A traditional wedding is a last step after lobola negotiations have been finalized. This kind of wedding involves different cultures. Sometimes traditional weddings can be between two different cultures so those cultures will be represented on that day although the bride will end up following her husband’s culture.
There are 3 stages to the Ndebele wedding and can take several years to complete. The first stage is Labola for the bride; this is paid in instalments of both money and livestock. The second stage is a two-week sequestration of the bride during which time other women teach the bride how to be a good wife and the third stage is completed when the bride has her first child.
Stage 1: The groom to be sends a letter to the bride’s family to request a date for the Labola negotiation. He then has to purchase a sheep; some blankets, a broom and a few clothes for the bride’s family. The groom’s parents then visit the bride’s parents and pay the Labola. After this they take the girl home with them to get to know the groom and his family.
Stage 2: Preparation for the wedding day will include writing up a guest list and sending out of the invitations. The invitations get sent out two weeks before the wedding day. Food is bought and cooked the traditional way. This includes ‘mielie pap’ (traditional maize meal), meat and salads. Fruit, sweets and cake are served as dessert on the day. The official wedding takes place in a church. Family members are present to witness the couple saying their vows and the exchanging of the rings. After the church ceremony the couple will change into traditional clothes and go with the guests to the bride’s home to eat. After they have eaten the couple will sit at an especially decorated table. Everyone present will talk to the couple and give them gifts. Once the gifts have been handed over the groom will thank the guests. The group then go to the groom’s home where the oldest brother as well as all parents and grandparents are present and they officially give the bride a Ndebele name.
Stage 3: Once the bride has her first baby, the wedding is complete.
Many people take a liking to this culture and language because of their wedding ceremonies. The bride and grooms closest family members will get together to discuss the wedding and most importantly, the lebola. What happens here is the bride’s family, normally her mother and father, request certain items from the groom’s parents in exchange for their daughter. The items that are normally asked for are things like money and livestock, but they can literally ask for anything. If they would like a bottle of brandy, they can ask for that, or a television, whatever they ask for, the groom’s parents cannot refuse otherwise their son may not marry whom he wishes to marry. A Sepedi wedding is not held at a church, but rather at the bride’s or groom’s home. When the bride is dressed and ready for her wedding, she has to go to the river and collect enough water and wood for the ceremony. Her dress will be made from a cow’s hide and is called a Dintepa. The groom can wear a suit for the big day. When the bride has collected enough water and wood and completed her other tasks, she is now ready to walk to her husband-to-be, but while she is walking her grandmother sweeps the floor in front of her to “clear her way”. When the couple is married and everyone has been to congratulate them and the ceremony is done, a cow or sheep will be slaughtered and the meat is equally divided to both the families. Then the fun starts; the music played at Sepedi weddings is normally that of kiba music, which only the men are allowed to dance to.
The process starts with the ukutwala (the taking), which occurs after the groom’s family has chosen a suitable bride for him. The men of the groom’s family collect the girl and take her to his house where she will awake the next morning. This is not kidnapping. The prospective bride is not harmed and may return to her family. It is just a formal method of signifying the intention to marry. One the girl returns home the groom’s family will start to negotiate labola with the bride’s family. Today, the bride and groom are familiar with each other and thus the ukutwala is more uncommon. If it is to happen, the bride may know about it beforehand.
The size of labola varies depending on the wealth and status of the families and the advantage to gain from the marriage link and the desirability of the bride.
Traditionally labola amounts to 8 heads of cattle. In the Xhosa tradition labola is never really paid up. This implies that the family link is a very important part of labola. It is a union that must be constantly renewed by visiting one’s in-laws, inviting them round, and in general maintaining good family relationships.
Once labola is finalized, the marriage can take place. The wedding takes place at the groom’s house. An animal will be slaughtered as a sacrifice to the ancestors, inviting them to bless the occasion and introducing them to the bride. There are no formal invitations. Whoever wishes to can participate in the celebrations. The celebrations can go on for at least 2 days. The final stage of the marriage occurs when the bride and groom show themselves to the community by walking along the main road. (ukucanda ibala)
The groom invites his in-laws to come to his home so that they will discuss the wedding date (Ukubona izinkomo). The groom pays the labola to the bride’s family and then they set a wedding date that is suitable for both families. After they agreed on a date the bride’s family will go back home with the cows and start the wedding preparation.
The bride’s family buys gifts that she will give to her in-laws after the wedding ceremony such as: blankets, Zulu mats, brooms, clay pots, aprons and furniture. She will also buy a box (Kist) where she can put her clothes in and her husband’s gifts.
The goat will be slaughtered after the head of the family has told the ancestors that his daughter is getting married. He also asks the ancestors to protect her. The bride’s father buys the goat that will be used to perform a ceremony, which is called umncamo,
The family and relatives of the bride give gifts to the bride just to wish her a happy wedding and they advise her to be a good wife to her husband and family. (ukucimela)
The groom will buy two cows which will be slaughtered on the day of the ceremony. He will also buy a goat that will be slaughtered to welcome the bride. The groom’s family will prepare food and sorghum beer for the special day.
The bride’s mother gives her daughter a blanket that she will use to cover her body when she is leaving and her father will lead her to the kraal, and from the kraal they will go straight to the groom’s residence and the bride will be advised not to look back.
The bride’s family comes early in the morning so that the bride will steal the gate. The bride enters her husband’s home while nobody is noticing her. She enters in the kitchen and sits in the women’s side of the house. Then the groom’s family will pay for not being aware of the bride, they should have stopped her before she entered the house. The groom’s family will welcome the bride’s family and show them the room in which they can stay. The ceremony will start at midday and both bride and groom wear their traditional clothes.
Ibheshu- skin buttock covering worn by man. Isinene- it covers the male front part Isembatho- it covers male shoulders Amadavathi- it covers male ankles Izingusha- they cover male wrists Iklolode- it covers male hair
Isidwaba- leather skirt worn by married woman Isicwaya-wear skin to cover breast Inkehli- it covers females head
The couple then go to an open place where they will perform their wedding and dance in the traditional way. After that they will go back home to eat. The bride will give her in-laws the gifts she brought and the groom’s family will give the bride an outfit that she will wear when she enters the kitchen
Wedding bring two families together it actually build a relationship in the families that no one will separate because it also involves their ancestors. So the groom’s family takes a cow’s bile and split it to the bride which ensures that she now belongs to the groom’s family.