Where ever you go or live as a black person – African wedding traditions and customs should ring continuously in your mind as you prepare to get married to your significant other. This bond binds us all to our great ancestral roots.
African traditions have been passed down from generation to generation and It is not going to be different in our time. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to pass through these customs and believe to the next generation especially the African wedding traditions and customs.
A strong African proverb once said, ” a man without a wife is like a vase without a flower”. The flower represents beauty, African women are very beautiful and when you find an African woman to marry you have succeeded in cloth yourself with beauty.
African women are hardworking, good caregivers and selfless in nature. They put their family first above their desires and ambitions. Notwithstanding, she can be ruthless when her rights are trampled.
Beyond words, the continent of Africa is where life begins, civilization started at our backyard. Let no one cloud your mind and judgment with western ideology about marriage. They gave you Christianity, but that should not be an excuse to throw away your rich African cultures. African wedding traditions and customs are uniquely colourful and diverse.
Africa as a continent is richly blessed with both human and natural resources. It has diverse colourful cultures from Egypt in the North to Nigeria in the West and from Kenya in the East to South Africa in the South – they all blessed with rich wedding traditions.
African Wedding Traditions and Customs As Practiced around Africa
Marriage Culture in South Africa – Traditional Zulu Marriage Rites
South Africa is blessed with rich cultures, one of which is its traditional wedding ceremony. South African wedding traditions and customs are filled with a lot of rights and rituals that have to be done to appease the ancestors to guide and protect the newlyweds on their quests towards the marital journey.
The Zulus are one of Africa’s largest ethnic group. To help me with this article; I had briefed a chat with Siyabonga a Zulu descendant who lives here in Landon.
A Zulu wedding, like most African wedding traditions and customs, is filled with a lot of colors, music, dance, and food. African weddings are characterized by large people in attendance, the whole community or even the village at large could be at your wedding, so don’t border printing invites.
Zulu Traditional Wedding Customs
When a groom is ready for marriage and has found someone he wants to marry, he discusses his intention with his “babakazi”, father’s sister or “Malume” his mother’s brother’s wife or an older woman who is married.
They are the ones saddled with the responsibility to relate the issue with the groom’s father. The same goes for the bride too. A spokesperson “Idombo” will be elected to represents the groom at a meeting, which is held at the bride’s home.
The bride’s people in turn also elect their own spokesperson that will convey their demands to the “Idombo” on what is required, for the dowry.
The groom’s parent gets the dowry items requested by the bride’s family. These items will be presented on the date agreed by both families – Zulu dowry mostly contains these items, but not limited to;
- “Nkomo” two fat cows,
- Money for in-laws (parents’ brothers and sisters),
- Money for “ukangaziwe” meaning now you know us,
- “Amalobolo” mother cow given to bride’s mother,
- “Impahla” consists of clothes, shoes for the bride’s father and mother.
After the dowry has been settled, a date for the wedding ceremony will be announced.
During the wedding ceremony, in most South African wedding traditions and customs, the bride is decorated with red and white ocher designs on her legs and arms. Bags of pebbles are tied to her ankles (for rhythmic sound during dancing). She wears a veil made of beads and twisted fig leaves, a goat’s hair fringe is worn around her neck.
When the bride arrives at her in-laws, her father-in-law welcomes her. She will then sit on a matt (with her bridesmaids by her side) and not talk to anyone as a sign of respect.
The bride and her husband will be given words of wisdom by the elders, not just for marriage, but how they can uphold African wedding traditions and customs and passing it to future generations.
After that, gifts will be presented to the groom’s family and the bride will then perform a dance of celebration. She will also have to practice bed making in front of the whole family to demonstrate that she’s capable of her motherly duties.
In the end, the wedding party can start. There will be a funfair, a lot of food and drink for the guests and everyone presents at the ceremony. The children and the elderly will dance and cheers the couple.
Wedding Customs of EWE Ethic Group in Ghana & Togo
One of Africa’s most exciting culture is African wedding traditions and customs. African weddings are uniquely fashioned to suit the life of those that relate to such customs. Delicious foods, drinks, and beautiful dancing styles are also not left out.
Most traditional weddings in Ghana are similar in one way or the other but with some variations depending on the tribe.
The EWES are mostly found in Ghana (Volta Region), a few of them have also found in Togo and Southern Benin republic. They speak EWE language; the EWES are essentially patrilineal and they are also accommodating and very friendly people.
Wedding Customs of Ewe people
African wedding traditions and customs among the EWES are patrilocal. When a man finds a woman to marry, he informs his people about his intention. The groom’s father will send his sister or the groom’s mother’s sister to the girl’s parent to arrange and ask for her hand in marriage.
After listening to what their prospective in-laws got to say, the girl’s father will ask for time for him to speak with his daughter about the issue and also inform his people/kindred.
During this time the bride’s family inquiries about the man (groom) and his family, to see if there are any questionable traits or character associated with them.
When the bride’s parent are satisfied with the outcome of the investigation and the girl, in her part agreed to the proposal, words are sent out to the groom’s representatives informing them of the positive result (the bride’s family have agreed to go ahead with the traditional wedding plan).
