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Getting married in Kenya

01 Nov


Africa, with its many nations and tribes, is very rich in different wedding traditions. An old African proverb says, “A man without a wife is like a vase without flowers.”

Traditionally in Africa, year end marks wedding season and Kenya is no exception. I am not sure why the last few months of the year see a peak in wedding ceremonies but I guess its our “thang” or maybe due to the festive nature of year end. December is for celebrations, year end parties, graduation parties, Christmas and yes the big new years party. Weddings blossom this time of the year and the cultural diversity that is exhibited in these celebrations is truly a marvel. A traditional Kenyan wedding will differ from culture to culture within the country. These practices are what were doing historically in Kenya traditions when it came to weddings. In today’s modern world, things have changed but some practices may still be re-enacted for traditions’ sake.

The are a quite a number of interesting traditions that are exhibited by different tribes. Among the Pokot, the groom is required to pay a bride price. During the wedding ceremony, the groom circles the bride’s wrist with a leather wedding band. Members of the Samburu tribe cross wooden sticks during the wedding ceremony, this symbolizes that a marriage will grow deep, have lasting roots, and maintain the strength and natural life force of trees. Among the Rendille, a man will send beads to the girl whom he is interested in. If she accepts the beads then they will proceed to become engaged. Her parents will demonstrate their acceptance of the man by having the girl’s mother place a wooden ornament over the beads. Prior to the official marriage ceremony, the girl’s earlobes will be pierced and she will have some tattoos applied to her body. The groom will give the girl’s family and relatives some camels. The Masai have an interesting procedure, the father of the bride blesses her by spitting on her head and breasts. Then she leaves with her husband. While walking to her new home she never looks back as she believes that she will turn to stone. That is very interesting.

The Kikuyu are the largest ethic tribe in Kenya. For the Kikuyu tribe, paying the ruracio is a strictly adhered to practice. So much so, that a woman may not feel properly married if her bride price was not paid. According to Kikuyu tradition, every Kikuyu girl’s bride price is 99 goats. It is never 100 as the 1 is left in the groom’s family to raise another herd. In modern day Kenya, the amount is converted into a cash amount per goat and that amount is what is negotiated by the families. The negotiation can be based on the current market price of a goat or can be slightly higher or lower. The idea is to find a middle ground where the groom does not feel harassed and the bride’s family does not feel that no value or little value is placed on their daughter.

With the advent of Christianity and westernisation weddings have changed dramatically over the years. With the global village getting smaller many Kenyans have moved to different countries for various reasons and some have moved to Kenya for their own too. Inevitable relationships develop. Here is a little information for our would be brothers and sisters in law. It is a common Kenya Wedding Tradition for the bridegroom to pay the bride price before the wedding ceremony although this is not strictly the case at the moment. The wedding ceremony can still take place in some communities and the bride price can be paid later. The bride price can be in form of cattle or goats but nowadays most people pay in money form. The paying of the bride price is always like a small ceremony of its own as the groom and his friends and probably his father and brothers go to the home of the bride to officially deliver it.Most Kenya wedding traditions are usually better known by the older members of the community who must always be present when a couple wants to get married. Some communities will have a series of ceremonies as tradition which may take two to three days. Usually, the older women in the community have to talk to the bride and offer advice on married life.




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