Being a South Sudanese bride is an extravagant and joyous experience filled with overwhelming celebration, community, tradition, love and exclusive treatments. It is not a simple one-day event, but a continuous year of celebration.
So before he can put a ring on it, your hubby-to-be and his male relatives must go to the bride’s home to ask for permission to marry. Both families conduct a “background check” to evaluate the family and tribal history. Once approved, the male elders of both families set up meetings to negotiate on the bride price. Bride price must be paid for the bride, by the groom, typically with the help of his whole extended family. Many factors are taken into account when deciding on the amount, such as level of education, family status, physical qualities, and others. Back in Africa, these payments may be made through assets such as cows, goats, gold, and more, but in the US, it would be translated to $$$.
On the date the groom is ready to pay the specified amount, a big “engagement party” is hosted. It is usually at a venue with lots of food, dancing, gifts exchanged, and traditional attire. This is also when the groom is supposed to officially give the bride her engagement ring.
A South Sudanese bride is pampered like royalty during her entire wedding experiences by the women of the community. The home is a continuous festive place for the bride with lots of dancing, gifts, advice and joy surrounding her. Special indulging such as homemade sugar body waxes, scrub and bath treatments, and other lavish regimens start weeks in advance to prepare the bride to be glowing and gorgeous her big day.
A few days before the wedding, the bride-to-be spends hours receiving beautiful intricate henna designs from her fingers to forearms and toes to ankles. Some brides in South Sudan have a henna party the night before the wedding, which is a tradition adopted from northern Sudan from when they were one country. It is an all women’s event filled with dancing, singing, and eating.
For the main wedding, the couple has a traditional church wedding. The reception is typically buffet style and filled with many toasts. The bride and groom’s tribal groups and families perform traditional dances as they bring out gifts. During the cake cutting, the bride and groom each walk to their new in-laws, get on their knees, and serve them cake as a sign of respect and unity. The rest of the reception is a dance celebration with all music styles, lasting all night. On the next day, most families usually host a BBQ or some kind of going away event for guests.
Community is such a crucial element in South Sudanese culture, and weddings are a prime time when you see the whole community abundantly celebrating and embracing the newly weds as if it was their own child, ensuring it is a memorable and enjoyable journey. It is definitely an experience worth joining if you ever have an opportunity to experience a South Sudanese wedding!