African Wedding Traditions in Sudanese Culture

In Sudanese culture weddings are very much intertwined with their traditional vocations. Like most other traditional African weddings, families are an integral part of wedding ceremonies in the Sudanese culture. Sudan, along with parts of Egypt, is home to the famed Nubian tribe, and if you are a fan of Broadway then you may know that the show Aida by Tim Rice and Elton John tells the story of a Nubian princess named… Aida! Of course there's much more to the show but we're talking about weddings in Sudanese culture right now…

Like many other African wedding traditions, in Sudanese weddings among the Nuer people, marriage is accomplished when the groom's family pays the bride's family with cattle. The cattle received by the bride's family will in turn be used as payment when their own son(s) (assuming they have any) are looking to take a bride of their own. This system of passing on bride wealth however, makes it hard to dissolve marriages because the cattle will have to be returned.

The Nuers have a three-part marriage which is made up of the betrothal, the marriage and the consummation. The betrothal is sealed by the delivery of the first installment of cattle to the bride's home; upon their arrival, an ox is sacrificed to their ancestors and the meat is eaten by all. After this public promise to marry, the couple are now considered husband and wife.

Harerge Province, Harar, an Harari Girl in Wedding Attire, Ethiopia

Harerge Province, Harar, an Harari Girl in Wedding Attire, Ethiopia

At the actual wedding, the balance of cattle owed is given to the bride's family. The bride is the escorted to the groom's village by her peers where her hair is then shaved off completely. After this, the marriage is then consummated. Once the bride gets pregnant, she moves back to her parents' house until her first child is weaned. At that time, she will leave her parents' home finally and move in permanently with her husband.

By now being married and having his wife and child (possibly children if his wife had multiples), in his own established independent household, the man is now considered an elder among the tribe. If after a given time the man dies and doesn't have any male children, a close male relative is permitted to marry his wife and have children with her to carry on the man's name. The downside to this practice is that the replacement male relative is not allowed to take a wife of his own so agreeing to do this will mean making a bug sacrifice.

Sudan Facts - Incorporating Into Your Wedding

Some of the practices of the Nuer Sudanese culture can be a little bit hard to integrate into your own wedding but here are some ideas you can try:

  • Re-enact a betrothal ceremony by having both the bride and groom read some self-written poetry to each other that highlights your commitment to one another. If you are stuck for ideas about this type of poetry, check out the wedding poetry page.
  • The wedding portion will already have been taken care of so trying to re-enact this part will only be redundant.
  • In order to keep your wedding ceremony and reception family-friendly and G-rated, I would advise that you not even try to re-enact the consummation portion of this particular traditional African weddings.

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