The continent of Africa is home to a wide diversity of religions and cultures and therefore one can find a great variation in wedding traditions. However, a remarkable and unifying feature of wedding in Africa is that people of Africa give utmost regard to the institution of marriage. Besides, in most of African societies, wedding is seen as the coming together of families or even the mixture of two tribes into one family unit. Bright festive colors, song, dance and music is a vital element of many African-wedding ceremonies. Common to all wedding ceremonies is the concept of transitioning between childhood and adulthood.
Great Diversity in Wedding Traditions
There exist more than 1,000 cultural units in Africa and each tribe has its own set of wedding traditions some as old as hundred or thousands of years. Additionally, many Africans have Islamic and Christian influences and that plays a big role in the wedding ceremonies. In some tribal societies wedding traditions are extremely elaborate lasting many days. On the other hand in some tribes, huge ceremonies are held during which many couples are united at the same time.
Popular Wedding Traditions
Though different tribal communities in Africa follow their own set of wedding customs and traditions, there are some traditions that are more common than others are. Given here is a short description of some of the more popular wedding traditions as seen in the African Tribal Weddings.
Influence of Western Society in African Tribal Wedding
- Jumping the Broom : One of the most common traditions of African Tribal Wedding is 'jumping the broom'. The ritual is said to have originated from the Deep South during the American Civil War when slave weddings were not permitted and so an alternative commitment ceremony had to be found. In this ceremony, the broom is placed on the floor and the couple jumps over it. The gesture is said to symbolize jump from single-hood into matrimony or sweeping away the old and welcoming the new.
- Knock on the Door : In Ghana, an Asante male interested in a woman must 'knock on the door' so his mother and maternal uncle visit the girl's family and propose marriage.
- Training to Become Good Wife : Several tribal communities of Africa follow the tradition of imparting training to young girls to become good wives. Here young girls even learn secret codes and secret languages that allow them to talk with other married women without their husbands understanding what is being said.
- Polygamy : Another common tradition observed in African tribal societies is the tradition of polygamy. In several tribal communities of Somalia, a man is allowed to have as many as four wives if he can support them all. Besides, it is not uncommon for a girl to be engaged before she is even born. In many African cultures children are encouraged to marry as young as 13 to 15 years of age, as soon as they have reached physical adulthood.
In present times, influence of western society is clearly visible in the way weddings in African are conducted. Some rich families in Africa even go to the extent of holding two wedding ceremonies - one in traditional African style and the other in modern western style. Court marriage and love marriages too have become order of the day. This change in wedding traditions is attributed to the fact that Africa is becoming overpopulated and western countries seem to have an increased influence on the African people.