African Wedding Traditions

Celebrating Diversity

The countless number of African wedding traditions is a reflection of the diverse cultures and customs found in Africa. While traditions vary greatly by region there is an underlying common theme of joining two families together. For simplicity's sake only the better known or more widespread African wedding traditions are explained. Learn more about traditional African wedding attire .

Moroccan Weddings: on her wedding day the bride takes a ceremonial purification bath, followed by henna painting of her hands and feet. Following the exchange of vows, the bride walks around the outside of her new house three times indicating her new status as mistress of the home.

South African Weddings: to help get the newlywed's new life together off to an auspicious start the bride's and groom's parents will transport fire from their homes to that of the couple's. A new fire is lit symbolizing the continuation and joining of the two families.

Sudanese Weddings: seven broomsticks are burnt then cast away as a symbol of casting away bad habits that may sour the new marriage. The bride then washes the groom's feet with water from an earthen jug called a kendi, which is a symbol of peace. Once done, the bride breaks the kendi and enters her new home to demonstrate her obedience to her new husband. She then eats a rice dish with her parents, symbolizing the last meal she is served as a daughter. Lastly through song the groom requests to enter the home, which the bride permits.

West African Weddings: the bride and groom walk to the wedding ceremony together, accompanied by their parents, who switch partners (bride's mother partnered with the groom's father and vice versa) to represent the joining of the two families. Following the exchange of vows the couple and their parents share wine; again as a symbol of unity. A family elder then gives a small speech and toast after which he pours the wine onto the ground as an offering to family ancestors to bless the marriage and provide guidance to the couple.

African American Weddings: as slaves, African Americans were forbidden from marrying. Therefore other seemingly inconspicuous events were held in place of an actual wedding ceremony. The most notable is the jumping of the broom. The couple jumps over a broom set on the ground, symbolizing jumping into matrimony. The broom also had symbolic significance. The bride would help the groom's family sweep the courtyard representing her willingness to help and support her new family. The broom also represents the "sweeping away" of emotional and spiritual grievances indicating a fresh start in the marriage.

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