Manataka American Indian Council










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Wedding Ceremony



If you would like your wedding ceremony officiated by a licensed American Indian Spiritual Elder

Fill out this questionnaire.  You should know a firm date and location before starting this form.





*Denotes Required Fields

*  Bride Full Name:

* Groom Full Name:

*  Address:

* Address:

*  City: * City:
*  State/ Prov: * State/ Prov:
* Zip Code: * Zip Code:
Country: Country:
*  Home Phone:   * Home Phone:
* Email Address:   * Email Address:  
Race/Tribe: Race/Tribe:
Religion: Religion:
* Age:   * Age:
*  Date of Birth:   * Date of Birth:
Place of Birth: Place of Birth:
*  Ceremony Date:    * Arrival Date:
* Ceremony Location:


Departure Date:
Motel/Hotel Lodging Required?

Yes     No 

Number in party?
Need Professional Photographer?

Yes     No

How Many Rooms?
Who Will Officiate Ceremonies? Who Will Counsel You?
Drummers and singers Required

Yes    No

NPS Special Use Permit approved?

Yes    No    If yes, email a copy.

Traditional Blanket Ceremony?

Yes    No See Blanket Ceremony

Wedding Vase Ceremony?

Yes    No  See Vase Ceremony

Will you compose wedding vows? Yes    No Seven Steps Ceremony? Yes    No  See 7 Steps Ceremony
Do you want the Sacred Fire Ceremony  

Yes    No See Fire Ceremony

Will Wedding Baskets be exchanged?

Yes    No  See Baskets Ceremony

Will wedding rings be exchanged? Yes    No Are you a Manataka Member?  Yes    No



What do you envision your wedding to be like?




MAIC does not arrange transportation and wedding services such as catering, floral, wedding attire rentals, printing, media announcements, or honeymoon.  MAIC arranges ceremony officials and witnesses at no fee.  Your personal wedding counselor will contact you about the details of the most important day in your life. 

Elders do not charge for ceremonies.  It is acceptable to make a contribution to MAIC for its volunteer services, however, it is not required.  Hand-made gifts for your officiating elder is always appreciated.





Ceremonies on the Sacred Manataka Mountain:

No permit is required.  Good walking shoes are required and most areas are not accessible by a wheelchair.  15 minutes brisk walking distance.


Ceremonies may be performed almost anywhere you choose. 


Ceremonies at the National Park Fire Circle or Amphitheater:

These locations are recommended only for large wedding parties, however, It is not required for the ceremony to take place at either of these locations. 


The National Park Service requires a Special Use Permit to be completed in advance of the planned date.  A non-refundable application fee applies ranging from $50 for a two-hour event to $100 for a four-hour event.  Call the National Park Service and send the application and the fee early to reserve a date and time.  The fee only applies to the ceremony only and does not cover campsite fees.  There will be an additional fee if electricity is required.  Call Hot Springs National Park at 501-623-2824.  You may print off a copy of the permit application and send it to the address shown on the application.  MAIC cannot perform this task for you.  NPS Special Use Permit


Note: The current Hot Springs National Park Superintendent discourages American Indian religious ceremonies.  Some services are not available inside the boundaries of the National Park.  No special use permits required outside the boundaries of the National Park.


Lodging: Motels, hotels, condos, lake cabins are available and prices vary. Call the Hot Springs Visitors and Convention Bureau 800-543-2284  for a visitor packet or log on to


Photographer:  You are responsible for finalizing the arrangements and payment for this service.  The best way is to have a friend or relative take pictures.









Manataka Elders are licensed to perform ceremonies in all states and some foreign countries.  Travel, lodging and food expense is the responsibility of the wedding party.  It is customary for the officiating elder to require the services of one or two assistants.   


Music Performers / Ceremonial Assistants:
Two ceremonial assistants accompany the Spiritual Elder and double as drummers/singers. 

Transportation / Lodging / Food:   We ask the wedding party to cover these costs.  We require transportation and lodging confirmation numbers and details to be emailed before we can confirm the date for you.  


Air Transportation:    One disabled and two regular adult roundtrip tickets from Hot Springs, AR

Ground Transportation:    A premium car large enough to hold three people, drums, a large amount of ceremonial items and luggage is needed.

Lodging:  Only one room with two-double beds is needed.  Staying in a private home is acceptable.    


Deposits:  Go to to submit deposits for transportation, lodging and food. Scroll down to the Wedding Deposit payment button and complete the simple form. 








