What can be more beautiful than an African wedding? One of the most beautiful and incredible aspects of a wedding is the incorporation of culture and tradition. Your wedding day should be a visual representation of who you are and where you come from. Different cultures across the World integrate different symbols and traditional practices into their wedding day. South Africa is one of the most unique and culturally-enriched countries in the entire World and hosts thousands of African weddings each year. African weddings are packed with tradition, beauty, family value and style, of course. With the blend of cultures in South Africa, the wedding ceremonies we see can be very varied.
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South African Wedding Symbols
If you are looking to incorporate South African symbols into your wedding day, the 12 symbols of life are wedding symbols which are usually displayed during the ceremony. They remind the couple getting married of what they should expect from their marriage and what they need to overcome.
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Wheat — Wheat represents fertility and the promise of life and land for the couple! This symbol can easily be incorporated into flower installations or bouquets.
Wine — Wine symbolises the mixing of the blood of the two families. A must-have for any South African wedding. With our abundance of wine farms, you’ll have more than enough options to choose from for your big day.
Pepper — The pepper is a visual representation of the heated times that the couple will face. It’s perfectly normal for couples to experience conflict, as long as it’s dealt with respectfully.
Salt — Salt is to remind the couple of healing and to preserve their marriage.
Water — Water represents purity. As abovementioned, conflict is expected to occur in any marriage, however, water symbolises the dissolution of bitterness or any negative feelings.
Bitter Herbs — Bitter herbs is also a representation of conflict. Examples of bitter herbs include chamomile or peppermint – popular tea choices which can be served with dessert.
Pot and Spoon — The pot and spoon symbolises the health and strength of family.
Shield — The shield represents the pride and honour of the home. This is a traditional symbol which can be creatively incorporated into the decor.
Spear — The spear shows protection of the marriage. This symbol doesn’t have to be represented literally but can be incorporated cleverly through the use of wedding stationery, such as the wedding programme.
Honey — Honey reminds the couple of the sweet love that they share together!
Broom — The broom symbolises a clean and healthy home life.
A Holy Book — Symbolising God’s truth and power.
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Lobola is a gift which is given to the bride’s family from the groom’s family. Historically, lobola used to be an agreed-upon amount of cattle which was given as a gift but today an amount of money is provided. Lobola is very important in Zulu culture and Xhosa cultures. It compensates for the fact that the bride has to leave her family and join her husband’s family.
The process of Lobola negotiations can be long and complex and involves both families. Prototypically, only the uncles and the fathers negotiate the amount of lobola. What’s interesting is that the groom is not allowed anywhere near the negotiations. Usually, women are also not allowed to be present.
It is generally accepted that 11 cows are required in a lobola negotiation within the Xhosa and Zulu cultures. However, this number varies for different cultures. In 2009, the average cow was priced at approximately R5,000. The amount due is affected by many different factors including the education level of the prospective bride, whether the prospective bride already has children as well as the status of the bride’s father.
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Traditions from other African Countries
Libation Ceremony // West Africa
In some West African cultures, libation ceremonies celebrate the couple’s ancestors. Typically, alcohol is poured onto the ground in each of the cardinal directions. Prayers are then recited in honour of the couple’s ancestors and recently deceased loved ones.
Tasting the Four Elements // Yoruban Tradition
The bride and groom taste four flavours that represent different emotions within a relationship: sour, bitter, hot and sweet. Each flavour represents the highs and lows that come with marriage – ending in sweetness.
Kola Nuts // West Africa
Kola nuts are thought to have healing properties, as well as to be a symbol of hospitality and welcome. In Nigeria, kola nuts are broken and shared among the couple and their parents during a welcoming ceremony.
Money Spray // Nigeria
In Nigeria, the tradition of tossing money at the bride is called the “money spray” and is a celebrated part of the wedding ceremony. Typically, guests shower the bride with money while she dances. The money is a gift from guests to help the couple start their new life together.
Knocking on the Door // Ghana
Knocking on the door is a custom similar to asking for a bride’s hand in marriage. In Ghanaian wedding tradition, the groom asks the bride’s family for permission to marry their daughter by “knocking on the door.”
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