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African Wedding Traditions

African Wedding Traditions

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Published by Reiner King Antonio

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Published by: Reiner King Antonio on Sep 06, 2012
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04/28/2013

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tonioAfrican Wedding Traditions
 Africa is a large and varied continent containing some of the oldest civilizations on earth. It is home to a wide diversity of religionsand cultures, and this colorful diversity is reflected in its diverse and colorful weddings traditions.If any one wedding tradition might be said to be indicative of the African continent it would be the importance of 
family 
. An Africanwedding is, more than anything, the bringing together of two people as a single family, or the combining of two families or eventhe mixture of two tribes into one family unit. The concept of 
family 
is one of the unifying ideas of the African continent.There are more than 1,000 cultural units in Africa and each culture, each tribe has its own wedding and marriage traditions, manyof which can trace their origins back hundreds or even thousands of years.There are also many different religions represented in Africa. Many northern Africans, especially, have been influenced by Muslimtraditions, while further south there are more Christian, Hindu, and even Jewish traditions interspersed with more ancienttraditions.In many places in Africa young girls are trained to be good wives from an early age. They may even learn secret codes and secretlanguages that allow them to talk with other married women without their husbands understanding what is being said.Depending on which part of Africa you are in, wedding ceremonies can be extremely elaborate, some lasting many days. Oftenhuge ceremonies are held during which many couples are united at the same time.In Sudan and in other areas along the Nile a man must pay his wife’s family in sheep or cattle for the loss of their daughter’s laborin support of the family. A wife may cost a man as many as 30 to 40 head of cattle. Often it is difficult to pay the family yet stillhave enough cattle left to support his new wife.In Somalia a man is allowed to have as many as four wives if he can support them all, and it is not uncommon for a girl to beengaged before she is even born.Bright festive colors, song, dance, and music are vital elements of many African wedding ceremonies. Common to all weddingceremonies is the concept of transitioning between childhood and adulthood. In many African cultures children are encouraged tomarry as young as 13 to 15 years of age, as soon as they have reached physical adulthood.Divorce is rare in African marriages. Problems in a marriage are often discussed with both families and solutions found. Oftenentire villages join in to help a couple find solutions to their problems and keep a marriage from failing.Marriage is sacred the world over, and that is definitely true in Africa, no matter which region or which culture you come from, andno matter what your religious beliefs. In fact, many cultures have a special totem that is designed to remind a couple that culturaland tribal differences must be allowed for in order to make a marriage succeed.
African American Wedding Traditions
Many African Americans choose to include their heritage in their special day. There are countless ways to honor your ancestorsduring your wedding ceremony and reception. You may also choose to add ethnic touches to the bridal shower and wedding partygifts. Wedding customs and rituals vary from region to region in Africa. Yet there are some customs that have a common thread in African values, views, and experiences which provide uniformity. In general, African marriages celebrate the uniting of twofamilies. Introducing aspects of your culture during the wedding ceremony and/or reception is a way of celebrating your heritageand ancestry.
 Tying the Knot
In some African tribes, the bride and groom have their wrists tied together with clothor braided grass to represent their marriage. Today's modern couples may choose tohave the officiant or a close friend tie their wrists together with a piece of kente clothor a strand of cowrie shells during the ceremony while stating the wedding vows.Seeour wedding essentials collection.
 
