soon, I loved this piece and could learn a lot from it. Thank you for taking the time to write and share this (and I had to remember a bit of my Dutch to navigate around your blog which was an added bonus for me)

  2. I thought this was excellent, very descriptive and took me to the scene. What a lovely type of ceremony you were fortunate to witness. I also found the link to your own views on marriage very well done and your views were refreshing in this day and age. One small pedantic thing though and it is an English weirdo, the phrasing of “The salty wind makes the leaves of the majestic trees rustling.” jarred with me, I think the rustling should be rustle?

  3. Your post caught my attention from beginning to end.
    It was easy to read and delightful, I enjoyed it really much.
    Being a pessimistic, I always saw marriage as being useless because I came to the conclusion that most people get married too quickly and end up divorcing because they become unfaithful not too long afterwards.. I gave up on hope but you were able to revive it!

    Keep up with the great work!

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