A date is set for a second coming – two bottles of gin or whiskey are offered by the groom’s representatives, this payment is known as door-knocking. The door-knocking is an important part of any African wedding traditions and customs.
The Wedding Process
The wedding procedures kick off immediately, both families sent words to their far relatives informing them of their children’s traditional wedding.
Some communities or villages bride-price maybe too much for the groom to bear, so the groom and family can join forces to raise funds to take care of the bride-price and other requirements.
When the bride-price payment is ready, the groom’s parent and his maternal aunties go-to girl’s home to pay for hand in marriage and also settle other requirements (finalizing the marriage agreements).
This signified the formal handing of the bride to her new home. After that, the two families fix a date for the traditional wedding ceremony.
The Wedding Ceremony
Most Ewes traditional wedding ceremonies do take place in the groom’s family home. The event most time kicks off in the evening when all must have been back from farm, market or fishing.
The bride is accompanied to her husband’s home by her mother’s sister, father’s sister, her friends, and little girls. They present a bundle of marriage cloth.
The groom’s father received the bride and give thanks to the messengers. Prayers and libations are offered for a fruitful union; both parents took a turn to advise the new couple.
The ceremony is marked with an elaborate celebration, dancing, and merriment. Entertainment and performance by local artiste are not left out. Assorted traditional foods and drinks are served to guest. Everyone goes home happy after the celebration.
List of Items For The Bride-Price
The items below are subject to change as families and communities can make some adjustments to the requirements. This is what makes African wedding traditions and customs in relation to the Ewe’s people legal
- 16 pair of white singlets (for bride’s father)
- 7kg of snuff (for bride’s father)
- 5 pieces of multi-colour towels (for the bride’s father)
- 10 pieces of multi-colour vest (for the bride’s mother)
- 12 set of chewing sticks
- 2 set of cooking utensil (for the bride’s mother)
- 1 drum of akpeteshie (home-brewed alcoholic drink)
- 6 set of local print wrappers
- 6 sets of undergarments for the bride’s sisters.
- Plots of land for farming.
And many more items as specified in any of Ewe’s communities and villages
Kikuyu Traditional Wedding Traditions – Kenya
The Kikuyu tribe, is the largest ethnic group in Kenya, making up about 22% of the country’s total population. Kikuyu culture is one of the more documented cultures, with lots of facts depicted in books and movies. Below, are 4 Guides to Kikuyu traditional wedding process.
It should be noted that Kikuyu traditional wedding customs, could be slightly different for some families.
As with most African wedding traditions and customs, the Groom-to-be must come to make his intentions known to the bride’s family. There might be some hard questions asked by the father in law but that is to be expected.
However, the groom should not show up empty-handed. Bringing some foodstuff for his new mother-in-law and a token for his father-in-law is a good way to be on his in-laws’ good side.
After this visit, the bride’s parents notify their trusted friends that a gentleman would like to marry their daughter. From these trusted friends a small group of men and women will be formed to negotiate on the details of the dowry with a similar group from the man’s family.
Second Visit (family Introduction)
After the bride’s parents have met the man coming to take their daughter, it is time to meet the people who raised him.
Yes, the groom’s parents and close friends will be expected to also go to the bride’s home so that the parents can meet and set a date for the Ruracio (Dowry or bride-price payment ceremony).
Here, the bride’s parent or senior ones will also inform the groom’s older folks of their dowry requirements.
NOTE: It is imperative to follow the dowry requirement strictly; otherwise, it can lead to a breakdown in communication during the dowry negotiations.
Kikuyu Traditional Wedding Ceremony
On the arrival for Kikuyu traditional wedding, the groom’s family will find the gate closed. This is a sign to show that they must sing their way in. Then the bride -to -be and her female relatives welcome them in with songs and dances.
After settling in and before any eating the bride to be is taken away by her fellow female in-laws and relatives, there she is given some advice meanwhile the groom start planting a branch of a tree which symbolizes that the lady has been booked by the groom.
The bride’s families (the hosts) are to introduce themselves first. During the introduction, the family spokesperson will introduce everyone except the bride. He will close the introduction by saying that they have several other daughters who have been sent to the stream to fetch water.
Other introductions on the bride’s side will be done and the master of ceremony will invite the spokesperson from the groom’s side to introduce themselves.
The introductions again will begin with the family of the groom but excluding the groom, he will be called up when all his family members are done with their greetings. As in most, African wedding traditions and customs, the groom will be asked if he is sure that he directed his people to the right girl’s home. He answers in the affirmative.
The groom will have to find his bride. She will be hidden in a group of women all wearing lessos which cover them up completely. This task could be made a little harder- the women will wear thick woolen socks and cover the body marks he may use in recognizing her body.
He will be fined should he accidentally pick the wrong girl. Once he successfully finds the bride, then he will be asked to cut the shoulder of the goat (kiande) slaughtered in honor of the occasion.
Next, he will share some selected pieces of meat with other husbands. The ears of the goat are served to the bride and her young single friends as a reminder to the women to listen to their husbands.