Libation Ceremony
To honor their ancestors, some Africans pour Holy water, or alcohol, onto the ground as prayersare recited to the ancestral spirits. Some African American couples choose to incorporate alibation ceremony as an opportunity to honor those that have recently passed away.
Jumping the broom
This is a well-known tradition whose origin is up for debate. During the slavery era, since Africanslaves were forbidden to marry in America, they would make a public declaration of their loveand commitment by jumping over a broom to the beat of drums. Today, this ritual's significanceis agreed upon to be a symbol for the start of the couple making a home together. It has becomevery popular for African-American couples to "Jump the broom" at the conclusion of their wedding ceremony. The broom, often handmade and beautifully decorated, can be displayed inthe couple's home after the wedding.See our selection of Wedding Brooms.
Kola Nuts
The Kola nut is most often used for medicinal purposes in Africa. It is also essential in most African weddings. The Kola nutsymbolizes the couple's willingness to always help heal each other. In Nigeria, the ceremony is not complete until a kola nut isshared between the couple and their parents. Many African-American couples incorporate the sharing of a kola nut into their ceremonies, and then keep the nut in their home afterwards as a reminder to always work at healing any problems theyencounter.
Tasting the Four Elements
In thisYorubaritual, the bride and groom taste four flavors that represent different emotions within a relationship. The four flavorstypically used are sour (lemon), bitter (vinegar), hot (cayenne), and sweet (honey). By tasting each of the flavors, the couplesymbolically demonstrates that they will be able to get through the hard times in life, and, in the end, enjoy the sweetness of marriage.
Wedding Attire
Depending on where they are from, the African bride's attire will represent the area with excitingcolors and meaningful designs. Some African-American couples choose to convey their heritagethrough clothing. The possibilities are endless. It can be as simple as bridesmaids wrapped in African shawls and groomsmen with Kente cloth cummerbunds and bowties, or as elaborate asthe groom and groomsmen in traditional Nigerian garb called agbada. In Ghana, Kente is usedas wedding attire for the bridal party. Nigerian brides and bridesmaids typically don a bubah, anelegant four piece ensemble that includes a long outer wrap and matching headpiece. Today'sbrides may also choose to wear an African-inspired gown with African Adinkra symbols includedin the fabric. The brides may wear their hair in braids with ornaments on their wrists and necksbejeweled.See our Adinkra collection.
Adinkra Symbols
 
AKOMAGYE NYAMEME WARE WOOSRAM NENSOROMMA
Wearing an African-inspired gown with Adinkra symbols woven into the fabric is a special way to incorporate African tradition inyour wedding. Adinkra symbols are common in Western African societies; specifically Ghana, a country situated on the Atlanticbetween Togo and the Ivory Coast. Adinkra symbols were adapted by the Asante people of Ghana. The symbols representdifferent concepts or ideas. Adinkra symbols can be found everywhere in Ghana including fabrics, walls, pottery and logos. Somecommon Adinkra symbols used in weddings include, Akoma, Me Ware Wo, Gye Nyame, and Osram Ne Nsoromma. Akoma is aheart symbol that signifies patience and tolerance. Gye Nyame signifies the supremacy of god. Me Ware Wo symbolizescommitment and perseverance. Osram Ne Nsoromma is a stands for the harmony that exists in the bond between a man and awoman.Shop our Adinkra Collection.
Cowrie Shells
Cowrie shells, indigenous to West Africa represent fertility and prosperity. Cowrie shells are asignificant favorite used in bridal attire. Use of the shell design in favors, food serving, cakes anddecoration or table centerpieces express the tradition.
African weddings are a family affair and involve the combining of two lives, two families, and sometimeseven two communities! There are many different wedding traditions in the African continent and no two areexactly alike. However, in all the communities the bride plays a very special role and is treated with respectbecause she is a link between the unborn and the ancestors. A bride might eventually bear a very powerfulchild, so she is treated with respect. In some areas of East Africa the grooms family would even move tothe brides village and set up a whole new house there.There are many steps that take place before marriage starting at a very young age where training takesplace in how to be a suitable partner. Girls will many times go to circumcision schools where women teachthem what is involved in marriage, and in some ethnic groups even learn secret codes and languages sothat they can communicate with other married women. In the Wolof tribe there is even a time where theelders of the village gather with the bride and give advice and gifts.Weddings can be very elaborate, involving feasting and dancing for days within a community, they can bevery simple, or they can even be performed in huge marriage ceremonies involving many different couples.Click Here For African Clothing For Your Wedding!Click Here For Wedding Gift Ideas!
African Wedding Cultural TraditionsEthiopia
In Ethiopia the Karo people enhance a young brides beauty by tattooing her abdomen with differentsymbols.Amhara people: most marriages are negotiated by the two families, with a civil ceremony sealing thecontract. A priest may be present. Divorce is allowed and must also be negotiated. There is also a"temporary marriage," by oral contract before witnesses. The woman is paid housekeeper's wages,and is not eligible for inheritance, but children of the marriage are legally recognized and qualify forinheritance. Priests may marry but not eligible for divorce or remarriage.
Kenya
TheMassai peopleof Kenya grow up with children of their own age and normally form relationships

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