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Flagstaff entrepreneur incorporates Native American traditions in wedding ceremonies
Yvonne Chavez (second from right) poses for Native-Max Magazine in Chinle, Ariz. with actor/model Andrew Orozco (sitting in driver’s seat), model and promoter Jessa Hoyungowa (second from left), and Flagstaff Makeup Artist Christine De Angelis (far right). The wedding gown, tie, and pocket square are all from Chavez’s wedding line. Photo/Harry Nez
Event planner focuses on Navajo Wedding Basket design to create memories of a lifetime for that special day
7/31/2012 10:24:00 AM
By David Yankus
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Brides and grooms from all around northern Arizona and the Navajo Nation looking to add a "Touch of Tradition" to their wedding ceremonies don't have to go far. Yvonne Chavez plans weddings, designs clothing, and creates elaborately detailed Native American accessories all out of her downtown Flagstaff studio.
Chavez's business first came to fruition in 2003 based around her traditional Navajo Wedding Basket design, which she would incorporate into the weddings she would plan through her company, Northern Arizona Wedding Planner. Two years later she would open a store featuring all her wedding gowns, tuxedos, jewelry, flowers, wedding baskets, engravable gifts, other various designs, and a plethora of accessories to go along with all these items.
"I started getting a lot of Native American brides coming to me that were wanting to do a contemporary wedding, or some would want a Christian wedding they would also say," said Chavez. "So they would hire me to help them plan that. A lot of them weren't familiar with what a flower girl basket was for, what a ring pillow was for, or how to use those in a church wedding, a garden wedding, or a contemporary wedding style setting."
During this wedding planning process Chavez was beginning to find that the brides to be wanted to add some of their tradition to the wedding, even though they weren't doing a typical traditional wedding that they might do on the reservation. Chavez then came up with the idea of integrating the Navajo Wedding Basket as the main "Touch of Tradition" into these contemporary weddings she was planning.
The Navajo Wedding Basket is viewed as a map through which the Navajo chart their lives. The central spot in the basket represents the sip apu, where the Navajo people emerged from the prior world through a reed. The inner coils of the basket are white to represent birth. As you travel outward on the coils you begin to encounter more and more black. The black represents darkness, struggle and pain. As you make your way through the darkness you eventually reach the red bands, which represent marriage, the mixing of spousal blood and creation of family. The red is pure. During this time there is no darkness.
Traveling out past the familial bands you encounter more darkness, however, the darkness is interspersed with white light. The light represents increasing enlightenment, which expands until you enter the all white banding of the outer rim. This banding represents the spirit world, where there is no darkness. The line from the center of the basket to the outer rim is there to remind you that no matter how much darkness you encounter in your world, there is always a pathway to the light. This pathway during ceremonies is always pointed east. The last coil on the basket rim is finished off at this pathway to allow the medicine man to easily locate it in darkness.
Unfortunately, due to personal hardships and a struggling economy, Chavez was unable to keep her storefront going and four years after opening had to close the doors. But she felt her purpose and her gift was designing clothes and planning weddings, so she did whatever was necessary to keep her dream afloat. She rented a studio in Flagstaff across from the Hopi Building and has been diligently working on her wedding line from there every opportunity she gets, making all her designs and expertise available online and by telephone.
"My fabric is embroidered and hand-beaded with genuine turquoise, coral, cultured mother of pearl, sequins, and a variety of beads to accent the design," said Chavez. "Then these dresses can be used in a church wedding, a contemporary wedding, an outdoor wedding, or a more traditional wedding. And I make all the accessories to go with it."
In addition, Chavez spoke about her Touch of Tradition wedding line being important to interracial couples she has worked with where only the bride or only the groom may be Native American and the non-Native spouse wants to honor and respect their new partner's culture and create a wedding ceremony all-inclusive, so to speak. She also mentioned her experience with couples that even had two ceremonies, one traditional ceremony, perhaps even on the reservation, and one contemporary ceremony, perhaps in a church or another venue.
"It's a whole new generation of brides that we're dealing with," she said.
Chavez said she feels her compelling designs honor the traditions thoroughly and progressively, and when elders and Native family members come to these weddings, they can see their traditions still being an integral part of the new generation's ceremonies.
"I've had people all the way from New York call me, that just wanted a southwest design because they may be a fraction of Cherokee and they want a Native flute player, or they want to get married in Sedona on the red rocks," Chavez added. "They want a touch of tradition."
Chavez's Touch of Tradition wedding line will also be featured in the premiere issue of Native-Max Magazine, out of Denver, Colo. Native-Max Magazine proudly displays professional Native Americans in all fields of business, sports, entertainment, fashion, health, and more.
Chavez took her wedding line to Shiprock, N.M. for a casting call, and then on to Chinle, Ariz. where Native-Max Magazine was conducting a photo shoot for designers, models, aspiring actors and actresses, etc. Chavez said she was honored and excited to have been invited to partake in such a monumental opportunity.
According to Chavez, her wedding line is designed to tie in cultural tradition with the elegance of today's modern bride. The Navajo wedding basket design is authentically hand-beaded by Native Americans and incorporated into contemporary wedding attire and accessories; gowns, guest books, ring pillows, and flower girl baskets. She said her Touch of Tradition line can be incorporated into any Native American wedding theme; Cherokee weddings, Hopi weddings, Pueblo weddings, Apache weddings, Navajo weddings, or Zuni weddings.
For more information, to hire Chavez as a wedding planner, or to purchase any of her wedding line products visit www.touchoftradition.com, www.northernarizonaweddingplanner.com, or call (928) 853-8843. Select items from Chavez's wedding line are also available at Pure Elegance Bridal Boutique & Formal Wear at 1800 S. Milton Suite 16 in Flagstaff. Chavez's website www.touchoftradition.com is currently under construction and will soon be an e-commerce site. Chavez and her Touch of Tradition wedding line can also be found on Facebook. Native-Max Magazine's website is
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