The African wedding is not an afternoon affair. It’s not even an all day affair. It’s an occasion, and sometimes it spans over days, at times up to a week.
But even before the big day, there are months and months of preparations that span far wider than just the bride and groom, or even the bridesmaids and groomsmen. It’s a union of two family groups, and negotiations must be made.
In South Africa, these negotiations are called lobola, another name for a bride price. It used to involve a payment of cows from the groom to the bride’s family, and was most often negotiated by the bride’s uncle in her absence.
A white tent will be erected at the bride’s home, hours will be spent on hair getting done, and the cooking will never end.
Sheep are slaughtered, sometimes even a cow. There’s no such things as invitations; it’s a community event and all are invited. Some people attend because they’re family, some go because they know the couple. Others show up for the food.
Traditional fabric is purchased and clothes are handmade for the whole bridal party, both men and women. Often the bride will wear a white dress for the ceremony and change into a more traditional attire representative of her culture for the reception.
If nothing else, there will be singing. Lots of singing. A myriad of voices rising and falling according to the moment. And where there is singing, there will be dancing.
It’s not a somber occasion by any means; it’s a celebration. Of the liveliest kind.