There isn’t one standard African wedding attire. They vary from country to country and culture to culture. In fact, they can be just as unique as the bride herself. Because a bride’s African wedding attire will typically be custom-made, just about every one is an original. There are however some basic pattern trends that can be observed when looking at similar groups. Some attires are symbolic while others aren’t necessarily. What follows is just a small sampling of some wedding attires that can be seen across the continent.
Short beaded puberty aprons with frilly fringes and metal studs. The apron is typically red, white and black. Red symbolizes fertility, white symbolizes a transition or purity, and black represents marriage and wealth. Woolen yarn sashes made of vibrant colors and color-coded wooden tassels; the tassels worn will indicate whether or not the girl is already betrothed. To highlight the rhythm of their steps, the girls wear strands of dried seed pods around their ankles.
Guedra Tribe of Northern Africa
The girls wear beads, triangular glass talismans, and shell disks and gold pendants all braided into their hair. The triangular beads symbolize protection and fertility; blue beads represent the purity of the sky, white ones stand for the health of the Hassania servants and violet beads represent a dove… the symbol of gentleness and love.
Ndebele Tribe of Southern Africa
A bridal apron is called a “lipbotu”; it has two side flaps which represent the marriage partners and a fringe of small beaded tassels which symbolize the expectation of children.
Brides wear either a two-piece kaba set or the d’jaballa which is a silk gown covered with a kente wrap. A matching headpiece tops off the ensemble. The groom will wear a kente wrap over whatever outfit he desires to wear.
Yoruba Tribe of Nigeria
Bridal attire consists of an iro and buba with gele i.e. a wrapper and matching blouse with a similar matching head wrap. The groom wears a long tunic known as an agbada. The couple’s outfit is a matching uniform set (i.e. the fabric pattern used for both the bride and the groom’s outfit is the same) and is referred to as an-ko.
Zulu Tribe of South Africa
The bride is decorated with red and white ocher designs on her legs and arms. Bags of pebbles are tied to her ankles (these are primarily for their rhythmic effect during dancing). She wears a veil made of beads and twisted fig leaves; oxtail fringes are tied to her elbows and knees and a goat’s hair fringe is worn around her neck. She will also carry a miniature knife, an assagai, pointed up to symbolize her virginity. After the marriage is consummated, the knife will be pointed down.
If a friend hurts you, run to your wife.
– Nigerian proverb
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