A traditional Zulu wedding – a time line!

If you are a young Zulu living in the rural areas of Zululand you do not only have a ‘white Christian wedding’ but you will also have a traditional ceremony, as all your ancestors did before you.

One of my Zulu friends and colleague invited me to his traditional wedding and I took picture for him and his bride (now wife). He allowed me to use a few pictures for this story.

This first picture shows him (with shield and spear) and his wife (lady in blue and yellow) participating in a joyful dance after the main part of ceremony was over.

The second picture is a drone image taken during the ceremony.

And the third picture is of me dancing :-).

The fourth picture shows the groom in his wedding finery (traditional Zulu attire).

Keep reading if you are interested to learn how such a wedding day unfolds:


⁃ In the early morning hours the bride arrived with her family in front of the groom’s parents homestead and settled under a tree.

⁃ A few cows were slaughtered and the meat was being prepared for the bride’s family, the groom’s family and all wedding guests (no invitations are necessary at a Zulu wedding, anyone who wants to may attend). This wedding had far over 200 guests.

⁃ Zulu beer (made from corn) had been prepared and a lot of the men sat under trees enjoying the fresh brew.

⁃ Older female members of the groom’s family buried some of the intestines of the slaughtered cows in the crawl in a traditional ceremony to apeace the ancestors (Crawl = central area of the homestead where the cattle are kept and important ancestors are buried).

⁃ It is remarkable to me that all what unfolded over the next few hours happened in bright sunlight (no shade at all) at over >35°C (>95°F)

⁃ Mid morning the groom’s family members were moving out of the homestead and formed a ‘welcome line’ in front of the gate. Only the oldest members from both families settled in the shade of a nearby tree.

⁃ The ladies of the groom’s family carried brooms and showed their new sister (the bride) that keeping the homestead in order would be one of her future duties.

⁃ Singing and dancing symbolized the readiness of the groom’s family for the wedding (The groom was among them).

⁃ [The eleven cattle (the ‘labola’ bride price) were driven out of the homestead to the bride’s father and mother.] _This happened earlier, but traditionally should be at this time._

⁃ About an hour into the proceeding the bride’s family approached the homestead and formed a line opposite the groom’s family.

⁃ A chest with all the brides belongings and all the wedding gifts was placed in between the two families.

⁃ Now a lot of dancing on both sides ‘heated up’ up the atmosphere (I was also invited to dance with the groom’s brother and other family members during that time!)

⁃ As part of all this dancing the groom presented the bride with a knife symbolizing that he wanted her to take up her duties and protect and care for their future family.

⁃ After a lot of dancing the older male members of both families ( ‘witness fronts’) formed lines in between the two families, quite close to the wedding official (in this case an elderly gentleman).

⁃ The bride now approached the wedding official and presented him with a reed mat. He asked her three times if the labola had been paid in full, if she loved the groom, and if she wanted to marry him. She answered yes three times and was therefore married.

⁃ It was quite remarkable to see that the bride walked and danced with a bowed head all the time, as her head was not allowed to be on the same level as her future husband’s head or any other male’s head. With the exception of a few short dances opposite one another the couple did not get close to or touch one another during the proceedings.

⁃ After a lot more joyful Zulu dancing the bride’s new sisters escorted the new wife into the homestead and to the crawl. She changed her dress in something more comfortable (from the heavy cow skin skirt she was wearing during the ceremony). From here on all the women celebrated together with her.

⁃ The men from both families keep dancing, singing, eating, and drinking into the night within the homestead.

⁃ Bride and groom (or better husband and wife) did not see a lot of one another during these proceedings, but as in every other culture at the end of the day they retired for the wedding night!

⁃ All of this took over four hours in the bright sunlight.

⁃ It should be noted that all these proceedings are following ancient rules to make sure that the ancestors are pleased with what is happening. I have been to weddings in the past where all the sudden the proceedings were stopped as someone claimed that some of ancient rules were not observed properly. The wedding was ‘rolled back’ to before the error and re-started, now observing the proper rules.

⁃ Important to know: A sunny day is a happy/lucky Zulu wedding day!

End of story

3 Replies to “A traditional Zulu wedding – a time line!”

  1. What a wonderful occasion although the heat of the day sounds harsh. Thanks for explaining the rituals of the ceremony….just remarkable.

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