Zulu people are the Nguni ethnic group native to Southern Africa. They are the largest ethnic group and nation in South Africa and they live mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. They take so much pride in their ceremonies.
The traditional wedding of the Zulu tribe is called “umabo”. When a Zulu girl is ready to get married, she informs her father and her father arranges a ceremony to inform the public of the availability of his daughter. Once the prince is found, the negotiations for the “lobola” begins.
The wedding processes starts off with the “ilobola”, this is the most important aspect of the wedding and marriage. The bride and groom’s family meet officially to have a discussion on the intentions of the groom towards the bride and how much he is willing to offer the bride’s family for their daughter. The lobola is considered as a form of appreciation from the groom, thanking the family for how well they have raised the woman he wishes to marry. It is also considered a form of compensation for the bride’s father, acknowledging that he is taking her away and offering some sort of apology.
The lobola is an effective way to unite and solidify the two families especially when done right. The lobola benefits the both families; the money obtained is used by the bride when she has to buy gifts for the groom and his family. As far as the money goes, there is reciprocity. When this process is finalized, the wedding date is set.
The process of setting the wedding date is called “ukubona izinkomo”. A date which suits both families is set and the bride’s family begins to prepare for the ceremony. After the ancestors have been told that the bride is getting married, the family will slaughter a goat. This goat is used in a ceremony called “umncamo”, the ceremony is performed in order for the ancestors to protect the daughter. The groom’s family will also slaughter a goat to welcome the bride into their family.
The bride’s mother then gives her a blanket to cover herself as she leaves home. She heads towards the groom’s home early in the morning with her box which is called a “kist” and is not allowed to look back. The box is symbolic; it is filled with her belongings and it symbolizes her coffin because she is now preparing to live the rest of her life in her groom’s home. When she arrives at the groom’s home, she walks around the livestock pen accompanied by her wedding party. An elder from her family now recites a chant, asking for acceptance from the ancestors buried in the groom’s land.
The veil of the bride is made of beads, her knees and elbows are tied with fringes of oxtail, she wears a goat-haired necklace and carries a small knife throughout the ceremony which symbolizes that she is a virgin. She wears a leather skirt which is called an “isidwaba” and also an “isicwaya” which covers her breasts. The groom wears clothing that covers his hair, shoulders, buttocks, ankles, chest and wrists. When the bride wants to hit the dance floor, she prepares by placing bags of pebbles onto her ankles.
After the ceremony, the bride is expected to stay with the groom’s family. The cows obtained from the lobola are often used for the umabo. The bride gives the groom’s family traditional blankets and mats as a wedding gift.