Fancy time travel? Oh, yes, it is possible. It is possible to go from the docile, normal way of life where everything seems programmed, to a totally different world where you are free to roam with skins, beads, and colored ochre; and feast and dance to drum beats and horns without a single care in the world. And, you know where this is? Exactly! Traditional weddings! Doubting? Well, why don’t you go over this Zulu traditional wedding culture: ceremony, songs and colours, and judge for yourself?
Like any other African wedding, A Zulu traditional wedding is vibrant with music, colors dancing and feasting. While there are other South African wedding traditions & customs, a Zulu wedding takes the lead in popularity, magnificence, and pomposity.
Zulu traditional wedding culture
A Zulu traditional wedding is so rich. It entails so many cultural aspects from preparation to the wedding day and after.
When a Zulu girl comes of age, her father arranges a coming-out ceremony where he introduces her to society and lets suitors know that she is available for marriage. Well, to some extent, this tradition has changed because nowadays, the couple gets to choose their partners.
And, the Zulu girl has the advantage. How sweet! She is the one to go and get the groom. The groom then invites her and her clan to their home where they negotiate about dowry which is usually in form of cattle. These negotiations are something fierce. The father of the bride demands a worthy sum of compensation for giving his daughter away. Until an agreement is reached, all plans are stalled.
The cattle serve as insurance in case the groom decides to reject the girl or leave her unjustly. It is used to help feed her and the children they may have sired together. It is also meant to show the father of the bride that he, the groom has the ability to take care of the bride
How does a zulu wedding take place?
Wondering what happens in a Zulu traditional wedding? Well, once the bride and groom have agreed to go ahead with marriage plans, the senor girls allow the groom to spend time with the bride in her kraal. During this time, the lady is expected to remain a virgin until after her wedding. Should she be deflowered, the groom has to pay a fine and the wedding conducted immediately.
On the wedding day, the bride is decorated with white and red ochre. She ties bags of pebbles on her feet to create rhythm when dancing. She wears a veil made of beads and twisted fig trees, ties oxtail fringes on her arms and knees and wears goatskin on her neck. She then carries a miniature knife pointed upwards as a symbol of her virginity.
Then the highlight of the ceremony comes: dance-off between the groom’s and the bride’s families. The two families must present a ritual antagonism since one is losing a daughter and the other is gaining her. It shows she is disconnecting from her ancestral lineage and joining her husband’s lineage. Of course, the two clans have to fight for their own, who wouldn’t’? The bride then dances by herself kicking her feet up to show her mother that she is a proud virgin.
The groom’s family will then slaughter a cow and the bride puts money in the stomach of the cow. It shows that her new family welcomes her to join them and she willingly accepts.
The bride finally joins the groom’s family bearing gifts like cows, mats, baskets, and others to give to the members of her new family including the long-dead ones. The family will then cover themselves with blankets in an open field for everyone to see while the spectators dance, sing and ululate, cheering for the newly formed relationships.
The groom's mother rubs butterfat on her new daughter-in-law at the end of the ceremony.
Zulu traditional wedding songs
Forget the feasting and the teasing; what makes a Zulu traditional wedding so interesting is the dance. But, what is a dance without a song? Zulu weddings are known to include some sweet wedding songs like:
Zulu traditional wedding colors
Zulu traditional wedding decor is full of vibrant colors. And yes, before you forget, Africans are known to wear bold and statement-making colours. Like, for instance, the red and white ochre that the bride decorates herself with.
Once the girl and the guy agree to get married, the bride-to-be makes a pair of beaded bracelets and necklaces in matching colors. She wears one and gives the other to her groom. Whoever sees them knows that these two are a thing.
Usually, on the wedding day, the bride changes outfits three times to show her new in-laws how dazzling she looks in different colors. While it is not custom for the bride to wear the white gown, she can choose to wear it and change into a traditional outfit after she gets to the grooms home.
How much does a Zulu wedding cost?
Like any other traditional African wedding, a Zulu wedding can be a bit expensive. From the decorations to the costumes and gifts, you should be prepared to fork out at least n R70,000 – R80,000 to cater for 80-100 guests. However, the total cost depends on what you can afford and how well you plan for it.
Now, tell me, would you pass on an opportunity to witness and partake in this prestigious Zulu traditional wedding ceremony? Really?