The Tigray community is found in the Northern Highlands of Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Most of the Tigray people are smallholder farmers who inhabit small communal villages. Just like all other communities in Ethiopia, weddings are an important part of the Tigray heritage. What are the most common Tigray wedding traditions that are still practiced today? Read on to find out!
a. The Marriage Contract
- Most Tigray marriages are monogamous and contractual. The marriage contract usually incorporates the possibility of divorce, as Tigray wedding traditions allow for divorce.
b. Arranged Marriages
- In most cases, the parents of the bride and groom plan the whole wedding. Once the parents of the bride identify a potential spouse for their daughter, they begin negotiations with the parents of the groom. Once the negotiations are complete, they plan the wedding ceremony, including the refreshments, guest list, and wedding venue.
c. Virginity of the Bride
- Because the Tigray are predominantly Christian, virginity is treasured. As such, any young woman who intends to get married should ideally be a virgin; or the groom will not accept her.
- According to Tigray wedding practice, the first marriage must involve a dowry, usually of animals, given by the bride’s family to the couple. Second marriages, however, require an equal contribution from both parties.
- Either the man or woman may file for divorce. Once this happens, the marriage guardian (who was selected when the marriage took place) makes an effort to reconcile whatever differences the couple may have. If the couple is still determined to go ahead with the divorce, the guardian aids in the division of property. The elders of the community are normally invited to oversee the entire process.
- Both the man and the woman bring property into the marriage. If there is a divorce, however, each person takes back whatever he or she brought into the marriage.
g. Church Weddings
- Despite the fact that the Tigray are predominantly Christian, church weddings are not common. In fact, the only people who get to have church weddings are older couples and deacons intending to become priests.
h. Wedding Ceremony
- The Tigray wedding ceremony is not a one-day affair – it lasts three days! The first day is the main wedding day where the bride gets to wear the regular white wedding gown, while on the second day she and the groom wear traditional wedding attire for a traditional ceremony. The third day of the wedding ceremony is held a week after and is called Hamaweti – the in-laws day.
- For couples who are entering into their first marriage, there is a period of bride service that must be fulfilled after the wedding. The couple shuttles between both parental homes for a period of time, until the bride service is complete. After this, the couple is free to choose where they want to live.
- According to Tigray wedding traditions, inheritance follows both family lines. The inheritance is determined after a funeral commemoration one year after the demise of a husband or wife, a function that may consume most of the deceased individual’s wealth.
Tigray weddings are full of culture, color, and joy, thanks to the richness of the Tigray wedding traditions – traditions that should not be lost even in these modern times.