Culture The Beauty of Africa

7 Unique African Marriage Traditions

Unique African Marriage Traditions
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Written by See Africa Today

Unique African marriage traditions will always entertain the world. In Africa, there are interesting marriage customs that range from bizarre, unique, crazy, beautiful, and extraordinary.

Nevertheless, these marriage experiences are exciting and beautiful, no matter how we view them.

Marriage ceremonies in Africa differ ‌because of the diversity of culture and religion. Here are 7 unique African marriage traditions from different parts of the continent.

Kidnap the Bride!

Among the Himba tribe of Namibia and the Frafra tribe of Ghana, when a man identifies a girl to marry, his family would kidnap the bride-to-be and take her to their home, heavily guarded against escape.

Unique African marriage.

Unique African marriage. Photo/African Vibes

The groom’s family in the Frafra tribe would then visit the bride’s family with gifts like tobacco, kola nuts, and guinea fowls just to inform them of the whereabouts of their daughter. Sometimes, their marriage proposal is rejected. If the proposal is accepted, the girl’s family would dare the new son-in-law to show his seriousness by impregnating their daughter.

A ceremony known as “hand running” is performed. This ceremony involves the killing of a dog, two goats and several fowls, which are then seasoned and taken to the girl’s home. The groom’s family officially presents the dowry to the in-laws.

The dowry always comprises four cows, several guinea fowls, kola nuts and money. They then share the seasoned meat among all themselves to eat, as a sign of a joint union.

If the man cannot provide the items, the woman’s family would wait for a girl child to be born from the union and retrieve their dowry. It truly ranks among Unique African marriage traditions.

Marriage Mentor Hides Under a Bed

Are you wondering what someone else would be doing under the bed of the newlyweds? Well, Unique African marriage traditions have this too.

In Swahili culture, a ‘marriage mentor trained and counselled the bride who marries through an arranged marriage for their first night.

On the first night, the ‘marriage mentor’ hides under the bed, while the newlyweds perfect their marriage.

This marriage mentor does this to prove if what they taught was put into practice by the couple.

Ritual Bath for Bagwere Uganda

When a Mugwere boy identifies his bride, the girl introduces him to her parents. At this ceremony, the boy offers gifts, known as okutona to the girl’s family.

The groom then takes the girl’s parents to his parents to discuss the bride price, with heavy feasting on this occasion. The groom’s mother, accompanied by someone else, pays bride price and fetches the new bride from her home.

The couple consummate the marriage after a ceremony known as ‘kunaabya omugole,’ where both the bride and groom bathe with herb laced water under a tree.

The Bakiga Simply Weep

Marriage amongst the Bakiga in Uganda is characterized by weeping. Once the man identifies the girl he wants, a process called okuriima begins. This involves spying on the girl and her family, finding out their clan, their history, etc.

African marriages

African marriages. Photo/YouTube

When the girl’s family accepts the man’s offer to marry the daughter, they agree upon bridewealth, which is delivered at a ceremony known as okujuga. The bride price includes a cow for the maternal uncle and sheep or goats for the father.

Okuhingira ceremony follows next where the boy is officially given his bride. Okuhingira is an elaborate ceremony characterized by the girl fighting and weeping pleading not to be taken.

When she is eventually seized, her family shaves her head, and her brother carries her to her new home where she weeps while the boy’s family parties and celebrates. The groom taps her on the head with a twig signifying he is her new master.

It is has all the aspects of crazy and unique African marriage traditions.

Giving Birth Before Marriage

Among the Nuer people of South Sudan, the groom pays 20 to 40 cows to the bride’s family before the formal wedding ceremonies happen.

However, before the wedding, the bride is supposed to have birthed two children. If she bears just one, the husband can ask for a divorce. The groom is offered two choices, either to pick the cows or custody of the child.

A Feast for the Groom

The Bemba people of Zambia, have various customs before marriage. First, there’s secret counseling for the bride called Bana Chimbusa. Chilanga Mulilo follows, which has the bride’s family making different dishes for the groom’s family. They do this to show what the groom will eat once he marries their daughter. Then follows another ceremony which is the official merging of the two families. The ceremony is known as Ama Shikulo.

Spitting on the Head and Breasts

For the Maasai tribe in Kenya and Tanzania, they are the epitome of unique African marriage traditions. Elders arrange the marriage ceremony without the bride or her mother’s knowledge. After paying the dowry to the bride’s family, the mother is given a bull as a gift signifying the departure of one of her children into a new home.

On the wedding day, the bride’s father blesses the daughter by spitting on her head and breasts before she leaves.

On the day of departure, the bridal train joined her as she performed a traditional dance using “wooden sticks” which signified the prosperity of her marriage.

During the dance, the groom’s family throws insults at the bride, to remove any bad luck from the bride’s new home. On departure, the bride was not supposed to look back. If she turned back to look at her old home, they believed ‌she would turn into a stone.

However strange these marriage customs look, one common thing is that they are deeply rooted in the notion of family. Marriage is for procreation and providing for children. These were the foundation of African society. ‌Marrying for love or sexual attraction was often discouraged.

That is why girls were kidnapped for marriage and parents or elders made decisions on who their children would marry.

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About the author

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See Africa Today

Pharis Kinyua is the editor of See Africa Today. With over seven years of experience in digital media, he has a soft spot for African tours and travel. His drive is to tell the rest of the world what Africa offers, the best accommodation facilities, national parks, culture, shopping malls and best airline deals to travel to Africa

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