Traditional Wedding Dresses In South Africa Biography
Discover some of the key elements of traditional African weddings.
Many couples seek to include elements of their cultural heritage in their wedding ceremonies. African wedding traditions are now a part of many North American wedding ceremonies. Wedding traditions vary widely around the African continent. Each tribe and ethnic group has its own wedding traditions. However, throughout the continent, many elements of traditional wedding attire are the same.
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Traditional African weddings and clothing gained popularity in the West in the 1960s during the Black Pride movement. According to the Oakland Museum of California, Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah, wore kente cloth “during an historic visit to Washington, D.C., in 1958,” thus establishing “the cloth as a potent symbolic image for Africans and African Americans." Elaborate versions of items of African clothing that were popular during the 60s and 70s, like the dashiki, are part of traditional African wedding attire.
As in other countries, African brides often wear elaborate and expensive clothes on their wedding day. The West African wrapper set is worn widely in wedding ceremonies. It consists of a buba (a traditional African blouse,), an iro (a long wrap skirt), and gelee (head-wrap). While the wrapper set itself is not considered formal attire, sets worn for weddings are made of fine, embroidered fabrics. Gelees worn for weddings can very be large and elaborate.
In traditional African wedding ceremonies, men wear a fila or kufi (a round box hat), sokoto (slacks that tie at the waist and narrow at the ankle) and either a dashiki or an agbada, or boubou (a long flowing robe). In some families, it is a tradition for a man to wear his father's or grandfather's agbada for wedding ceremonies. Both dashikis and agbadas are intricately embroidered for wedding ceremonies.
Traditional African wedding attire can be made from cotton brocade, lace, linen and satin, as with Western style wedding dresses. Of course, African textiles are also used in wedding dresses. According to Ghana Bride Magazine, Yoruba Ashoke fabric is especially suited for wedding outfits because of its softness. Brides and grooms wear clothes made of the same fabric.
Brides following African traditions or combining those traditions with those of their new homes can order traditional bridal wear from clothing makers who specialize in ethnic wedding attire, or they may reflect their heritage by using bright colors; traditional fabrics, jewelry or embroidery; henna tattoos, which are used in many African weddings; or other reflections of the culture they wish to honor.