A Traditional Ethiopian Wedding
Comes in Many Forms

An Ethiopian wedding can take on various forms. There is a high population of Jewish Ethiopians and their weddings mix both their traditional Jewish customs with elements of a traditionally ethnic Ethiopian culture.

Ethiopian Jewish Wedding

Once a boy reaches the age of 18, his parents will start to seek out a wife for him. Both the girl and boys' fathers handle all the matchmaking and courtship matters. If all works out well, the family of the boy will present some jewelry to the girl's family and a cahenet i.e. a Rabbi, will bless their union. The girl's family will in response give cattle to the groom-to-be.

Woman Wearing Maria Theresa Thaler, an Old Silver Coin, at Senbete, Weekly Market, Ethiopia

Ethiopian Woman at Senbete, Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Jewish wedding celebration lasts for seven days. Prior to the wedding ceremony the bride is decorated with henna on palms, feet and fingernails. Before the official ceremony, the groom and his family build a hut which is blessed by the cahenet i.e. the Rabbi. On the day of the wedding, the purity ceremony, known as the kesherah is performed.

An Eritrean woman wearing a head wrap

The kesherah consists of one or two cords painted white for the purity of the groom and red for the bride's virginity. The kesherah is placed at the groom's feet by the cahenet, he pulls the kesherah up from the groom's feet all the way up to his head and then ties it around his forehead.

At the end of the wedding ceremony, the bride stays in her new home with her groom and everyone else on her side of the family leaves.

How You Can Integrate An Ethiopian Wedding Kesherah Into Your Wedding Ceremony

  • Go down to your local Home Depot and buy some twine; the length you get will depend on how tall (or short) the groom is.
  • You can also pick up some paint there as well, but I suggest instead that you go to a craft store like Michael's or Hobby Lobby and get some spray paint. Get one can of white paint and one of red paint.
  • At some point during the ceremony, preferably after the vows have been exchanged, your wedding officiant can perform the kesherah by placing the twine at the groom's feet.
  • The groom will stand on one end of the rope and the officiant will begin pulling it up from the floor till it reaches the groom's full height; he or she will then tie the rope around the groom's forehead, securing it in a knot.

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