A Traditional Zulu Marriage.
As told my mother in law Mrs M. Mkandla
As the future bride, when you want to get married the first person you go to is your “babakazi”, your fathers sister or “Malume” your mothers brothers wife or an older sister who is married. They are the people responsible for telling your parents. The future groom also tells the same people on his side. They then decide on the date for the first “official” meeting. The elected person “Idombo” is the one who represents the groom at this meeting which is held at the parents of the brides home. The groom is not present. This is a very important meeting because it confirms everyone’s intentions. The elected spokes person for the bride’s family tells the “Idombo” what is required for the dowry.
The “lobola” or dowry is a combination of items given to the family of the bride as a token of appreciation from the groom. The father and uncles of the bride decide on what these items are. The first item “ukangaziwe” meaning “now you know me”, is money requested and given at this meeting and is the formal introduction of the groom. (Hopefully the Idombo has enough money with him otherwise the brides family will not acknowledge him and the meeting will not proceed). The “Idombo” is now given a list of the lobola items which can be given in part or in total. Most pay in part with the majority to begin with, then maybe a little more after the first child, and others remain indebted forever after this point.
First is the “Nkomo” which is cattle or money equivalent to the price of the cattle, then “Amalobolo” is the mothers cow to give special thanks to the mother for raising the bride. Next is “Impahla” which are items of clothing such as suits for the mother and father and shoes. After the partial or full “lobola” has been given, which can be a few weeks or months after initial meeting they are now considered married can now have the church wedding.
This is the regular white gown and tuxedo, bridesmaids, best man, flower girls, the works. For the reception, now in the afternoon, the bride and groom sometimes change into another set of tailor made outfits. The guest tables are adorned with themed overlays and place settings, batik tablecloths, wood napkin holders, wooden candlestick holders and small stone sculptures in the center. The main buffet tables may have large stone or wood sculptures, flower arrangements, wood or beaded serving spoons and salt and pepper shakers. The bridal party may have their table setting on a stage where everyone can see them and of course the dance floor is mandatory. Then we have the speeches, feast and dance. I say feast because the food has to be very good. As the new wife in the family, this will tell everyone that you prepare great food (even if you had nothing to do with the catering) so the family know they will be well taken care of. (Then the wife has to live up to this expectation!) So it is very important that you have a wide selection and no complaints! Everybody then has to dance sometime during the reception, which many do after a few drinks.
After the reception is “Ukulaya” which means to advise. This is a meeting for the bridal party, the groom’s party and several elders from both families. With the families present the Bride and Groom are counseled on the importance keeping the new family together. This becomes your duty as a married couple. Just because you are now married you cannot just go off and begin your own life and forget about everyone else. The only way any community can thrive is through these kinds of bonds. Then follows “La Mntambama” which means the evening is actually a huge party at the home of the groom’s parents and is sometimes even bigger and more informal than the reception. It is probably way after midnight by now.
In the morning – after very little sleep if any at all, the bride with her maid of honor and an Aunt or two called the “Sanyowami” meaning remain with me, remain with her at the home after most of the visitors have left. They have brooms to sweep the yard and clean up all the pots and dishes used at the party – before anyone is awake, then make breakfast for everyone. The bride now called “Umalokazana” or daughter in law, has to make sure everything is done so her parents in law know that their Umalokazana is a good housekeeper and will take great care of their son, their grandchildren and themselves.
Now the “Umalokazana”or daughter in law and “Mkwenyana” or son in law can live happily ever after as husband and wife.