Weddings in South Africa

a number of different categories of marriage

  • Sarah
  • 16 September 2017
  • 35

Traditional South African wedding

Customary marriages are different from modern weddings in a number of ways. Here I’ll look at just some of the traditions.

Labola, or bride price, is negotiated in traditional weddings, with the bride’s family paying a dowry.

Karamu is a wedding meal after the wedding ceremony. This is usually a feast and can take place over a few days. Before the karamu begins, the oldest male present from the bride or groom’s family bless the couple.

In Kwa Zulu Natal the annual Reed Dance Festival sees Zulu virgins brought before the polygamist Zulu king and he chooses his next bride.

A traditional wedding will see couples exchange rings, but they will also tie the knot, which means the couple have their hands tied together by grass or cloth to symbolise their union.

At each African wedding, 12 symbols must be presented to represent the coming years of marriage. The items are salt, pepper, water, wheat, bitter herbs, wine, a holy book, honey, a broom, spoon, pot, spear and a shield.

In Ndebele weddings the groom’s mother will make a goat skin apron, known as a jocolo, that is worn by all the married women during the ceremony.

A Xhosa woman inserts a knife into the ground as she accepts the proposal of marriage. The couple stay apart during the day and during the ceremony the men sit on chairs and the women sit on the floor.

A Zulu bride will wear a headdress made from her mother’s hair and will change her outfit several times throughout the day to impress the grooms family. In the Zulu culture it is customary for the wedding party to go to the groom’s house after the ceremony to slaughter a cow and for the bride to place money inside the cows stomach to symbolise her joining her new family.

Modern-day wedding in South Africa

Modern weddings in South Africa are a fusion of cultural, ethnic, racial and religious traditions from across the world. In simple terms, planning a wedding in South Africa is relatively uncomplicated, even if you do not hold South African citizenship. The legal side is quite simple, just a few documents, a couple of witnesses, a venue and a marriage officer. The hard part is the details in the planning; choosing a venue, cake and flowers.

South Africa offers a vast and spectacular landscape of mountains and indigenous bush and stunning coastline. With historical sites, exquisite architecture, unspoiled nature and thriving cities, any couple will find a location that fits their dream. South Africans are warm and friendly accepting of a mix of religions and ethnicity, and will work so you have the perfect day.

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