All You Need to Know about the Ethiopian Cultural Wedding Ceremony!
The Ethiopian culture is one of the richest in the African continent and has mostly remained unspoiled over the years. As such, the Ethiopian cultural wedding ceremony is a sight to behold! Coming up is a quick compilation of what to expect when you attend an Ethiopian wedding!
- Telosh is a ceremony that is held two days before the main wedding. This ceremony is held at the bride’s parents’ house (or her house) and is typically celebrated by the bride and groom and their families. As the groom and his family present gifts to the bride, which usually include a wedding gown and jewelry, there is a round of applause from the guests. Afterwards, everyone else who is present gives his or her gifts to the bride.
The Groom’s Arrival
- On the wedding morning, the groom prepares himself at his home, in the company of his groomsmen. Meanwhile, the bridesmaids gather at the bride’s family home, where the bride starts to get ready. The family members also get the house prepared for the important visitors.
- When the groom and his entourage get to the bride’s house, they find everyone, including the bride, ready. The people in the bride’s house go outside singing a traditional song that says they will not let anybody in. As part of the fun, the groom begs to be let in. After a short tug of war in the form of song, the groom is let into the house where he walks to the bride and presents her with flowers. The bride acknowledges this gift with a hug and kiss, after which they are escorted to their car. Everyone then leaves the house, gets into their cars and heads off to the next ceremony.
The Photo Program
- On the way to the venue for the next ceremony, the camera and video team take pictures and videos of the ‘road party.’ The bridal car takes the lead, and all the other cars follow. All the vehicles have flowers hanging out of their windows, and everyone inside sings traditional wedding songs. Everyone then stops off at a picturesque garden to take wedding photos for around an hour.
The Knee Kissing
- Knee kissing is the next step in an Ethiopian cultural wedding. After the photo shoot, all the guests head to the hall where the wedding ceremony will take place. At the entrance, the great-grandparents and grandparents (dressed in cultural clothes) of the couple sit waiting for them to arrive. On arrival, the bride and groom walk up to them, thank them and bow down to kiss their feet. The great-grandparents and grandparents then give the couple their blessings. The parents, if nearby, also bless the couple. The couple then walks into the hall.
The Wedding Lunch
- As the couple makes their grand entrance, their candle girls, flower girls, bridesmaids and groomsmen lead them in with traditional songs. All the guests get up and greet the couple. The flower girls lead the procession, dropping colorful flower petals for the couple to walk on. After the couple has greeted all their guests, they walk to a corner of the hall where their seating area has been prepared. Traditional songs fill the room as the bride and groom make their way through the guests. The priest then prays for the food, after which the couple walks to the buffet area where they serve themselves, followed by the bridal party, and the guests.
Engagement and Cake
- Interestingly, the official engagement takes place on the day of the wedding! After everyone has had their fill, the couple stands up and goes to a different part of the hall for the cake cutting and engagement ceremony. As they exchange their rings and cut their cake, the champagne is opened. All the guests are then served with a glass of champagne and a piece of cake. The bride then throws gift packages filled with candy to the guests as a sign of appreciation. The newlyweds then return to their seats.
- Next up in the Ethiopian wedding is the name reading ceremony. The bride and groom take pictures with every guest, and then they are called to the stage for their first dance as a wedded couple. After they have danced for a short while and everyone has taken pictures, the family and guests join them on the dance floor. The music played is a rich cultural mix of sounds from different tribes in Ethiopia.
- At this point, the band receives congratulatory messages from friends and family around the world who are unable to attend the wedding. The band calls the names out one by one and passes on the wishes to the couple as the ceremony continues.
Dinner at the Groom’s Parents’ House
- After the celebration at the hall is over, the newlyweds go the groom’s parents’ house for a dinner party. The groom’s parents host this party for close family and friends, as a way of unwinding after a long day. The evening is spent reminiscing about the day’s events amidst conversation and laughter.
- On the second day after the wedding ceremony, the couple dresses up in traditional outfits called ‘Kaba’ and head to the place where their parents have chosen to host the ‘Meles’ (post-wedding party). This evening event is for close family only, and involves bread cutting and giving the bride a nickname. The family gets together to cut bread, as bride’s mother gives her daughter a nickname that everybody present will use in memory of the wedding. Every couple must have a Meles, as the entire Ethiopian cultural wedding ceremony is incomplete without it.
- Finally, on the third day after the wedding, the ‘Kelekel’ (getting together) takes place. Once again, the parents of the newlyweds agree on the venue and invite extended family and friends who could not make it for the main ceremony. At the end of this event, the parents congratulate their children, bless them and bid them goodbye. This event is also an excellent opportunity for guests to meet for the last time before the next wedding comes along.
Nothing beats the beauty and customary significance that characterizes an Ethiopian cultural wedding! Worth attending, even for the guests!