April (bridal) showers bring May flowers (in beautiful arrangements). It’s wedding season!
Instead of things old, new, borrowed, and blue, a variety of cultures from all over Africa have their own unique traditions to celebrate a couple’s big day. Take a break from perusing registries and enjoy these amazing weddings:
In the Igbo culture in eastern Nigeria, families are very involved in the process of a marriage. The bride’s family, for example, will compile a list of traditional items for the groom to bring to the wedding. This list can include wine, kola nuts, rice, yams, jewelry, and even live animals. Items can differ based on the particular community or town. Often, these items are used at the wedding, and in turn, the bride’s family typically buys housewares considered necessary for newlyweds to begin their lives together.
Zimbabwean brides, like many others, receive rings on their wedding day, called idzila jewelry. Believed to have special powers and symbolic of loyalty, women wear the copper and brass rings around their arms, legs, and necks. Customarily, grooms buy the rings for their future wives as a sign of wealth. The Ndebele women of South Africa also wear similar styles.
Picking a wedding dress is a major focus of many brides-to-be. For brides in Rwanda, their search is made a little bit easier if they choose to wear a version of the ceremonial classic, the mushanana. Lightweight and loose, it consists of a one-shoulder draped sash and wrapped skirt.
The wedding ceremonies in central Uganda, specifically in the Buganda Kingdom, are especially complex in their rituals. One of the most notable aspects is the presence of spokespeople for both the bride and the groom, chosen by the families. At the wedding, these representatives introduce the members of the families and engage in generations-old wordplay and ritual before the bride and groom exchange vows.
Yoruban culture, from Benin and southwestern Nigeria, includes a wedding custom described as the Tasting of Four Elements. After exchanging vows, the newlyweds eat four different food items of a variety of flavors to symbolize the different emotions and moments in marriage. First is sour, typically a lemon slice, representing the disappointments a couple must face together throughout life. Next, a small sip of vinegar, for the bitterness that people have to overcome in fights and trying times. Then there is the hot element, often cayenne, as a way of bringing spice and passion into a relationship. A sweet spoonful of honey is the final element of the ceremony as a symbol of joy.
It’s incredible how different countries celebrate love! No matter the traditions or ceremony, it’s always beautiful when everyone comes together to appreciate others’ happiness.