Couples may celebrate their heritage and honor ancestry by incorporating traditional customs and traditions in the wedding ceremony and reception. Aside from performing traditional rituals, couples can also incorporate ethnic touches into its wedding program and reception. Couples should know their wedding traditions. It is important that they understand the reason behind these traditions and the history of the traditions because this will enable couples to perform the traditions more sincerely.
The common thread in a Zambian wedding is the closeness of the bridal family to achieve the goal of a wedding and lasting relationship. Traditionally, in a Zambian society, people would marry within their tribe, rarely going outside that circle to find a mate. However, marriage within a clan group is considered taboo. Customs in different tribes may vary but there usually is a mediator who serves as a negotiator for the marriage proposal for a man and his desired bride. The man and his mediator will meet with a prospective bride’s family to get get to know each other and start negotiations for marriage payment or dowry. The dowry is called the Lobola, which is considered compensation to the family for the lost services of the woman. Although traditional religious customs are still practiced in both cities and rural areas, Zambia has slowly adapted Christian weddings. Christian weddings are now very common in Zambia, even in villages, with variations from tribe to tribe.
Insalamu – Courtship
The insalamu is the like a wedding engagement gift. A young man can propose to a girl and gives her this engagement gift, which are mostly beads or money to show his commitment. If this is accepted, meaning the girl agreed to marry him. Then, they seek the approval of the parents. The girl takes the insalamu to her grandmother. This is the official way her family is informed.
Katawa Mpango – Marriage Mediator
The Katawa Mpango is a highly respected person representing the groom’s interests. The groom’s family makes the decision on when they will visit the girl’s family for the marriage negotiations. When the groom’s family visits, they are traditionally expected to bring a manufactured hoe, wrapped in cloth with a handle. The hoe is a symbol for the earth for cultivation and for fertilization. The man carries white beads and small amount of money. The beads and money are put in a small plate covered with another small plate of equal size. The Katawa Mpango reports to the man’s family. If the girl and her family agree, the man’s family starts to prepare marriage payments. A marriage council is instituted to look into affairs. The Katawa Mpango returns on a specified day for details on the marriage payments. When the Katawa Mpango returns, exotic foods are prepared for his second journey by the man’s family.
Lobola – Dowry
The marriage payment may include cattles, chickens and a cow (if the girl was a virgin). However, nowadays some tribes now demand for a chitenge cloth, canvas shoes and a dress, 2 blankets, a pair of shoes and a suit for the father.