There is often a misconception that all of Africa is homogenous. This is not true. Africa is filled with so many different tribes, cultures, and traditions, and there is no one way of having an African wedding. Here is a list of how 12 African regions get down at a wedding.
In Ghana, when the groom joins the family, a ritual called Akonta Sikan takes place. He is expected to give the bride and her sibling’s gifts. The parents also receive a set of gifts as an appreciation for taking good care of their daughter.
2. South Africa (Zulu)
In Zulu culture, just before the wedding ceremony takes place, the family of the groom slaughter a cow. The bride then drops money into the cow’s stomach. This symbolizes that she is now a part of the family. This is referred to as ukwaba.
In Senegal, the Wolof are the largest tribe in the country. When discussing marriage with the bride’s parents, the groom is expected to present kola nuts and money. If the family accepts the kola nuts, the marriage is then binding.
When the bride walks into the reception hall after the wedding, relatives from the bride’s family throw blankets, carpets, and even jackets on the floor she’s walking on to make sure she goes to her new family safely. The bride’s family is showing that they have taken good care of her, now the groom should do the same. They sing the words, “Tawuya naye nemagumbezu” which translates to “we have brought your daughter-in-law with blankets.” They make sure she doesn’t touch the floor until she sits. If she does touch the floor there is a belief that their marriage will be troubled.
5. Nigeria (Yoruba)
In Yoruba, typically during the engagement process, the groom and his family usually lie face down. This is to show respect to their in-laws.
Ethiopian weddings can last up to three days. The first day is the official wedding day where photographs, lunches, and dinners are had to celebrate the nuptials. The second ceremony is called melse, where the bride and groom are dressed in a traditional dress called Kaba. The mother of the bride gives her daughter a nickname so people may use it to remember the wedding. The third is kelekel which is meant for family and friends who couldn’t make it to the other ceremonies.
7. Kenya (Kikuyu)
There are various different wedding traditions in Kenya that differ from tribe to tribe. In the Kikuyu culture, the formal meeting of families is called the ruracio. During this event, the bride and women of the bride’s family cover themselves in veils. They stand in front of the groom and he has to identify his bride. If he doesn’t guess correctly, he gives the mother and father of the bride another goat or money.
8. The Gambia
In The Gambia, the traditional wedding ceremony is observed by the elders and parents. At the end of the ceremony, a kola nut is broken which reflects the culture, relationships, customs, and social realities of the Gambian people. The pieces of the kola nuts are then passed amongst the elders and relatives.
9. Nigeria (Igbo)
During a Nigerian Igbo wedding, a glass of palm wine is poured by the bride’s father and given to the bride while the groom hides among the guests. The crowd distracts the bride in a bid to confuse her. Once she finds him, he must drink from the cup, and then they are bound.
Okay, so this isn’t so much a wedding custom, but it’s an Eritrean wedding must-have. Suwa, is a drink made with grains such as millet and sorghum. The drink is an extremely important staple of an Eritrean wedding.
Shoura, is a custom often practiced after the engagement. The families begin the process of purchasing gold, wool, household goods, and clothing. Families discuss tasks for the wedding and how they will be divided. An Algerian bride may have different dresses for her wedding which depicts the different regions her family comes from.
Alambamato is when the groom asks the family for the bride’s hand in marriage. It contains a series of rituals such as the delivery of a letter asking for the bride’s hand. The uncle of the bride reads the request to the father and if he approves, the process to marriage may continue.
African weddings are exciting, colorful, and undeniably beautiful. These African wedding traditions and customs are woven together by love in these ceremonies.
Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!