Weddings in Ethiopia are a colorful affair, thanks to the rich Ethiopia wedding traditions. Though many couples are opting to have modern weddings, several young people incorporate traditional customs in their wedding ceremonies. Listed below are a few of the well-known wedding traditions unique to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia Wedding Traditions
Telosh is held two days before the wedding. The groom and his family present gifts to the bride, usually a wedding gown or jewelry. The rest of the people then give their gifts to the bride, after which everyone present has dinner.
- Pickup of the Bride
On the day when the groom goes to pick up the bride, everyone in her family goes outside the house and sings a traditional song saying that they will not let anybody in. The groom has to beg to be let in, and when the bride’s family finally agrees, he presents his bride with flowers. She accepts the flowers with a kiss, and then they are escorted by friends and relatives to the bridal car.
- Knee Kissing
Knee kissing is one of the more unusual Ethiopia wedding traditions. At the hall where the wedding is set to take place, the grandparents of the bride and groom, together with elderly members of the extended family, sit and wait for their grandchildren to arrive. When the couple gets to the hall, they walk up to the elderly family members and express their gratitude and thanks to them by kissing their knees. In return, the grandparents give the couple their blessings. If the parents are seated nearby, they also bless the couple.
Meles is a post-wedding celebration held the second day after the wedding, in the evening or at night. The newlyweds dress up in a traditional outfit called the Kaba and go to the venue where their parents are holding the event. During this event, the family goes through the traditional bread-cutting program. After cutting the bread, the mother of the bride gives her daughter a nickname that everyone will use in memory of the wedding.
On the third day after the wedding ceremony, the parents of the newlyweds hold a get together for all the friends and family who were not able to attend the wedding. The venue for this event is chosen by the parents of the newlyweds. During this function, the parents congratulate and bless their children, as they bid them farewell.
- Arranged Marriages
The parents of the bride and groom are responsible for arranging the marriages of their children. Once the man’s family identifies a girl, his father approaches the girl’s father with the intention of beginning the matchmaking and courtship process. In some instances, the two families use a mediator to help smooth the negotiations.
- Bridal Preparations
Before the wedding, the bride spends time preparing herself for a week of wedding celebrations. Beauty experts are sent in to decorate her palms, feet, and fingernails with henna.
On the wedding day, Kesherah, a purity ceremony, is performed. A Kesherah is made of one or two cords painted white symbolizing the groom’s purity, and red symbolizing the bride’s virginity. It is placed at the groom’s feet by the Cahenet (Rabbi), who then pulls it up all the way to his head. The Cahenet then ties the Kesherah around the groom’s forehead.
Ethiopia Marriage Traditions
The issue of incest is taken very seriously in Ethiopian culture. According to Ethiopia marriage traditions, incest automatically invokes a curse on the families involved. Parents will investigate the relationship between the two families as far back as five generations to make sure there is no blood relation.
In Ethiopia, a virgin bride is a treasure to the whole family. Virginity in Ethiopian culture signifies patience, purity, and fortitude.
- Consummation of the Marriage
After the wedding, the groom takes his new bride to his parents’ home. While there, he must take the bride’s virginity within three days.
Ethiopia marriage traditions require that the newlyweds spend their honeymoon at the home of the groom’s parents, for between one and three weeks. The bride is not allowed to leave the house at daytime during this period.
- Visit to the Home of the Bride’s Parents
After the honeymoon period is over, the newlyweds return to the home of the bride’s parents for a set period. They are accompanied by the groom’s best man.
- Age of Marriage
Women get married from the ages of 18 and 19, while men marry when they are older, between 28 and 29 years old.
Ethiopian Wedding Dresses
For the wedding ceremony, most Ethiopian brides prefer to wear a white wedding gown, while the groom wears a suit. The couple, however, wears traditional outfits for the Meles and Kelekel ceremonies.
There is much from Ethiopia wedding traditions that may be incorporated in a modern wedding. As you plan your wedding, decide what traditions will make your wedding unique and enjoyable. Good luck!