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Understanding the Cultural Significance of Wedding Vases

August 23, 2016

The use of wedding vases has been an important tradition in Native American wedding ceremonies, particularly in the American Southwest, for centuries. They originated among the Navajo, Ute, Pueblo, and Hopi nations, and have since been adopted in wedding ceremonies by tribes across the United States and Mexico.

Design

Wedding vases tend to stand out among others with their unique shape and intricate designs. Most feature a rounded base that tapers up into two identical spouts, which are then connected by a handle. The two spouts are widely interpreted to represent the husband and wife, whose unity is symbolized by the handle that connects the two spouts. Unity is also represented in the rounded base, which serves as a reservoir, symbolizing the now-shared lives of the couple. The circle or loop that is formed between the spouts, handles, and base offers a symbol of the circle of life.

The styles and artistic design of each vase is usually reflective of the potter’s and ultimately the couple’s cultural and tribal background. The different types of clay used to craft the vases may indicate the region from which the couple originates, as different areas of the country tend to have different colored clay. Designs may be etched and painted into the body of the vases, usually including depictions or designs in line with tribal heritage. These designs may also include horsehair pottery techniques, which involves burning horsehair into the pottery to create unique, dark lines across the piece. Woven coils of clay are often added to the handles for increased aesthetic.

Ceremonial Use

Traditionally, a medicine man would prepare a combination of sweet nectar and holy water for the bride and groom to consume during the wedding ceremony. Nowadays it is much more common for the groom’s parents to simply prepare herbal tea or water to fulfill this role.

During the wedding ceremony, the groom offers the bride the vase, from which she takes a sip from one of the spouts. She then rotates the vase and offers the groom a drink from the same spout. This repeats until each person has taken a drink from each side of the vase. Afterward, they will both take a drink from the vase at the same time. It is believed that a marriage will receive great blessings and remain strong if the couple can manage to drink from the vase together without spilling a single drop. This part of the ceremony typically takes place before vows are exchanged, or after the marriage officiant pronounces the marriage.

Ute Mountain Trading Company maintains an extensive and ever-changing selection of wedding vases and other pottery items for sale in our store in Cortez, CO. These pieces are handcrafted in-store by Navajo and Ute artisans, and feature unique designs and shapes. For more information, please visit our website at www.utemountaintrading.com.

Sources:

http://www.kachinahouse.com/native-american-pottery/wedding-vases

http://weddingtraditions.about.com/od/MarriageTraditions/fl/Wedding-Vase-Unity-Ceremony.htm

27601 E Hwy 160, Cortez, CO 81321 970-565-4492info@utemountaintrading.com