Indigenous Weddings II: African Tribes

In this second article, included in the series in which we explain the most incredible characteristics of indigenous weddings around the world, we are going to relate some of the most surprising weddings among African tribes.

Africa is the richest continent in traditions, culture, ethnic diversity on the face of the Earth. The number of tribes that inhabit it is incalculable and, each one of them, has developed its own culture and traditions that last throughout the centuries. Today we are going to review some of the most curious weddings of these indigenous communities:

The Maasai

Maasai woman with the family cattle

Maasai woman with the family cattle


Marriage in the Maasai community is conducted after initiation of the boy and girl. The marriage is arranged by elders without informing the bride and her mother. Dances are common and this is where boys and girls meet. When a boy admires a girl, he goes to his parents and the parents go to the girl’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. If the family agrees, the boy’s parents would return on the next visit with a dowry of animals like cattle, goats, sheep, bed sheets and blankets. They also take khat and sugar.

During the marriage ceremony, a big sheep or a bull is brought from the groom’s home and slaughtered. Funny enough, the bride does not eat the meat. Another goat from the bride’s home is slaughtered for her. On the wedding day, the men stand at the gate and lift their sticks up, intersecting each other to create a gate. The best man goes through the gate first followed by the groom and his parents. The wedding clothes are the skin of cows with the red ochre applied on the skin for decoration. The shoes are also made of the skin. The bride and the groom apply the red ochre on the head for beauty. The bride’s present is milk and fat in a gourd.

After the girl has passed the gate, the men bless her and release her to go with her husband. After a few metres, depending on the distance of the groom’s home, the bride sits down and takes three sips of the milk. In case there is stones or river on the way, she is carried by the best man until the ground is good without stones or rivers. When they reach the bride’s home, a big ceremony is conducted by the elders to welcome the couple to their home. Both the bridegroom and the bride are called for a talk on how to manage their family. They are advised on how to live a happy life together.

The Mursi

Mursi ceremony

Mursi ceremony

Emani Cheneke

In the culture of the Mursi, one of the best known peoples of the Omo Valley in Ethiopia, the marriage ritual, or "gama", establishes the union of a couple. it is preceded by some rites, two male and one female, that perform the promise to marry.

The future husband must have the necessary assets to be able to pay the marriage compensation, a sort of price to be paid for the bride, which must be paid to the future wife's family; this payment represents an indemnity to compensate for the loss, in terms of work and fertility, caused to the relatives of the bride.

Before the wedding, the Mursi ritual foresees that the kidong ko duri ceremony is celebrated, which is a party that lasts a whole day in which people dance and sing; the songs narrate the new life and the new responsibilities that the couple will have as a consequence of the marriage, such as having children to give continuity to their descendants. At a specific time of the day all the participants in the ceremony sit in a circle and are served coffee, or "bunna"; when everyone has received the coffee, a man, a relative of the groom, sits in the center of the circle and starts talking to a woman, this is a kind of theatrical performance that narrates the marriage.

The tugha ceremony, which must be faced by the future bride, is the last of the rituals that precede the actual wedding; during this rite the bride receives the blessing of her father who thus gives her consent to the wedding. The day on which the tugha is celebrated coincides with the day on which the livestock received by the future husband as compensation is divided and assigned to the relatives of the bride who are entitled to it by descent.

The Amazigh

Henna on bride hands

Henna on bride hands


The Amazigh wedding ritual in Morocco lasts for three days and is usually performed in the desert, in a natural environment full of magic and mystery.

During the first day, the bride and groom remain separated each one in their home, and it is the man who sends his future wife the gifts and the attire that he must wear at the wedding. The woman's clothing consists of a white dress, and a red hood that covers her face. That morning, relatives and friends of the spouses arrive, who accompany the bride to the house of her fiancé, playing instruments and singing as a sign of excitement.

In the afternoon of the second day, the young people have their first meeting while both families wait behind the door. After their first meeting, the women give the Berber cry and the dance and drum party begins. On the last day, the couple sacrifices a lamb and before the sun goes down, the bride reveals her face to everyone present. The couple wear tattoos on their feet and hands painted with henna.

The Himba

Himba bride

Himba bride


Marriage in the Himba community is seen as a way of spreading wealth, and women will move to their new husband’s village after marriage.

The Himba people practice polygamy, with both men and women being allowed to have multiple partners as long as the arrangement is open and agreeable to all parties involved. Men tend to have several wives, especially if they are rich in cattle, as the animals' ownership is passed down from mother to daughter. The more cattle a woman owns, the greater her status of her and that of her family of her.

When men marry, the "wavymbu", a leather cap, reveals their new married status. The imposition and placement of this element is a true ritual. It is done with extreme care as it has to remain glued to the husband's head forever. For the Himba, having this hairstyle come undone means "bad luck" for the couple. The bride dress up in a pure leather headdress called "okor" and after the ceremony, they plaster her in butterfat ointment signifying acceptance into the family.

The "Ondjongo" dance forms the climax of Himba marriage ceremonies. Standing in a semicircle facing a line of men, the women clap and chant, while one of them dances in the center in the manner of a favorite cow.

Nomadic Tribe Team

Cover photo / Rashaida wedding, Face to Face Africa