The wedding vase is a treasured and sacred element of many Native Southwest American Indian tribes, particularly the Navajo and Pueblo peoples. These vases are significant in the ceremony performed just prior to the wedding itself, but also in the shape and construction of the vessel.
About a week or two before the couple is officially married, the groom's parents build the wedding vase out of harvested clay. It is ceremoniously cleaned and filtered from a river bed. Once the vessel has been properly fired, both families assemble. The parents give the young couple advice, and the wedding vase is filled with a nectar made by the medicine man, although many modern couples may choose to drink water or an herbal infused tea from the vase.
First the groom offers the wedding vase clockwise, then drinks from this same side. Each will then drink from the opposite side of the wedding vase. Finally, in the culmination of the ceremony, bride and groom will both drink from the wedding vase together. It is said that if they manage this feat without spilling a drop they will always have a strong, cooperative relationship. The vase then becomes a cherished piece in their household and great care is taken to make sure it is never damaged or broken.
The vessel itself is quite beautiful, but its design is an integral part of its meaning. The two spouts represent the couple, one the bride and the other the groom. The rounded base and shared reservoir of the vase represents the couple's now shared lives. The looped handle also represents this unity in a more visual and apparent way, much like a wedding band is a visual reminder of the deeper spiritual connection that a husband and wife share. The handle creates a circle in the center of the vase that represents the circle of life.