The Ndebele wedding is celebrated in three stages, this can take several years. The first stage is Labola for the bride; this is paid in instalments of both money and livestock. The second stage is a two-week sequestration of the bride during which time other women teach the bride how to be a good wife and the third stage is completed when the bride has her first child.

The groom to be sends a letter to the bride’s family to request a date for the Labola negotiation. He then has to purchase a sheep; some blankets, a broom and a few clothes for the girl’s family. The grooms parents then visit the brides parents and pay the Labola, after this they take the girl to the boys family to get to know him and his family.

Preparation for the wedding day will include writing up a guest list and sending out of the invitations, this happen two weeks before the wedding day. Food is bought and cooked the traditional way this will include ‘mielie pap’ (traditional maize meal) meat and salads, fruit, sweets and cake are served as dessert on the day.

The official ceremony will take place in a church, family members will be present for this so that they can witness the couple saying their wedding vows and the placing of rings on each others fingers. After the church ceremony the couple will change into traditional clothes and go with the guests to the girls home to eat. After they have finished to eat the couple will sit at a table, which has been especially decorated for them. Everyone present will talk to the couple and give them gifts.

The groom will then thank the guests where after they will go to his home. The oldest boy in the family will be there together with all the parents and grand-parents to give the girl an Ndebele name.

 

While people from the Northern part of India have always been considered the front-runner whenever it comes to big fat, elaborate Indian weddings; southern zone of the country has never been far behind in terms of rich, culturally elaborate weddings. Though natives from South-India have always known to be simple and subtle in their ways and traditions yet their wedding rituals are quite interesting and rich in appeal.

Many a kinds of weddings are held down south from Andhra Pradesh to Kerala, Karnataka to Tamil Nadu – In the most beautiful ways. Be it a Hindu wedding, a Muslim or a Christian wedding in this part of the country – Weddings have always been worth a festivity.

The Tamil Brahmins or Keralite Vishwakarmas or the Nadar Christians – Weddings in these communities will keep you awestruck with the rich cultural and aesthetic value they emit from their rites and rituals.

In the southernmost part of India, that is the state of Tamil Nadu – There are several communities with a variety of rites and rituals. The Tamil Brahmins, the Tamil Iyers, the Tamil Nadars – These are various communities rich in traditional culture and the same is reflected in their weddings.

When it comes to weddings among Nadars, it is an elaborate affair for the families. A typical Nadar matrimony ceremony includes several kinds of ceremonies with a distinctive meaning and rituals and is hence celebrated with much pomp and show.

After a customary confirmation among families and the boy and the girl for the matrimonial alliance, the wedding is announced by the eldest member or the priest in the family among all relatives, friends and important community members.

The first of the pre-wedding ceremonies is the flower garland wearing ceremony in a typical Nadar wedding. The bride-groom’s parents, elders, relatives and friends come down to the house of the bride carrying gifts, new clothes, jewelry and gifts for her. They bring large and beautiful garlands of flowers for the bride and she is decked up in flowered jewelry by the mother of the bride-groom. In case of absence of the mother of the bride-groom, the ritual is covered either by the sister or the sister-in-law of the bride-groom. They are then followed by all other female family members of the bride-groom who take turns in decking up the bride with flowered jewelry. The bride is hence blessed and smeared with vibhuthi or kungumam by all elders present there.

Following this, the eldest members of both the families are made to sit across each other and exchange gifts among both the families in terms of cash, clothes, fruits, flowers and jewelry on the thambulam or the welcome plate; after honoring each other with vibhuthi and flower garlands. Next in suite is the pattu kattuthal ceremony which is honored by the bride-groom’s family in the bride’s house by blessing the bride with a beautiful new silk saree. The bride is then blessed by the elders in the family who apply vibhuthi or kungumam on her forehead.

The gold-melting ceremony is an interesting ceremony among the Nadars and is necessarily held at the bride-groom’s residence. A beautiful traditionally designed thali is made by the bride-groom’s family and gifted to the family of the bride-groom. A small piece of gold is put on the thali by the bride’s family for gold melting. A goldsmith melts the gold piece and performs a puja and takes along a small part of the melted gold with him. He is escorted out of the house by a woman with a child as she is considered auspicious with her child.

