BY: IKRAM OMAR
Just like most other cultures, one’s wedding is a significant moment in Somali culture. From the religious rituals, to make-up and hair, every detail is crucial leading up to that experience. But before we even get to that point let’s rewind to what should happen before the wedding, getting engaged.
Traditionally, the man should ask the father of his future bride or the head of the household, for their future bride’s hand in marriage. When the “soo doonis” occurs, it is cultural and not tied to religious obligations. It is an official proposal with witnesses and an agreement with both sides of the family. Men from the groom’s side come to the bride’s home. The most senior elder from the groom’s side asks for the bride on behalf of the groom and his family. Then if they agree, the man must pay a dowry or bride price. In the past, this was accepted in the form of camel, land, and gold. However, today cash is accepted as well. The senior elder on the bride’s side agrees to the arrangement and they agree to meet again on the wedding day.
Then once the engagement “mehr” is confirmed, a traditional Muslim ceremony called a “nikah” will occur. This ceremony is typically held in the home a few days before the wedding reception or the afternoon of the wedding reception. During the Nikah, the groom’s side asks again for the bride. The bride’s side agrees and gives her away symbolically. The real giving away is done between the Imam and the Maxram. It’s attended only by family members and close friends. This ritual is vital because this is when the couple’s union is officiated by an Imam, a mosque official. The Imam will then conclude the marriage and it will become official in Islam. Once the union is official, it’s followed by the women singing traditional songs, dancing, and food.
After the nikah, a wedding reception called an “aroos” in Somali soon follows. This reception is always held in the evening. Somali wedding attire varies on the family and personal preferences. Traditionally, Somali wedding attire includes a “guntino” or “dirac” for women and a suit for men. Nowadays, the bride will typically wear at least two dresses: a dirac or guntino, and a white dress. While the men wear a suit. Additional must haves for the bride are gold jewelry and henna designs.
During the wedding, when most of the guests have arrived, the bride will make her extravagant entrance into the reception. She walks in slowly accompanied by her bridal party. Then the groom follows a few hours later with either his own groom’s men in tow or in between the bride’s outfit change and will then walk in with her. From there the night is filled with dancing and singing just like any other wedding.
Seven days after the wedding reception, an all-women’s party is held for the bride. The bride wears a dirac or guntino. Guests circle the bride singing and each lay a scarf on her head. This is a sign of respect due her new union and represents her becoming a married woman. The scarf is made of silky material and usually has many patterns and colors. Over the course of the party, guests provide treats in decorated containers and gifts for the married couple
Stay tuned once a month for our Weddings of the World blog. Where we will take a deeper look into the cultures and wedding traditions of countries around the world!
Photo credits: Instagram @BIILLBOARD
Author: Blogger, Etinosa Ogbevoen
To be Nigerian is to imagine having an over the top and beautiful wedding that is filled with tradition and glamour. Depending on where you are celebrating your wedding. Either in the United States or in the home country of Nigeria things can look a bit different but still have the same essence and majesty. It’s important to note that in Nigeria there are over 300 tribes and each of them have their own specific traditions that is unique to their tribe.
When it comes to being Nigerian respect and formalities go a long way. When two people meet and fall in love, it is up to the man to travel to his future wife’s parent’s house to ask for her hand in marriage. This meeting is crucial to the in order to get a blessing for their union. Many parents will ask questions about the background of the suitor and how he plans on taking care of their daughter. Once the two are engaged, tradition kicks in.
An introduction is set up at the home of the bride. The man brings his representatives of his immediate and extended family which usually consists of elders, such as aunts, uncles, grandparent and older siblings and cousins. The introduction is an event when both the families are able to meet and talk about the future nuptials. In the Nigerian culture people believe that you are not only marrying a person but that person’s family. The two families are able to get acquainted with each other in an informal setting but many times each family shows up looking their best to make a good first impression. Prayers are said over the union by the bride’s father and the kola nut broken and passed around for people to eat. The kola Nut is regarded as a sacred nut used to during traditional occasions.
Once the introduction is over then the real fun starts. Nigeria is known for their love of fashion. In order to help families pay for weddings each family will choose a material for a variety of people. The families of the bride and groom will choose a color to differentiate the two families. It usually goes with the colors that the bride and groom have chosen. There is also the asoebi which is a separate material that is sold to extended family and friends that is worn so that they can show solidarity towards the couple and their wedding. (If you know a lot of people getting married then you might be buying a lot of asoebi)
Many Nigerians have adopted the western world’s traditional wedding and incorporate that into their special day. Many Nigerians refer to that wedding as the “White” wedding because the bride is wearing a white dress. It is very similar and identical to the weddings that occur in the United States. This means that Nigerian wedding consist of two ceremonies, the “White” Wedding and the traditional wedding. Most people celebrate on two separate days.
