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African Marriage Customs

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The African marriage customs are bonanza of different traditions, ceremonies and cultural impact of Islam, Christianity and Western society. However, the original traditions are often observed with a lot of pride.

Role of Families

In African marriage customs the role of families of the bride and groom have to play a pivotal role in the marriage. It is especially true in the marriages of rich and noble families. A marriage is considered a union between kin groups. The off springs of the marriage are also considered belonging as much to their kin groups as to their parents. The African marriage customs allow the families of the marriage partners to get involved heavily.

On the other hand the poor families don’t get involved too much in decision making of marriages. Those bereft of kin must have to make their decisions independently.

Consent of African Brides

The western critics claim with evidence that African traditional marriages are always arranged marriages. They allege that girls are forced to marry to the person who pays their price to their parents. They also express their fear that such kind of forced marriages may result into sexual violence by the cruel husbands.

Most of the readers may agree that such practices used to happen in past everywhere in the world. Neither East nor West was free from such forced marriages. However, it was light of the knowledge and spread of information that people have changed their past practices in many regions. Even Africa and Asia are not devoid of such improvement.

Another important factor is often ignored. Africa is strongly influenced by two factors; western culture and religions. Islam is spreading. Christianity has strong followers in Africa. Most of the Muslim branches don’t recognize validity of a forced marriage. However, most of the families in Africa prefer arranged marriages even when marriage is direct result of mutual understanding of the marrying couple.

Virginity; an Issue

Traditionally, the African women are supposed to maintain a specific order of marital relationships. The love comes first and the sex at last. There has been no concept of sex without a marriage.

Most of the websites on this issue claim that African women preserve their virginity as a tradition. However, on the very next breathe; they claim that most of the African girls lose their virginity before marriage.

Instead of giving my opinion, I welcome the visitors from Africa to express their point of view on this point. As far as I know from my Asian and Muslim background, the observance of virginity is not a tradition but a matter of character, in most of the situations. Islam does not allow sexual interaction between a man and women without a valid marriage. However, if any of them violates law of Allah then there are punishments provided in Islam. Even further if there is no evidence or parties survive to the punishment, Quran allows the violators to marry each other.

In today’s Lamu tribes the women are required to be virgin before marriage. They believe that it is matter of honor and respect. They want their women capable to protect their families and bear a good reputation.

Under Western influence many young women consider pregnancy a process of testing relationships with potential partners and weighing the possible benefits of continuing them against the costs of forgoing career options or having the father abscond. The birth of a child may be an important step toward a union, rather than a logical outcome of it.

Age on First Marriage

Many studies have been made. The law is very clear. But the definite age of bride and groom on their first marriage is not determined yet. In old days the marriage was conducted as early as possible. Now the education, religion and western culture are the influencing factors to enhance the age of first marriage. The Muslims and Protestant women marry from 19-29. In Christian families the age of marriage is higher.


Most of the young women prefer monogamous marriages to gain great leverage with their husbands and to avoid the pressure of senior wives. However, the stats show that about 36% women in rural and 24% in urban areas have to accept polygamous relations.

The polygamy is not a result of first marriage in low age. However, the age gaps between husband and wife play a role in heavy polygamous relationships.

In eight out of our eleven countries, the likelihood of teenage marriage differs little between uneducated women and those with primary schooling, so that it appears to be secondary or higher education that significantly defers marriage. Young educated women are less eager to be polygamous wives; they resent becoming junior wives to women with less education or even senior wives in polygamous marriages. Because well educated women face difficulties in finding potential partners who are as educated as themselves, they may prefer unsanctioned relationships with older men of wealth. They hope that their roles as "outside wives" will help them advance into higher social echelons.

Kubama in African Marriage Customs

In African marriage customs the one is called Kubama. It is showing the bride to general public. This custom is performed in the evening of the wedding ceremony. This ceremony expresses consent of the girl to enter in the world of women. It is also claimed that main idea behind Kubama is to enable the bride to be the star of the evening like women of many romantic movies.

When the bride makes her entry to the public, she is welcomed and applauded with clapping and joyous cries. In African marriage customs the brides wear their traditional dresses. However, under the western influences most of the brides have started wearing the western style of wedding dresses.

Traditionally, single Kubama is sufficient. However, wealthy families make two marriage ceremonies. African marriage customs are followed in one marriage. And western style of marriage is adopted in second Kubama.

Marriage Gift to Parents of Bride

Traditionally, the groom offers a gift in cash or kind to the parents of the bride. Many claim that it is not a marriage gift but price of the bride which a groom must have to pay. This money is construed as payment on a past load that need not be returned. The food and drinks that are consumed together are now recalled not as marriage preliminaries but a token of hospitality.

However, when we see that a marriage in African marriage customs is not marriage between two persons but a bond between two families, the concept of purchasing a bride does not attract too much. Such a bond can’t exist between two families of the purchaser and the commodity.

In Muslim families the custom is further amended as per Islamic jurisprudence. The groom has to pay dower to the wife to complete the marriage contract. No Muslim marriage is considered complete without this gift.

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I want to know what kind of marriage African people do. I like your customs and history that read in your story and the pride of your marriage. I think ...