In Kikuyu’s wedding Traditions the bride will have to ceremonially groom her husband by combing his hair, shining his shoes, cut his nails and wrap a towel around him, then she will feed him some porridge. This symbolizes how she will take care of him as his wife.
In African wedding traditions and customs, the negotiation of bride price is the duty of both families spokesperson to protect the interests of his own people. Close family members of both families will be shown a separate place where they would sit and negotiate the dowry.
The groom’s spokesperson will start by saying that they found a flower from this home and will want to pluck it. Once again, the bride will be called and asked to give her blessings before they could accept any gift coming the groom’s family
Some Bride Price Requirement
- A fattened ram
- He goats – this could be from 99 onwards depending on the negotiation made
- 20 cows
- Soda- for women
- Lessos – for women
- 5 creates of Beer
- Bed and lots more
Once the negotiations by the men are done, and the women’s requests are settled. There will be jubilation and beer is shared for people to drink. Food is served for everyone to eat. The people feast and get merry. At the end of the day, the groom is free to take his bride’s home.
Wolof People’s Wedding Traditions and Customs – Senegal
The Wolof people are found in North-Eastern part of Senegal, Mauritania, and Gambia. The Wolof people are the largest ethnic grouping in Senegal (35% of the Senegalese populace) and in Gambia they are about 12% of the Gambian populace. The Wolof as a people are largely Muslim and they practice Islam as religion.
The institution of marriage is an essential part of the Wolof culture. This statement indicates that a family is an important unit, to the Wolof people, the family forms a building block for other social units into which the Wolof society is organized.
Not only in Wolof culture, but this attribute can also be seen in most African wedding traditions and customs.
To form a stronger and stable family unit, the Wolof people believed that cross-cousin marriage (young man marrying a maternal uncle’s daughter) was the best form of marriage – they are matrilineal in nature.
African Wedding Traditions and custom with Wolof People
Traditionally, parents often arrange marriages for their children. They go into some sort of agreement with the parent of whom they want their children to marry (mutual agreements between the parents of the groom and the bride).
Those days, when a man wants to marry, his father decides for him, they choose a suitable bride for in accordance with their standards. Although the situation has slightly changed with time, this practice is still experienced in rural areas though with some minor changes.
Today, when a young man finds a girl he will like to marry, he has to seek the approval of his parents, the father initiates talks to ask for the girl’s hand in marriage.
He appoints a third party, A go-between. The duty of A go-between was to investigate the girl’s family background and find out the position of the girl’s family regarding the interest in their daughter.
If the finding was satisfactory, the go-between carries kola nuts from the groom’s father to the girl’s family. If the girl’s family accepts the kola nuts, that is an indicator that they have approved the boy and granted him permission to court their daughter.
At this point, the boy can shower the girl and her mother with gifts to win their affection.
The young man is required to assist his future father-in-law in the farm such as weeding, harvesting and herding goat, etc., among other manly endeavors. These activities will enable the girl’s family to assess the character of their future in-law.
Once the girl’s family has ascertained that his character is of good quality, the boy’s father will present more gifts to the girl’s family to seal an agreement that puts the young man as the sole suitor.
A short marriage ceremony is performed by an Imam (Wolof people are Muslim) at the mosque, in the presence of representatives from both families and witnesses.
During the ceremony, the boy’s mother’s brother is sent on behalf of the groom to ask for the bride’s hand. He carries kola nuts, money and other items as bride price, thus making the marriage legally binding.
Gifts and money are also given to the bride’s mother, father, brothers, and her age-group. Once these obligations are met, at this time the bride can move to the groom’s compound formally.
Before the bride moves, a colorful African wedding traditions and customs ritual need to be carried out, this is done to free the marriage of evil and make it fruitful and successful.
Items Required for Marriage by Wolof People
1. For the Bride’s Mother
- Set of plates
- Shoes, bags and jewelry
- 2 big bowl
- Fashionable clothes
- Bag of Salt
- Cooking Oil
- Some amount of money
2. For the Bride’s Father
- Television set
- Fashionable clothes
- A sewing machine,
- Box fill with wrapper
- cooking utensils
- Shoes, bags, and jewelry
- Makeup kits
- And many others
See the full detailed marriage list here
Wedding Traditions and Customs of Isoko People In Nigeria
In Isoko culture, African wedding traditions and customs is very much observed. The wedding ceremony is filled with funfair and celebration, with a lot of food and drinks to go round.
The peak of the occasion is when the community represented by the elders comes to make their own demands, a certificate is presented to the couple after all requirements are meant.
The document will be signed by the couple, these certificates authenticate the union. The amount paid for the certificate ranges from N5000 for a groom from within that community while those from outside will pay N10000 and above.
After everything, the bride will be sent off with kitchen utensils, home gadgets, boxes of clothes and wrapper.
bride price Requirements
Bride price or dowry is important in any African wedding traditions and customs.
Therefore, In Isoko bride price payment, all money including the unofficial payment & clothing for father & mother must be presented to them before the marriage day because they would be asked if they have been settled before the marriage can be commenced.
Please note that the Below list of Isoko bride price requirements is not constant for all Isoko people, there are variations according to family, community, and societal status of the bride.
Here is the full detailed list