Just like every other country, Zambia has some unusual wedding traditions that are a reflection of its rich cultural heritage. Coming up is a list of Zambia wedding traditions, some of which are still practiced to date.
Zambia Wedding Traditions
- Ba Shibukombe
The ‘Ba Shibukombe’ acts as a go-between or mediator between the two families. He is usually a man of integrity who is highly respected in the society. Ba Shibukombe plans the first visit to the girl’s parents and carries some gifts from the groom to present to them. If the meeting goes well, he is asked to return on another day for another session when the woman is present. She is asked by her parents if she knows whom the man is representing. If she answers in the affirmative, another meeting to discuss dowry payments is arranged. At this next meeting, Ba Shibukombe carries exotic foods from the groom’s family to give the bride’s family as a sign of appreciation.
When the groom’s family, led by Ba Shibukombe goes to visit the bride’s family for the first time, they take a manufactured hoe wrapped in cloth as a gift. This hoe represents cultivation and fertilization of the earth. The groom also carries white beads and some money, which are placed on a small plate and covered with a similar plate before presentation to the bride’s family.
When two people fall in love, the man takes a token to the girl’s parents as a sign of commitment. This token is in the form of either beads or money and is viewed as an engagement gift. Once the parents give their consent, the marriage negotiations can begin.
Lobola, or bride price, is a significant part of Zambia wedding traditions. In the past, lobola was only given for a virgin girl and would be made up of cattle and chickens. These days, many families ask for a chitenge cloth, dress and canvas shoes for the mother, a pair of shoes and a suit for the father, and two blankets.
- Kitchen Party
The kitchen party is a pre-wedding tradition unique to Zambians. During this party, guests from both families advise the bride, and then accept the couple into each other’s families.
- Icisumina Nsalamu
Also known as the acceptance of marriage proposal meal, Icisumina Nsalamu is a meal prepared by the girl’s family. This meal is delivered to the groom as a symbol of their acceptance of his marriage proposal. The groom gets a plate of Nshima (traditional thick porridge made from maize meal) and a plate of whole chicken. Through this gesture, the bride’s family shows that they accept the marriage proposal on their daughter’s behalf. Note that the groom is not required to give back anything in return.
- Icilanga Mulilo
The Icilanga Mulilo is a meal prepared by the bride’s family and delivered to the groom. This meal symbolizes an open invitation to the groom to eat with the bride’s family during the courtship period. The groom is expected to have a taste of every dish, even what he has never eaten before.
The meal is prepared in the house of a relative of the bride and delivered to the groom’s house by a group of women. When the women get to the groom’s house carrying the food parcels on their heads, they await an invitation of money dropped on the ground before they can enter. Once the door is opened, the women enter the house walking backward as they sing. Another invitation in monetary form is placed on the ground so that they can set down their food parcels.
After this occasion, responsibility for the bride is transferred to the groom. He is now responsible for her financial needs and general welfare. The bride now has permission to start doing laundry and cooking for the groom. The groom shows his appreciation for the meal by giving the bride’s family some money.
Nkobekela is the period between the time the Insalamu is accepted and the wedding day. During this time, the man and woman are taught traditional values concerning marriage life by the local elders. The couple also gets to know each other and their families better. Note that the couple is closely supervised whenever they spend time together, either by their grandparents or a child.
Zambia Marriage Traditions
Amatebeto is a thanks offering prepared by the bride’s family. This meal is taken to the groom after the wedding has taken place, and is an appreciation to the man for keeping the marriage trouble-free. Though this meal is prepared two or more years into the marriage, it is an acknowledgment of the man’s ability to take care of his wife. This custom is one of the more important Zambia marriage traditions, as it gives the bride’s family an opportunity to bless the marriage.
Ukukonkola is a meal prepared for the groom by the bride’s parents and eaten at his in-law’s house. This meal is very symbolic, as the bride’s parents now give the groom the authority to make family decisions affecting his wife’s side of the family. The bride’s family allows him to make decisions without consulting them, and they commit themselves to respect his decision. The groom now becomes part of the family, and is now treated like one of the children.
The groom first goes to his parents-in-law‘s bedroom, removes the bedcover and sheets, and checks under the bed, taking whatever valuables he finds. He then goes to the living room and removes the cushions, once more taking whatever he finds. He is then taken to the kitchen where he opens all the pots, eating the food that is inside them. Interestingly, the groom must carry the leftover food home.
Zambia wedding traditions have several important values that are applicable in the modern marriage setting. Perhaps it would be a great idea to incorporate some of them in your wedding!