The Distinctive Zulu Wedding: A Zulu wedding custom

South Africa, also known as the “Rainbow Nation”, has a diverse set of cultures. A culturally driven nation, as a spectator one gets to witness different elements of culturally diversified customs and practises. As the preparation for Espousal South Africa kicks away, we are here to explore some of the different wedding customs across various ethnic groups present in South Africa!

The Zulu Tribes are known for their extravaganza colours and even more extravaganza traditions, and one such tradition that it gets reflected upon is the wedding. 

To start off with, a typical Zulu wedding commences on a full moon night and not on any other night. So during full moons, one can see a plethora of marriages happening in their community. In weddings, most likely the bride’s parents are not present because the occasion is too sad for them. 

The Zulu wedding can take many shapes and forms. Usually the bride changes at least three times on her wedding day, showing off to her in-laws how beautiful she is in different colours. To be precise the bride is decorated with red, white and ocher designs on her legs and arms. Bags of pebbles are tied to her ankles and she wears a veil made of beads and twisted fig leaves. Oxtail fringes are tied to her elbows and knees and goat hair fringes are worn around her neck. She also wears an intricate head dress usually made from her mother’s hair. She carries a miniature knife (called an “assagai”) pointed up to symbolize her virginity. After the marriage is consummated the knife will be pointed down

The wedding becomes more extravagant from hereon. A cow is slaughtered (sometimes a goat) at the wedding ceremony by the groom himself. This symbolises on his behalf for accepting the bride to be a part of his family from now on. The Zulu tribes believe in sacrifices as a form of accepting someone or something. Once the animal is slaughtered, the bride places some amount of money in the stomach of the deceased animal, as the guests invited at the party become a witness to this custom. 

After the end of this ritual, the feast begins. It kicks off with a ceremonial dance competition between the members of the two families. An essence of antagonism is displayed through this ritual towards each other. This dance competition is the highlight of any Zulu wedding, and is always successful in catching the attention of everyone present in the wedding. 

Beer is poured down on the ground which is a gesture to welcome the ancestors of both the family to the auspicious event.

Towards the end of the wedding, both the family bring gifts for each other. What’s quite interesting about this particular ritual is that even the long deceased members of the family are also graced with these gifts, and are represented by their living ones.

The ceremony is concluded by the mother in law of the bride rubbing butter fat on the skin of the newly bride. 

Indeed one can say, The Zulus have one of the most distinctive weddings in Africa.

Find out more about South African weddings from various experts! Visit Espousal South Africa on the 26th and 27th of March 2021!