Thandeka Buthelezi says every Zulu bride wants her wedding to be extra special – so as President Jacob Zuma ties the knot with his long-time fiancée Gloria Bongekile Ngema the very private wedding will reflect the bride’s personality.
But every wedding follows time-honoured traditions, says Buthelezi, a proud Zulu who explains the ceremony to the Saturday Star.
A traditional Zulu wedding lasts the entire weekend – and is the result of many weeks (and sometimes years) of preparation by the groom and the bride’s families.
The wedding usually begins on a Friday with the slaughtering of a goat in the morning by the bride’s family. “This,” says Buthelezi, “will signal to the ancestors that the bride will be leaving home.”
“Once the goat is slaughtered, the bride and her family will make their way to the groom’s home.”
Once there, another goat will be slaughtered by the groom’s family to signal the arrival of a new member to their family. The bride, however, will not be allowed to enter the groom’s home yet.
“The bride will be splashed with liquid from the gall bladder of the goat,” says Buthelezi.
Then a cow will than be slaughtered by the groom’s family.
“Once the cow is slaughtered, the bride will take a spear and stab the cow. This will signal her acceptance into her new family.”
After this ceremony, the two families celebrate by enjoying a feast of the slaughtered cow and goat meat.
There also will be singing and dancing.
But the bride is still not allowed to enter the groom’s home so she will stay at the groom’s neighbours’ house.
On the Saturday, the bride will wake up bright and early to get ready for her wedding.
She will get dressed at the groom’s neighbours’ home, after which her father will escort her to the wedding. She will be dressed in full Zulu attire. These days many brides choose to wear white gowns for their wedding, however.
“At the wedding, no rings or vows are exchanged and instead dancing and singing take place between the bride and groom’s families,” says Buthelezi.
Once the wedding ceremony is over, the bride and groom’s families will return to the groom’s home where the families will exchange gifts and food will be served. There will be more dancing and singing that night.
Finally, on Sunday, the bones of the cow and goats will be burnt, and family and friends will enjoy lunch together.
“It’s a very busy and tiring weekend, but also a weekend filled with lots of love, laughter, good food and heart warming moments,” says Buthelezi.