Blanket Ceremony:    If you decide to perform the Blanket Ceremony, you will need two blue blankets (not cut from the same cloth) and one white blanket.  Blankets can be Indian-made or manufactured. 
Wedding Vase:    An inexpensive double-spouted wedding vase can be purchased at
The vase should be filled with water or tea before the ceremony and secured where it will not spill traveling to the wedding site.
Seven Steps:    This ceremony requires a great deal of forethought and planning.  You will need 7 gifts to the bride from the groom and 7 gifts from the groom to the bride.  The gifts may be hand-made (the personal touch) or manufactured.   Gifts are exchanged after each Step to symbolize each vow spoken during the ceremony.  Both the groom and bride will have a basket to hold the gifts.  The gifts are kept in a special place of honor in your home after the wedding.  Vows for each Step must be written on small pieces of paper or memorized.  See the example we have at:  The groom is responsible for transporting the baskets of gifts to the sacred circle.
Sacred Fire:    This ceremony requires two small amounts of split wood (6" X 6") stacked in teepee shapes opposite of each other inside a circle of stones (3' diameter).  Another small amount of split wood (6" X 9-12") is stacked in a teepee shape in the middle of the circle.  The groom is responsible for constructing the circle and stacks of wood before the bride arrives at the exact location of the ceremony.   We suggest that a small back-pack or other container be used to transport the wood and fire-starter materials and a canteen or bottles of water.  All ash, wood and other materials will be removed after the ceremony and the area returned to its original appearance.
Wedding Baskets:    (Mentioned above in the Seven Steps Ceremony)  The basket can be of any material or size you wish, so long as the baskets (2) are large enough to carry seven gifts each.
Ring Ceremony:    The groom's ring should be given to the individual appointed to act as the Bride's mother or grandmother.  The wife's ring should be given to the individual appointed to act as the Groom's father or grandfather.   A small ring presentation pillow is optional and not required.
Ceremonies can take from 1 1/2 hours up to 2 1/2 hours to perform depending on which ceremonies (or all) that you choose.  The wedding party should be available to the Spiritual Elder at least two to three hours before the ceremony begins.  Outdoor weddings are normally performed in the early afternoon.
Flowers and decorations are optional.  Most American Indian weddings, funerals, and blessing ceremonies do not display flowers, but the decision is yours. 
Other Details
Wedding Regalia:
    This is optional.  Indian people wear whatever may be their best apparel at the time.  However, pictures of the ceremony with all parties wearing regalia are always colorful treasures.  
A Wedding Booklet will be prepared for the wedding party containing all the vows and ceremonies performed by the appointed Spiritual Elder.  This booklet is intended to be used during anniversaries and other special occasions to re-perform the ceremony in coming years.  The booklet is not only a beautiful artifact of memorabilia of your wedding, it serves as a constant reminder of your wedding vows. 


We need the names, ages and relationship to the wedding couple so we can print them in the Wedding Booklet. 
Witnesses:    To serve Colorado's legal requirement for witnesses, two drummers/singers will also serve this purpose.   We will arrange for several local Indian people to attend and participate in the ceremony.         
Gifts to the Spiritual Elder:   Manataka elders do not accept money for performing ceremonies.  However, they are allowed to accept gifts of respect.   All our Spiritual Elders are licensed in every state and some foreign countries.
Spiritual Elder to Perform Ceremony:    We must have a confirmed date before we know which Spiritual Elder will be available.  Please let us know as soon as possible about travel arrangements.
Counseling:  It is our tradition to arrange for both bride and groom to participate in Marriage Counseling by one or more of our Spiritual Elders.  Because of the distance involved and the short time available, we can proceed with this requirement by telephone after all the arrangements have been confirmed.  We will send you a telephone number to call when both of you are present.  Then, a subsequent telephone call will speak with each of you individually.  There is no cost for this service and Manataka offers free Marriage Counseling for Life after your wedding ceremony. 


When the date of the ceremony is confirmed, email the date and time to begin Marriage Counseling sessions:

     Groom will call for telephone session:  Date: ______________   Time: _____________

     Bride will call for telephone session:    Date: ______________    Time: _____________

     Both will call for telephone session:      Date: ______________   Time: _____________ 










Manataka requires a marriage license to perform ceremonies.  We understand that some couples feel "a piece of paper" does not make a good marriage and this is true, but we are bound to follow civic laws and the Creator's wishes.


Learn about marriage license laws in your state:


Arkansas Marriage License Rules:

  • To be married in either state you must obtain a marriage license from any County Clerk's office. The cost for the license varies in Arkansas and is payable only in cash, no checks or money orders.  No refunds are permitted. 

  • A license is valid for 60 days and can be used anywhere in the state. 

  • There is no waiting period or medical or blood tests required. 

