Of the three milestones in a man’s lifetime namely; birth, marriage and death, it is said that he has control over only one…… marriage. This widely-shared view is not lost to African tradition and explains why so much is put into marital rites in every society within the continent. In every situation from Cape town to Marrakech, Cairo to Addis Ababa and from Dakar to Abuja, the union of man and woman combines all the elements of family, culture, tradition, dance and religious belief. Through marriages, matters get beyond just the bride and groom.
Indeed, African families get married to each other and subsequently expected to provide care and comfort for in-laws at all times. In South Africa, for instance, when a Zulu girl is ready for marriage, her father will arrange a coming-out ceremony to introduce her to suitors and the society alike and formally make her availability for marriage known. Among the Zulus, the bride has the upper hand. She, it is who goes to get her groom. Once her consent is obtained, she gives her consent and all that is left is for the number of cattle that will be given to her father in exchange to be negotiated. Beaded jewelry is the language of love in Zulu weddings. Brides-to-be will typically make two sets of bead necklaces in matching colors – one for herself and one for her groom-to-be. Their matching color-coded necklaces and bracelets will let everyone know that they are now an item.
The bride and groom first see each other on their wedding day. Both parents prepare food and drink for the wedding and invite guests. The groom goes to the bride’s house to take his future wife to be. The wedding ceremony starts with dances and music and the bride’s parents give the groom a dowry, in most case money and cattle.
While most about-to-be marrieds brim with excitement and anticipation, Congolese brides and grooms must keep their happiness in check. During their entire wedding day, from ceremony to reception, the two are not allowed to smile. If they do, it would mean they aren’t serious about marriage.
In Kenya, Massai, usually this process of rings around the neck actually alter the body, stretching muscles (of the shoulder and neck) creating the illusion of a longer.
The wedding rituals in Nigeria varies from place to place. It provides a most educative experience wherever one travels to. In recent times, traditional Nigerian marriages have taken a life of their own, making it a legally binding affair for even couples without a registry or church marriage certificate. Religious
inclinations, (Western or traditional), usually play a prominent role during Marriage simply means a union between a man and a woman, but it has more significant connotations in the African society. A typical African traditional marriage is one that has domestic undertone with its customs and traditions. There are a lot of elements that makes a typical African traditional marriage stand out. In Nigeria for instance, traditional marriage depicts the diversity and richness of the Nigerian rich cultural heritage and style. In recent time, aside payment of the bride price, planning and executing this particular ceremony can be tasking and expensive.
With the diverse ethnic and geopolitical composition of Nigeria, focus will be on some selected type of marriages which are very related. In the South Eastern part of Nigeria, the Traditional wedding ceremony is referred as the “Igba Nkwu” which means wine carrying. It is the standard and reorganized traditional marriage ceremony practiced by the Igbo. Typically, in preparation for the Igba Nkwu ceremony, the groom’s family pays a visit to the bride’s family called “door Knocking” which is an act of seeking the parents of the bride for her hand in marriage. The grooms family presents Kolanuts, Palm wine, dry gin and soft drinks to the family of the bride to be. After the gift are accepted some family goes into investigation to ascertain the moral status of both the bride and groom families.
At the traditional wedding, the bride dresses in a beautiful attire and beads and this applies to the groom who is also elegantly dressed. The bride carries the palm wine in the ceremony called searches for her groom in the crowd of young men. The bride kneels down upon getting to her groom and gives him the drink which signifies acceptance and this normally proceeds with dance by the couples who meet their parents for prayers and formal introduction. Another important and colorful traditional wedding is the Yoruba traditional wedding in the South West of Nigeria is a period to unite. During this type of wedding, the celebration is moderated by two women Alaga Ijoko representing the bride’s family and the Alaga Iduro who stand in for the groom’s family. The groom comes with his friends and dance, proceeds to prostrate before bride’s family.
A proposal letter is presented by the grooms family and later the bride family reply with the acceptance letter to the groom family. The bride dance with her friends and kneels down before the grooms parents for prayers and wear the grooms hat as symbol of acceptance. The bride get instruction from Alaga Ijoko to pick the Bible or Quran attached with a ring. It is always an elaborate celebration as men and women are colourfuIly dressed in a nice aso-oke fabrics and this is always accompanied with rich food, playful banter and vibrant decorations.
In Northern Nigeria which is predominantly Muslims, the wedding ceremony is usually very brief as the grooms seek for the bride’s hand in marriage with Kola nut, fruits and sweets. It is officially approved in act called the Gaisuwa. The groom is expected to pay for the bride price which is called Bubu Dinar which means “quarter kilogram of gold” or any amount he can afford. Following the payment of the bride price which means “Sadaki”, the family set a date for “sarana”. The bride friends organize a bridal shower refered as “kunshi” in preparation for the wedding reception called the “walimah” which is witnessed with local delicacies, music and dance. The bride is often showered with nice perfumes and scents roses which is rubbed on the bride who is stylishly dressed and applied with traditional body arts (henna) that showcases distinctive designs applied on the feet’s and arms.
Other African countries that share in this beautiful and rich cultural practice of traditional marriages, is South Africa. The South African Zulu traditional marriage normally takes place after the English wedding. This traditional wedding ceremony is referred to as the “Umabo” is celebrated following the dowry rites ceremony knowns as “lobola”. Gifts are usually presented to the bides mother and families which comprises household items. In the Zulu traditional marriage setting, the bride will change her dress on three different occasions to tell her supposed in-laws that she is beautiful.
The Swahili ethnic group in Southern part of Africa the men and women are separated to attend the henna party of the bride a day before her wedding while the men do the kirumbizi which is usually musical fight dance using the drum and flutes. The vows ceremony known as Nikah is done with the groom invited for lunch called the Walima. The traditional wedding ceremony is climaxed when the groom takes his bride to the dance floor as they proceed home. Among the Nuer people of South Sudan, the groom pay the traditional rites with 20-40 cows and after an elaborate ceremony and celebration, the wedding is seen inconclusive until the bride bares two children.
One of the most iconic traditional marriage ceremonies in the African continent is the annual Reed Dance festival locally known as Umlanga ceremony in Swaziland. It usually holds in the month of August and involves tens of thousands of unmarried and childless Swazi girls who travel to participate in the eight -day event. It is said that King, Goodwill Zwelitini introduced the Read dance in 1991 to encourage un-wedded girls to delay sexual activity tilI wedlock. During the ceremony, the young girls dance bare-breasted for their king, and each maiden carries a long reed, which they deposit as they approach the king. The girls usually elect to carry the longest reeds which are matured for harvest at that time of the year. There is a held belief that if the reed should break before the girl reaches that point, it is considered a sign t hat ” the girl has already been sexually active.
The semi-nude attire of participants has drawn both positive and negative views in recent times. While many tourists flock to the South African country every year to soak in the sights, others have complained that the dignity of womanhood is being put to ridicule. These comments are however not lost in the cultural reasons behind the event as well as the leverage which it lends in combatting HIV Aids. As a sign of obedience to cultural values, the King’s many daughters and royal princesses also participate in “he reed dance ceremony. This has however not prevented him from picking his newest brides from amongst “he participating bevy of beauties. Traditional marriage celebration in Morocco last up to 3 days to a week. The bride goes to the traditional sauna for purification a day before the wedding upon acceptance of agreement overseen by the Adoul.
For “he Maasai tribe in Kenya, the traditional marriages is detailed and is characterized with a long period relationship. In this aspect of marriage, the groom is expected to shower the bride with gift like chain and drinks to his in-laws. The groom offers three cows, two sheep of which one slaughtered and the fat used to decorate “he bride’s cloth.