Ethiopia is by no means an unknown country. It is a country in East Africa, rich in culture. Weddings in this part of the world are important events in people’s lives. But they are also important in any part of the world. So what is the difference?
For one, in Ethiopian culture, a proper cultural wedding is a three-day event. Each event is significant by itself. Lots of customs are followed in an Ethiopian wedding culture including the kissing of elder’s knees which is unheard of anywhere. At the end of the event, the bride has a new name. We are not talking about her new surname, rather, her mother gives her a new name that everyone will remember in memory of her wedding.
Due to many traditional rituals, customs and the fact that it is a three-day event, it is very uncommon for two foreigners to have an Ethiopian wedding. However, you can always have an Ethiopian wedding if you are dating a man or woman of Ethiopian descent.
You could choose to do away with the traditional parts where more parties are involved, the two extra days, the knee kissing, obviously. You and your fiancé could still rock the Ethiopian wedding attire full with the braids and tattoos, take Ethiopian traditional meals and drinks, feed each other and perform Ethiopian dances.
All you need is someone to make these arrangements for you. With the right phone calls and meticulous planning, you can have yourself the Ethiopian wedding you have always wanted.
Traditions and Customs
The following are some of the customs followed;
Telosh is the name of the traditional Ethiopian wedding. On a fateful day, the groom and best man arrive at the bride’s home. A song is sung while no one is allowed in yet. But after a few moments, after a tug of war in the form of songs, the groom is given consent to go in. He walks in gives his bride some flowers, she hugs and kisses him and the couple lead to the venue, others follow in songs and dances. Often times and in some villages, the groom leads her bride while she is on a mule.
The photo program begins on the way to the venue. It is sometimes called the road party. It is accompanied by song and dance. A brief stop for more photos is common.
There is no Ethiopian wedding without the Tej drink. It’s orange in color, but don’t mistake it for orange juice or soup. The drink is a home-brewed honey wine with extremely high alcohol content. Careful not to get drunk at your own wedding.
It reaches a time, during the feast where couples have to perform the Gursha. Essentially, this is feeding each other, an Ethiopian tradition showing that you care for each other. What’s unique with the Gursha is that guests watch the couple feed each other till their meals are finished before they serve themselves. But the best part is the couples then get to watch as friends and family perform the Gursha as well.
Towards the end of the wedding party, elders seat in a row and the couple bow to kiss elders knees, a sign of respect in the Ethiopian tradition.
It is a tradition for the couple during the Meles (second-day post-wedding party) to wear the Kaba. During this event, the bride’s mother gives her daughter a new name.it is a family event and involves bread cutting.
Ethiopian weddings also have a Kelekel, (third and final post-wedding party) it is a special event for extended friends and family and those who were unable to attend. The couple’s parents bless their children.
What to Wear as a Bride and Groom
Some couple may choose to wear the Kaba (traditional attires) on the first day of the wedding. However, given that the attire is only a covering, it is common for the brides to rock in, a white wedding dress and for the groom to wear a suit before covering with the male Kaba as they head to church. However, the Kaba is essentially required during the second day of the wedding.
For women, they wear the Habesha Kemis and the Habesha Libs for men.
The bride also spends several hours’ hair braiding and getting a bridal henna tattoo and gold accessories.
As for the rest of the family, it is a tradition for women to wear their best Netela with large white cotton scarves entirely handmade in Ethiopia.
What to purchase for the wedding that an American wedding does not have?
You may need to purchase or hire the Kaba attire for both groom and bride.
It is also common to have Kebero drums, Tsenatsel handbells and Mekuamia (choir cane sticks).
Consider hiring Ethiopian catering for the food.
Who Pays for What?
It is a tradition for the groom and his family members to bring various presents to the bride including the wedding dress and jewelry before the wedding. Other people present may chip in and offer presents as well. It is also tradition for the groom’s parents to organize the evening dinner.
Generally, the groom’s family accommodates for the most part. However, the bride’s family is at liberty to offer some assistance.
Ethiopia is traditionally orthodox Christian. Hence it’s normal to have a priest bless the couple on the wedding day. Depending on the denomination the church may take long or short. Orthodox Christian service may go on for as long as three hours. Then quickly, the wedding moves to the essential part, the food and dancing.
Kitfo dish is an Ethiopian delicacy offered at weddings. This a dish made up of raw and minced beef before the Tej is offered.
It is also common for a local staple dish known as Injera (An Ethiopian spongy bread) and Doro Wot (a spicy stew made of chicken and eggs) to be served.
The wedding cake is the last meal of the day offered after dancing. The crowd makes way for the couple as they are led on to cut the first slices of cake which they feed one another.
Soon as the meals are done with, the dancing begins. It’s time for everyone to show their best Eskista moves.
The Eskista dance is a traditional Ethiopian dance routine where you basically shake your shoulders, while moving, standing, shaking your head, hands on the hip, or whichever way you want to do it.
The bride and groom are not spared. The most common way for the couple to dance is with their hands together as if in prayer as friends and family join.
Before long, and as the dance gets epic, the bride and groom are hoisted up. The couple now surfs along with the crowd. More dancing, singing screaming continues.