  • No proof of residency is necessary to be married.  

  • A license must be returned within the 60 days used or unused, otherwise a $100 bond will be issued. 

  • Any state licensed or ordained clergyman may perform marriages. 

  • Ministers performing the ceremony in the state of Arkansas, must have their credentials recorded in one of Arkansas' 75 counties.

Documents Required

  • All persons age under 21 must show a state certified copy of their birth certificates, Military ID card, or a valid passport. 

  • All persons over age 22 can present either a valid driver's license, a state certified copy of their birth certificate, Military ID card, or a valid passport showing their correct name and date of birth. If your name has changed due to divorce and they do not show this change, a certified copy of the divorce decree will be needed. 

Age Requirements for Arkansas

  • All persons must be 18 in order to be married. 

  • Males age 17 and females ages 16-17, may be married with the consent of their parents.  Parents of the couple must however come in to sign the marriage book with the applicants when the license is issued.  If only one parent is able to sign, due to death, separation, divorce or other circumstances, then certified papers must be produced for verification before a license will be issued.

  • Males under the age of 17 and females under 16 are prohibited from marrying without a court order which is given only in extreme circumstances, such as if the female is pregnant or the couple already has a child together.







Groom appears at the tipi wedding lodge with elders.   Elders inquire as to his ability and favor to be married.  He shows gifts prepared for the ceremony.  Elders give permission for the ceremony to be conducted.


Bride and her entourage gather in the forest to begin the wedding procession.


Elders smudge ceremony circle, paths to lodge and individuals who wish to be cleansed.


Music begins with three hard and slow heartbeat strikes of the drum.  Drumming continues. 


Bride hears the drum and begins a slow march to the wedding tipi as everyone else walks behind.


Bride/entourage enter camp area as the drum beat increases to fast and three hard strikes ends the drumming as the Women’s Council and others begin to sing love songs.


The elders walk to the bride and inquire as to her ability and favor to be married.  The bride’s mother or stand-in replies for the bride and shows gifts prepared for the ceremony to the elders.  Elders give permission for the ceremony.


The grooms entourage, elders and guests form two lines on either side of the path to the lodge.


The mother and her brother assist the bride to dismount and she is led down a path to the wedding lodge.    The bride’s mother and her entourage lead.  Followed by the bride and her entourage.


The loud strikes of the drum begins a slow cadence march to the lodge, between the lines of guests to stand in front of the lodge.


Drums stop with three loud beats and the eldest of the gathering steps forward to offer a prayer of thanksgiving.



(A fire has previously been started in the fire circle by the spiritual leader using seven sacred woods and blessed with smudging.)


The spiritual leader will enter the wedding lodge first, followed by the groom along with two men who serve as his stand-ins, followed by the bride and her entourage.  They all move sun-wise (clockwise) around the fire circle one complete revolution and come to stand in front of the fire circle and altar as the spiritual leader and the elders take their place behind the fire circle and altar.


Three prayers are then offered.   The first is given by the spiritual leader, the second by the mother of the bride, and the third by the groom or his elder.


Three wedding songs are sung.


The elders announce to the spiritual leader they have given permission to proceed.


The spiritual leader asks the couple a few questions about their intentions and vows.  He will then invite the groom to state his vows and intentions. 


Vows may be given in a number of ways.  The words may be composed by the couple, taken from traditional ceremonies according to the couples religious beliefs, or vows may delivered by the spiritual leader.  Your wedding counselor will confirm your intentions prior to your arrival.   



The spiritual leader hands to the groom offerings of sage, sweet grass and tobacco. The groom gives a prayer and sprinkles the offerings into the fire.


The spiritual leader then asks the bride for her vows and intentions.


The spiritual leader hands to the bride offerings of corn, squash, beans or mullein.  The bride sprinkles the offerings into the fire.


(A Fire Ceremony may be inserted at this point.)


(A Ring Ceremony may be inserted at this point.)


(A Blanket Ceremony may be inserted at this point.)


(A Wedding Vase Ceremony may be inserted at this point.)


The Basket Ceremony, the Rite of the Seven Steps or other gifting ceremony may be inserted at this point. If the ceremony is conducted in the tipi wedding lodge, the entourage forms a processional behind the spiritual leader and the couple and walks slowly to the sacred fire circle with the beat of the drum, pausing at each of the seven steps down into the circle to offer a prayer.)


The spiritual leader then offers a prayer and the couple performs the gifting ceremony.  Songs and prayers are given.

In closing, the wedding entourage moves sun-wise out of the fire circle with the bride and groom leading the way, followed by the spiritual leader, elders, the bride’s family and finally by the groom’s family.



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