During the traditional wedding, there can be some differences as far as the flow of weddings depending on the tribe. I will speak on the Benin tribe since that is where my family from. The families enter the room separately with lots of music and dancing and then are seated on opposite sides. Before the bride comes in there are 3 decoys for the groom to choose from. It is a test to know if he truly knows his bride. There are many tribes that have a bride price for the bride. For us we do not participate in a Bride price or dowry. A bride price or dowry is an amount of money that the groom pays the bride’s father in exchange for her hand in marriage. Many people see it as problematic because in the olden days women were seen as property that could be bought and sold. Another form of the dowry that some tribes ascribe to is bringing suitcases of material. Like mentioned before fashion is important to the Nigerian culture. For the Benin tribe the groom’s family offers drinks as a token of appreciation for the bride’s family giving them the blessing of her hand in marriage. During the ceremony the two families sit on two separate sides and a moderator for each family conducts the ceremony by introducing each member of the families, reciting traditional sayings and blessing the union. Once they are done the bride will leave her family and join her husband and her new family. The party begins and it is a night of love laughter and celebration.
So many traditions go into a Moroccan wedding, but first things first, the marriage contract! After getting the legal and religious aspects clear, the fun begins! PARTY, PARTY, PARTY! In the Moroccan wedding tradition, there is this celebration called, a “Three Day Party” where the bride will have her personal celebration, the groom will have his, and the last day everyone will get together and celebrate the new and in love couple.
Who’s ready for a girl’s day?! Well for the Moroccan wedding party, the bride has her own day of relaxation called, Hammam Day. The bride will get her female friends and family and together they will go to a “hammam” where the bride will be bathed and pampered before her big day. Who doesn’t like a beautiful and meaningful henna design to grace their hands and feet for their big wedding day? The great thing about henna is that it is beautiful and not permanent! The henna design is meaningful towards the bride and groom’s future in marriage. It symbolizes hope, fertility, and blessings throughout the marriage.
In Morocco, as soon as the bride and groom are engaged and officially set a date, they will have to book out the venue a year, sometimes more, in advance. Moroccan wedding meals are usually similar with all sorts of juices and almond milk flavored with orange water. Too bad for the ones who love to have alcohol at a party, it’s BANNED! Alcohol is forbidden in the Islam religion. But you don’t need alcohol to have the time of your life at the wedding! Morocco weddings usually start at 9pm or later and they party to the band playing “Chaabi” music all night. Literally! Breakfast is usually served at the end of the party which would typically be 6 or 7 in the morning. I’m guessing the party must have a great music all night long to get the party goers dancing all night.
There is so much that goes into a Moroccan wedding ceremony, but it is all worth it in the end because you get to celebrate the whole thing with your family, friends, and the newest blessing in your life, your bride or groom.
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!
The reception is undeniably the best and most memorable part of an Ethiopian Wedding. Great food is served buffet-style, including staple dishes such as Injera (Ethiopian spongy bread), Doro wot (a spicy stew made with chicken and eggs), and Kitfo (raw minced beef mixed with butter and spices). After dinner, the couple accompanied by their friends and family will dance to modern and traditional music followed by the cake cutting ceremony and champagne toast. To end the night, elders are seated in a row as the couple and their wedding party bow down to kiss the elders’ knees (which is a sign of respect in Ethiopian Tradition).
Melse is the post-wedding celebration and takes place a day after the wedding. During the Melse, traditional clothing is worn; Habesha Kemis for women and Habesha Libs for men. The Bride and her party will spend several hours getting their hair braided and getting bridal henna tattoo accompanied by a LOT of gold to accessories.
The Melse is an intimate celebration for close family and friends. Again, there will be traditional Ethiopian food(injera) served accompanied with Tej, which is a traditional beverage made with fermented honey. The bride and groom will conduct a bread cutting ceremony which represents their unity as newly-weds, and family and friends enjoy dancing and celebrate the newly married couple while having Buna(coffee) during a traditional coffee ceremony.
As if two days weren’t enough, The Melse is followed by a third event called Kelekel, which takes place on the third day of the wedding. This tradition is dedicated mostly to extended family who could not attend the main ceremony. This also gives everyone a chance to come together one last time before they bid the newlyweds farewell.
- Ethiopian culture is very rich. If you enjoyed this post, comment below and tell us what country you would like to explore next.
Most believe it’s hard enough preparing for one wedding. . . How about 3? And this doesn’t even include the pre and post-wedding festivities. Ethiopian weddings are one of the most elaborate and exciting to attend. What can I say… we look for reasons to celebrate and weddings happen to be the biggest celebration.
It all starts when a man loves a woman lol. Seriously though, traditionally, when an Ethiopian man decides he wants to marry, he doesn’t propose the American way. He gathers some of the older men in his family and goes to the bride’s home to ask her family for their daughter’s hand in marriage. The older men will highlight their son’s attribute and why he will make a great husband. If the family accepts, the wedding will be planned.
Next, there is Telosh, which is a wedding custom held at the bride’s family’s house two days before the wedding. The groom and his family bring various gifts to present the bride. These gifts often include a wedding gown, traditional clothing, and jewelry.
On the wedding day:
- The groom and his groomsmen get ready at the groom’s house and head over to his bride’s home.
- Once they arrive, a musical exchange between the bride’s family and his groomsmen will take place as they block the entrance to the home.
- Once they have serenaded their way in the house, the groom will then escort his bride out of her parents’ home and head to their place of religion, where the exchanging of vows takes place.
Wanna know what happens next??? Tune in later this week for Part II