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Malawian wedding traditions are among some of the most valued traditions in the country. Each tribe has its unique wedding traditions that they follow whenever a man and a woman are getting engaged.
Normally our society dictates and encourages that couples-to-be should enter their marital life by going through the traditional weddings.
Marriages that do not start by successfully going through the traditional route are oftentimes regarded with little respect.
Lobola and Chinkhoswe
In the northern region, the bride pays lobola to the groom’s parents. Lobola is paid in form of cattle or sometimes cash equivalent to the number of cattle charged. The minimum number of cattle for a wedding to take place is three.
However, the number of cattle or money they charge depends on the level of education of the girl. Usually, they charge more for educated girls than for the less educated girls. Daughters from loyal families also have a much higher lobola price.
People in the central region and some parts of the southern region organize chinkhoswe as part of their traditional wedding. No lobola is paid.
However, there is an exchange of chicken between the family of the bride and the gloom’s family. In the south sometimes they simply exchange a chitenje cloth.
The chinkhoswe ceremony is commonly organized as an indoor event. Usually, the ceremony is attended by closed relatives of the bride and gloom. It is the time where the people from the two families are introduced to each other.
Additionally, the chinkhoswe ceremony is the time the woman receives traditional marriage counseling. She is taught some of the dos and don’ts of marriage to ensure a happy family. The emphasis here is on how the woman should behave to make the man happy so that the two remains together till death.
When is the right time to marry in Malawi?
People are free to marry at any of their choice age as long as they are adults. A person considered to be an adult should be eighteen years or above. Those below eighteen while they still get married their marriages are sometimes not recognized by the church. It is well known that some churches do not officiate marriages of persons below a certain age. Generally, the most important thing people consider for traditional marriages is age.
Another aspect of Malawi marriage that some people care about is education. Girls and boys are encouraged to marry after they have completed at least secondary school education. Those with primary qualifications are told to wait until they finish school. All in all Malawian wedding traditions have little to do with one’s education.
In rare situations, financial independence is considered crucial to whether someone is ready for marriage or not. A man is expected to have some occupation enabling him to earn enough to support the family.
For the uneducated people who live in the village, farming is the most common occupation. While for town dwellers they are expected to secure a job or start a business. Usually, the need for financial independence is not emphasized. It’s not a big issue.
Wedding officiation at the church
When all the traditions are satisfied the two are ready to organize a wedding ceremony. The Malawian wedding is a public event where everyone is free to attend. Since it is a once in a lifetime event for many people it is considered a very special day.
The wedding day starts at the church where the priest officiates the marriage between the woman and the man.
While at the church the bridal party it goes to the front of the church while dancing. They dance in boy-girl pairs. Then parents bring their son and daughters in the church aisle while the audience is ululating loudly.
Once the bride and groom meet, the two dance together as they go down to the altar where the priest is waiting to bless them. At this time the entire audience rises while dancing along to Malawian wedding songs until the couple sits down.
After the two get their sit, the priest gives a short wedding sermon. They then ask the bride’s and groom’s parents few questions to acknowledge the union of the two. Once both parties agree the priest reads wedding vows for the couple to agree too. Thereafter, a marriage certificate is given to the newlywed.
The Wedding Reception
The reception is the most interesting part of any Malawi wedding I have attended. Usually, few people attend the church service but many attend the reception. Commonly the reception starts at 1 pm soon after the couple, family members and invited guests take their launch.
The master of ceremonies (MC) is the first person to take position at the reception venue. The MC introduces everything starting with a prayer and calling upon wedding cashiers and the bridal party.
The bridal party starts dancing as they get forward to the front stage to get sited. At this time the morale builds up as the DJ mixes loud music and the audience dance along.
Followed by the bridal party is the newlywed who dances heavily as they go to take their position. And there are more dances and ululating from the audience during this moment. This is the moment the couple radiate smiles like sun rays towards the audience. More Malawi wedding songs play along until the two also get sited.
Next begins the giving in of money and gifts to the couple. The MC first invites parents from both sides to express their gratitude and present their gifts. While this is happening people start showering in money into baskets.
From one group to another, the MC invites them to come in front to bring money and gifts to the new family. Now the husband and the wife keep on standing now and again to receive these gifts. (I think standing for a long time is the most boring part for the two). Events take place between three to four hours until the last part when snacks and drinks are distributed.
Malawian wedding dresses
People who are getting married put in a lot of money in buying best wedding dresses for their events. In many cases, the man buys two suits, wears one at the church while another at the reception. The woman also wears an expensive long white veil. Usually, the woman’s dresses cost more than that of the man. Some prefer to hire the wedding dresses at a lower cost than buying them.
Malawi wedding decorations
Wedding decorations are made both at the church and at the reception hall. To make the colours more beautiful the task of decorating the place is outsourced to expert decorators and event organizers. This too cost the wedding team some money.
After the long dancing day, the couple drives to a lodge or hotel for honeymoon. They spend at least three days there before going into their home. Once at home they return to work and resume normal daily duties.