African Wedding Traditions
In the United States, we have several wedding traditions that may look odd to someone who is not accustomed to them. Removing the garter could be considered crude by many cultures, and throwing the boutique would probably look very strange as well, and this is not even considering our practice of decorating the newlyweds’ vehicle, oftentimes with aluminum cans dragging behind. While these practices may be seen as quaint to people from other cultures, they have good intentions and are the customs we are used to. Many people choose to include aspects of weddings from other cultures into their own weddings. Although these African wedding practices are normal in their culture, they would be considered extremely odd in other parts of the world.
Dowry is a very common wedding tradition in many parts of Africa. A dowry is basically a negotiated gift that the groom gives to the bride’s family. Although the amount of dowry can be determined a number of ways, it is very common for the dowry to connected to the bride’s overall desirability, as far as beauty, education, class, etc. In some cases, especially with arranged marriages, this can get out of hand and monetary value can determine who a girl gets married to.
There are several African ceremonial traditions that would be considered outlandish in many parts of the world. One African tribe has a number of “good luck” practices that would be considered anything but that in most places. As part of the marriage, the bride must gather all of her possessions and set off for the groom’s home on foot, sometimes walking very far. To bless the marriage with good luck, the bride’s father will spit on her before she begins her journey. When she arrives at the groom’s home, the women of his family, once again as a good luck charm, will yell insults at the bride.
In another tribe, before the wedding night a woman elder will instruct the bride on the proper way to please her new husband. In many cases, the elder will hide under the bed, so that if any problems arise she will be able to offer advice or assistance. In other tribes the marriage is not final on the day of the wedding ceremony. The marriage may not be complete until at least two children are born, or there are “temporary marriages,” in which the bride is paid housekeeper’s wages and are not eligible for inheritance.
Although you may feel stressed planning for your wedding, or even the prospect of getting married, you can be glad that many of our wedding traditions are relatively tame. You can rest assured that there should be no excessive walking involved, no one being spit on, hopefully no insults from your new in-laws, nobody under the bed during your honeymoon, as well as knowing that your marriage is complete on the day of the wedding. Even though women will always compare wedding rings, it is preferable to bragging about their family getting a dowry of “a used car, a riding lawn mower, Rocky DVD box set, and a gift certificate to Red Lobster.”