Pocahontas and John Rolfe: A match made in Virginia

Pocahontas and John Rolfe get married

Pocahontas and John Rolfe

By Karen Gonzalez

About 2,000 people gathered Saturday by the James River to witness the 400th anniversary of the wedding between Pocahontas and John Rolfe at Historic Jamestowne, Virginia. The weather was a sunny 65 degrees – perfect for an outdoor wedding.

Pocahontas was played by Wendy Taylor from the Pamunkey Indian tribe, and John Rolfe was portrayed by David Catanese.

The bride was wearing a wedding jacket that had been embroidered by 70 volunteers from all over the country. Black silk thread on white linen was used to re-create the garment. Although there is no proof that she wore this type of garment 400 years ago, it does match the style and design of another jacket made during that era.

The wedding party included two Pamunkey Indian siblings of Pocahontas in their full native dress and body painting, along with a variety of English and Spanish interpreters.

The road to her wedding day was a twisted one. Pocahontas was kidnapped by English settlers and held in the hope that English prisoners held by her father, Chief Powhatan, would be released in exchange for her freedom. But while she was held, Pocahontas converted to Christianity and fell in love with a Rolfe, a tobacco grower. By the time the prisoner exchange was made, her wedding provided a sense of hope for peace among the Pamunkeys and the settlers. Chief Powhatan approved of the union.

Read: The making of the Pocahontas wedding jacket.

The re-enactment on Saturday began with two costumed musicians playing the prelude music on historic instruments. An introductory narrative was followed by a procession to the stage interspersed with concerns for the union, commentary on her kidnapping and debate on whether her conversion to Christianity was sincere. The script was written in the language of the day.

At the end of the wedding event, the actors remained on stage for photos to be taken — just like a modern-day wedding.

The wedding activities began with a dress rehearsal Friday morning at 9 a.m. Pocahontas arrived in full costume in a golf cart chauffeured by the manager of the Costume Design Center.

The 13 actors ran through the blocking and last minute details of the drama, making last minute changes as needed. As this was to be their only rehearsal with all the actors, it was critical that all questions were answered and everyone was confident with their part.

A dinner was planned later on Friday evening for donors to gather and experience a pre-nuptial wedding dinner.  The dinner guests paid $95 per ticket to enjoy a three-course meal with a drama: At a table in the front of the room were two actors portraying Pamunkey Indian siblings of Pocahontas. Their dialogue with the other guests at the table centered around their concern for their sister’s welfare and the hope of peace with the English settlers.

The Rev. Alexander Whitaker was the host for the evening, interspersing the meal with comments on the food and conversation taking place.

The menu featured both English and Native American foods prepared with a modern twist. The event was a proper prelude to the wedding reenactment following on Saturday.

There had been rumors that the bride and groom might appear at the end of the evening, and they did not disappoint. Pocahontas and John Rolfe were presented and addressed the guests about their excitement regarding the wedding.

“What a most happy proceeding here!” John Rolfe told the guests before the couple left the gathering. “I will say before you and so that all the world shall know: this union is the work of God, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

“This marriage shall please God, and I will heartily accept it as a godly tax appointed me; I will never cease until I have accomplished and brought to perfection so holy a work, in which I will daily pray God to bless me, to mine, and her eternal happiness.

“We must now take our leave, beseeching Almighty God to rain down upon all of us, such plenitude of his heavenly graces, as our hearts can wish and desire. I give to you my dearly beloved – Pocahontas – Rebecca Rolfe!”

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