Maasai marriages are elaborate affairs which incorporate many traditional rites. In a maasai community, marriages are conducted after the initiation of a boy and girl, which is usually arranged by elders without informing the bride and her mother.
Marriages in Maasai occur if a Murran’s father has a good friend with a daughter, the fathers will negotiate within themselves and decide on a date to marry off their son and their daughter without consulting them first. In some cases, it can occur during a dance which is very common in the Maasai community. When a boy is attracted to a girl, he goes to his parents and then his parents go to the girl’s family to ask for her hand in marriage.
Once both families come to an agreement, the boy’s parents would return on the next visit with a dowry of animals like cattle, goats, sheep, bed sheets and blankets.
Sometimes, a meeting is held a week before the celebration which is known as “aadung inkishu” which literally means the “Splitting of cows”. Here, both parties agree on the number of livestock that will be paid by the family of the boy. The amount varies from person to person, if it’s an agreement between friends, it may be 4 or 5 cows or it may be as high as 14 0r 15. They also take ‘Khat’ (a leafy green plant containing two main stimulant drugs which speed up your mind and body) and sugar.
Most Maasai girls do not have an option but to accept because it is their parents wish for them and sometimes sad because some girls are so young and are forced to marry older men. In a case where the girl declines, she will be beaten until she accepts.
The groom is not allowed to behold his bride before the marriage and in most cases they never met before the ceremony. He picks a best man some days before the ceremony whom he travels with to the bride’s house to pick her up, taking with them the dowry they are paying to the family.
During the wedding ceremony, the men use their sticks to create a gate by intersecting each other, as the best man goes through the gate first followed by the groom and his parents. They put on clothes made of the skin of cows with the red ochre applied on the skin for decoration, and also wear shoes made of the skin as well. To beautify the bride and groom, the red ochre is also applied on their heads.
After the bride passes the gate, the men bless her and release her to go with her husband. The family of the bride’s family are not permitted to attend the wedding ceremony, as she is no longer part of their family.