A traditional wedding

South Africa is one of the largest diverse countries in the world with 11 official languages and a few unofficial ones.

South Africa is very rich in culture. No wonder we were dubbed the rainbow nation by Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Each individual culture has its own unique and wonder full way of performing a wedding. Customs and rituals differ from culture or the same culture but different tribes. How ever since Christianity was introduced a lot has changed. Over the years Church weddings and civil marriage have begun to replace traditional marriage.  But many people who observe modern marriage procedures still conduct traditional rituals and pay bride-wealth. Some tribes have prohibited bride-Wealth all together.

We will be looking at some in depth throughout the year but for now just a few short descriptions of a few traditions.

Lobola which is the process that starts the African marriage process is something that is common in most African cultures. If you are an educated woman with no children the lobola price is higher. People miss understand Lobola sometimes, it is a way of saying thank you to the family for raising a nice woman. In some cultures Lobola is only paid years after the actual wedding ceremony.

By Azekhoria benjamin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Azekhoria benjamin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
In a Zulu wedding the bride usually changes at least three times on her wedding day. Showing off how beautiful she is in different colours. Although nowadays many brides prefer to wear a white wedding dress. After the service the wedding moves to the groom’s house. The bride changes into a traditional Zulu outfit. One of the highlights is when the bride and grooms families compete with each other through the medium of Zulu dance and songs.

During this ceremony the family of the groom slaughters a cow to show that they are accepting the bride into their home. The bride puts money inside the stomach of the cow. This is a sign that she is now part of the family. The wedding ceremony ends with the bride giving gifts in the form of blankets to her new family, including the extended family. This tradition is called ukwaba. Even the deceased family members receive gifts and are represented by the living ones. The family cover themself with the blankets in an open area so that everybody can see them.

Both urban and rural Ndebele weddings today involve a customary ceremony called Ngesikhethu. As well as a Christian ceremony.

A traditional Jewish wedding ceremony takes place under a Chuppah or wedding canopy. Symbolizing the new home being built by the couple when they become husband and wife. In many Orthodox Jewish communities, the bride is escorted to the Chuppah by both her parents.  The bride traditionally walks around the groom three or seven times when she arrives at the Chuppah. The Ktubah (marriage contract)  is read out loud usually in Aramaic, Non Orthodox Jewish couples may opt for a bilingual Ketubah, or for a shortened version to be read out. In traditional weddings. Two blessings are recited before the betrothal, a blessing over wine, and the betrothal blessing. Which is specified in the Talmud.

The Sheva Brachot or seven blessings are recited by the Hazzan, Rabbi or by select guests. Who are called up individually. Being called upon to recite one of the seven blessings is considered an honour. The groom and bride is given the cup of wine to drink from, after the seven blessings. In some traditions, the cup will be held to the lips of the groom by his new father in law. And to the lips of the bride by her new mother in law. Traditions vary as to whether additional songs are sung before the seven blessings.

At the end of the wedding the groom breaks a glass, crushing it with his right foot and guests shouts Mazel Tov! The origin of this custom is unknown, although many different reasons have been given by different people for this. Reform Judaism have a new custom where brides and grooms break the wine glass together. Yichud refers to leaving the bride and groom alone for 10–20 minutes after the wedding ceremony. The couple retreats to a private room, the seclusion is necessary to complete the wedding ceremony.

A Muslim wedding does not need to take place in a mosque. Any Muslim who understands Islamic tradition can officiate.. The marriage traditions differ depending on culture, but during most ceremonies, men and women remain separate.

The actual ceremony is called a Nikah. It is usually a simple ceremony and includes reading from the Qur’an and the exchange of vows in front of a minimum of two male witnesses. Both bride and groom express their free will by repeating the word Qabul (I accept) three times. Often the Imam is present for a short sermon. However the feast afterward is always very large as they show themselves off to family and friends. As a marriage has to be public.

A hindu wedding is very involved and can last for a few days. Though rituals of a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony differ across various linguistic groups, among the South African Hindu community. There are nevertheless several common aspects between the various rituals. The wedding prayers are usually chanted in Sanskrit by the priest, with some use of the local language. Today there are translations made so that the bride and groom can understand the nature of the vows they are taking.

As part of the wedding ceremony, the couple exchange garlands. The Saptapadi or saat pheras perhaps constitutes the most important aspect of a Hindu wedding. Fire is considered as a witness and the couple walk around it seven times, tied to each other with a wedding knot, to signify their love and fidelity to each other. Each circuit signifies something such as promising to give each other happiness.

During the wedding ceremony the priest uses ghee to keep the fire burning and the fire gets “fed” rice and flowers. The groom places vermilion powder on the brides head, where her hair parts and gives her a sacred thread called a thali or a necklace to wear around her neck to symbolize their union.


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