• How do people get married in diamond-rich Botswana?
  • How do people get married in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea?
  • How do people get married in poor Congo?
  • What are the most typical African traditions?

Aren’t traditions the cornerstone of every society? Rituals and ceremonies, passed on from generation to generation. As far as engagement and marriage is concerned, it is no different. Everywhere in the world people interpret this unique event in their own way. Sometimes even on a local or family level.

Similarly in Africa, where different traditions exist between different tribes in the same country or region. But one thing stands out: buying a ring for the marriage proposal or the marriage ceremony is not common. How do people propose in Africa? And what are the most typical wedding traditions?

TIP: Although many traditions have been lost, some of them have stood the test of time. Discover which ones here.

How do people get married in diamond-rich Botswana?

We start our search for typical African wedding traditions in Botswana. After discovering diamonds in 1967, a year after their independence, this country experienced rapid economic growth. Although Botswana is no longer the largest diamond producer in the world, it remains an important source of income.

If you want to buy a diamond ring to propose with, there is a big chance that the diamond was mined from the soil of this African country. Prince Harry also had a diamond from Botswana set in to his engagement ring for Meghan Markle. But the chance that a man from Botswana will buy a diamond ring for his beloved is rather small.

To ask his intended bride’s hand in marriage, it is customary for the husband to donate 8 cows to the bride's family. Although the family of the bride sometimes asks for cloth, clothing or money instead of cattle. It may take several years before this dowry or 'bogadi' is fully paid off. It has even occurred that the woman has died before the man has fully paid it off through his so-called repayment plan.

In order to be able to get married, the couple must also receive permission from the 'kgosi', the local chief. Those who object to the marriage can take this up with the kgosi. If everyone agrees, especially the two families of the couple, the marriage can go ahead.

An important part of the marriage process is 'go laya'. The older women take the young bride under their wings to teach her everything about marriage and motherhood. The most important lesson: never doubt the words and actions of your husband because he is the head of the family!

TIP: Diamonds are still very important for Botswana and for the local population. Here are some reasons for buying diamonds from Botswana.

How do people get married in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea?

Equatorial Guinea is located in the west of Africa and consists of both the continental part of Mbini and the island of Bioko, where the capital Malabo is located. Thanks to oil extraction, it is one of the richest African countries. Unfortunately also one of the most corrupt, which is why a large part of the population still lives below the poverty line.

Although the country was a Spanish colony for 190 years and the Spanish culture as well as the Christian faith are certainly noticeable, a large part of the population lives according to the old customs and traditions. This also applies to the Fang, one of the largest tribes in the country. Polygamy is accepted, and it is very common for wives to live in a separate hut together with their own sons, albeit under strict rules of the father.

In Equatorial Guinea, also, buying a ring, making a ring or giving a ring is not part of the marriage proposal. Giving a dowry is still customary. When a couple marries, they usually join the man's family until they are financially independent. Separations hardly occur, but if this happens, the dowry must be repaid to the groom.

Strong family ties are the cornerstone of their society. It is a strong social safety net for the locals. To include the bride in the bridegroom's family, people celebrate and dance exuberantly during the three-day wedding party.

TIP: In many Asian countries, financial agreements between two families were often the decisive reason to reach a commitment. Discover here how people get married in Asia.

How do people get married in Congo?

The former Belgian colony of Congo in central Africa is rich in minerals and ores, yet 80% of the population lives below the poverty line. Corruption, inefficiency and civil wars lie at the basis of their weak economy.

In Congo too, it is more common to buy a goat, chickens, clothing or other gifts for the bride's family than an engagement ring. When a man expresses his intention to marry, both families come together to negotiate the dowry. It is forbidden for the future groom to talk. His father or uncle speaks.

Typical Congolese marriages are warm and personal with dancing, singing, prayers and humour. However, there is no laughter until after the ceremony. Otherwise, it would mean that the bride and groom are not taking their vows seriously. There is still plenty of room for laughter and fun afterwards.

The most unusual Congolese marriage tradition takes place after the wedding night. Women from both sides of the family check the bed of the new couple. If no blood is found, the virginity cannot be confirmed and the groom can still cancel the marriage and demand his dowry back.

TIP: Although people in Western countries often live together for a long time before getting married, the wedding night is also a special moment here. The choice of bridal lingerie is part of this. Did you ever consider a diamond lingerie set?

What are the most special African traditions?

In Swahili culture also, it is customary to prove the virginity of the bride. But they take it one step further. For example, it is not uncommon for a female family member to lie under the bed to prevent the couple not consummating the marriage.

For the Shona tribe in Zimbabwe, the marriage starts with the wedding night. When the bride-to-be decides that she is ready to marry, she goes to the home of her future husband, under the cloak of darkness and accompanied by female family members. They do this to test how the family deals with 'emergency situations'. This unannounced visit ends with a real party.

And talking about emergency situations: with the Sudanese Lakuta tribe there is a kidnapping and a fighting involved. When a man has chosen his bride, he kidnaps her to show his interest. Then he goes with elderly family members to the father of the bride to get permission for the marriage. If the father agrees, he fights with his future son-in-law.

The most popular, yet unique and typically African marriage tradition is undoubtedly the jumping over the broom. This broom ceremony reflects the coming together of the two families and also pays tribute to previous generations. This ritual was created during the time of slavery, when often marriages were not allowed. It was for them a public confirmation of their marriage. Sometimes the brooms were also waved about during the wedding ceremony. This way, evil spirits would be expelled and any mistakes from the past would be erased.

TIP: Curious about even more special foreign wedding traditions? Read more here.

Buying a ring, whether it is an engagement ring or a wedding ring, it is clearly not customary in traditional African culture. Do you want to buy a ring to get engaged, however? Discover BAUNAT’s extensive collection of engagement rings. Are you already engaged? Then be sure to check out our stylish wedding rings for him and her.

For additional advice and guidance you can always contact the BAUNAT experts via telephone, mail or chat.  

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