After the gold melting ceremony, there is a puja ceremony held in both the houses of the bride and the groom. A palmyrah stick, smeared with turmeric powder and kungumam with mango leaves tied to it. It is then worshipped with rice kept in a vessel in front of it which is later given off to a woman who measures the rice.

A day or two before the wedding, the families of the bride and the groom perform puja to the Almighty and souls of their ancestors seeking blessings for the wedding and the couple’s happy married life.

Among the Nadars, the engagement or the betrothal ceremony is generally held a day prior to the wedding day. This includes the ceremonial exchange of rings and pre-wedding vows between the bride and the bride-groom.

On the day of the marriage, the maternal uncle of the bride-groom and the bride initiate the customs. They individually garland their nephews and niece respectively and offer their blessings to the to-be-wed. The bride is then gifted a saree by the bride-groom’s female family members which she wears for the marriage. Hence after a thali is tied around her neck by the bride-groom and after seeking blessings from elders, they apply vibhuthi on each other’s forehead and exchange garlands. After the villakku darshan of the couple by the brother of the groom, the couple is offered to consume milk and banana. The rituals finally get over by the oil bathing of the newlywed by the groom’s family after which the bride leaves for her husband’s house. After offering of prayers, the couple again comes back to the bride’s house where the day gets over with a sumptuous feast by the bride’s family.

It is always interesting to study the history of weddings of different cultures. One can find that some of the old traditions have been carried forward to the current weddings.

In Italy, to this day marriages are not performed during Lent and Advent in May or August. Sunday was declared the best day for the marriage and June was (and is) considered the ideal month to marry. This is based on the Roman goddess Junio, representing safety of home, marriage, and childbirth.

In some families the marriages were arranged by the families of the bride and groom. A male relative of the groom would visit with the father of the intended bride and ask for her hand in marriage. Sometimes a matchmaker was used to carry a message to the intended bride’s family. Once an agreement between the families was reached, the couple was declared engaged. The prospective bride was expected to immediately start gathering clothing (even for her future husband), furniture, and other items for the home. This became known as the bride’s ‘trousseau’. If the engagement ring contained gold it was not to be worn until she received the gold wedding band as it was seen as bad luck to wear gold without being married.

In olden times a great deal of the Italian wedding traditions consisted of warding off evil spirits. The groom would be sure to have something iron on his person to ward off the evil eye. The wedding veil was for the purpose of warding off evil spirits they may try to attack the bride and tearing the veil after the ceremony was considered good luck. The bride was not to have a complete bridal gown until the wedding day. It was to remain incomplete until she walked down the church aisle. Presumably a final stitch was made somewhere on the dress at the entrance of the church. The groom would wait at the front of the church and present the bride with a bouquet of flowers and herbs, to ward off the evil spirits.

At other times the groom would pick the bride up and walk her to the church. In this case a log and a saw would be placed in their path and they had to saw it into two pieces to show their union. If the bride walked to the church, without the groom, the local people often put things in her path such as a broom, beggar, crying baby. How she handled these items showed if she would be a good wife, mother, would be kind, etc.

In the ceremony the groom stood to the right of the bride, thus freeing his sword hand, just in case someone tried to steal his bride. Ten witnesses were required to make the ceremony official; hence the need for a large bridal party. They were dressed like the bride and groom to confuse the jealous spirits. The bride carried (and still does in most weddings) a silk or satin purse for guests to deposit their money gifts in as a way to help with the expenses. Another way money was raised was by the best man cutting the groom’s tie into pieces and selling them to guests at the wedding.

Following the ceremony the bride and groom were pelted with almonds (in mesh bags), three for children and five to seven to promote fertility. In ancient times a loaf of bread was broken over the bride’s head to represent fertility. At the end of the wedding the bride and groom broke a vase or glass into pieces with the number of shards representing how many years they would be married. Mothers-in-law sat at a table and kept a record of the repayment of favors or money which needed to be witnessed (this is still done in some of today’s ceremonies)

Most of the ceremonies started with mass in the early morning, followed by music and dancing throughout the night. Food was, and is, a large part of the wedding. Thirteen or more courses were ordinarily served (a large meal is still served at today’s weddings); this represented the union of the couple and their families.

It’s amazing how many wedding traditions still remain even though they may have evolved somewhat to reflect today’s society. Incorporating traditions based on heritage is often a good way to honor the old while celebrating the new.