Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

The beauty of traditional marriages in Africa

Article from AFRIC Editorial
Marriage is almost every woman’s dream and while at a tender age, kids start having an impression about how their marriages will look like. While growing up, it was very common for friends to talk about having lavish weddings, filled with class and splendor. Unfortunately, life reality sways several women from their childhood dream of a fancy wedding.

In Africa, marriages are the most celebrated events and most traditions consider it sacred. It is a fundamental rite which is performed and has the same value as the other marriages done in the church. Every typical African couple always kick start their union with a traditional marriage because according to customs if this rite is not performed, the marriage has no value. African weddings are considered very spiritual as it binds both families together.

In most cases, the most important part of the marriage is the paying of the dowry, which is considered a gift to show appreciation to the parents of the bride. However, the way these marriages are carried out has greatly evolved over time, from the dressing of those involved to the decor and the process as well.

African cultures hold marriage in high esteem

There is one major question which often pops up when a woman is fast approaching her 30s. Are you married? This is primarily because society high respect for women who are married where as anyone who is not yet or is still to be married still have a lot to proof.

In most cultures, marriages were a sign of responsibility and an evidence of good moral standing for the woman and any unmarried girl is considered not well brought up by the mother. Hence, they face a lot pressure from family and society and in other cases, family members will take it as a duty to look for a partner for them.

A glaring instance of family and societal pressure is the recent case of the 32-year-old Ugandan student at Oxford University, Lulu Jemima who married herself to wade off family pressure. At one point, social media displayed a series of cases of women who got married to images or pictures just because they wanted a change of status.

Marriage in different African cultures

In most cultures, when a man finds his wife to be, he will go along with his family to see the girl’s parents to request her hand in marriage. However, each culture has a way of proceeding with the ceremony.


The ceremony often begins with what is referred to as the “knocking” (kokako) which comes from tradition of knocking on the entrance of a house before entering if you are a visitor.

During the knocking ceremony the groom’s family members visit the bride’s parents with wine, some money and cola. During such visits, there is a designated spokesman who is in charge of revealing the reason for the visit. If the family of the bride accepts the gifts offered, then the groom and his people can go ahead to declare their purpose for the visit.

This ceremony is the first rite performed before the celebration of the marriage itself. It is often carried out within one or two weeks to the marriage ceremony. However, this practice is not only common to the Ghanaians, several other countries have the same system.

South Africa

For the Tswana Marriage Customs, the groom’s family is also expected to pay a visit to the bride’s family. But the tradition stipulates that such delegation should comprise an even number of men and women. The groom approaches some men who represent the bride usually seated by the fire and deliver gifts such as whisky and sheep which will be killed to celebrate the visit. The women who accompany the groom carry the dowry referred to as the lobolla and wait on the knees. They are usually considered “enemies” by the bride’s family because they are there to take the bride away.

The men then seat by the fire and discuss the dowry, and when they finally arrive at a conclusion, they sing songs of praise to the husband to be. Then everyone present returns home and prepare for the big celebrations which takes place later in the day. Usually, the bride’s relatives are expected to give sheep to the groom’s parents as a return offering process.


For the Himba people in Namibia, they have a very different and special way of doing things. Prior to the ceremony, the bride is first of all kidnapped and she is dressed with beautiful marriages cloths and jewelries. She is then brought to her father after the ceremony and is told of her responsibilities as a wife. She is then rubbed with butterfat to show that she has been accepted into the family.

Despite the fact that different countries in Africa have various ways of carrying out their traditional marriages, they are all deeply rooted in the same principles. The groom and his parents must seek the consent of the bride’s family before the marriage is carried out. Most of these ceremonies turn to be colourful and are characterized with songs and dance to celebrate the union of both families.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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