The wedding traditions in Sudan are curious and fun. Some of them are pretty unusual for the rest of the world. Like the bride and groom spraying milk in each other’s faces. Or the special spa treatments that the bride gets before the wedding. This country has a ton of really interesting wedding customs and rituals. We will introduce you to some of them here. Sometimes, you might even have an urge to envy Sudanese women and the number of gifts they get from their future husbands. So, enjoy!
When a Sudanese couple decides to get married, first of all, the future groom has to meet with his girl-friend’s family and ask for her hand in marriage. It is kind of old school but it still happens very often in Sudan. You can’t get married without the parents’ permission. Some couples even brake up because they don’t get their family’s support to get married. In Sudan, family and elders are very important and their opinion is respected.
Wedding gifts to the bride
Before the wedding, the groom is supposed to present his wife-to-be with money, which she will spend on the wedding expenses – to buy a wedding gown, to visit a beauty salon, etc. Sometimes, he buys a wedding attire for her but, in any case, he still has to give her money so she could prepare for the happy day. Add to that a lot of gold jewelry that the groom also presents to her as a gift before the wedding. She will wear these gold jewels for the ceremony.
And to top that all up, he brings some expensive and high-quality sweets – candy, chocolate, and other delicious snacks – prettily organized on large trays or baskets. Sometimes, grooms give nice skincare sets or perfumes or other cosmetics gift sets to their brides. And men can even present their women with food baskets (containing sugar, coffee, tea, oil, etc.).
So, you see that a Sudanese man has to prove to his bride and her family that he can afford to provide for her every need. By the way, in many Arab countries, people judge the man’s wealth by his wife’s clothing, jewelry, etc. So it is a must for the men to present their wives with plenty of jewels and accessories – they don’t think of it as the woman being too greedy or too demanding. It’s just an old tradition that everyone understands and supports.
Wedding gifts to the groom’s family
The bride’s family also presents the groom’s mother and other relatives with some gifts. First of all, they make traditional Sudanese sweets and bring them to the groom’s house. His mother invites them in and they sit together, eat sweets, and talk. Also, each member of the bride’s family gives a present to the groom’s family.
Bride’s preparation for the wedding
Two months before the big day, the bride begins her preparations. She doesn’t leave the house during these months. She starts with preparing her health and appearance. People take special wood and burn it to get its unique smoke. This smoke makes the skin softer, healthier, smoother, and also makes it smell good. The bride takes off her clothes, wraps herself in a blanket, and takes a smoke bath.
Then, she takes other cosmetic procedures, like a special body scrub to add even more softness and nice flavor to her skin. The smell of this scrub is very unique and pleasant, so it is an “only for brides” thing. Because all brides want to be exceptionally lovely on their wedding day.
Another unusual for a Western or American tradition custom is for the bride to gain some weight. If she is skinny, she tries to get a few extra kilos for her wedding. That’s because, in Sudan, plump women traditionally are considered more attractive. A lot of Sudanese people are skinny, so they like their brides just the opposite.
Wedding venue and reception
In Sudan, the groom traditionally books the wedding venue but the bride pays for the wedding dinner. It’s her family that makes the menu and organizes the feast.
Still before the wedding, a so-called “henna party” is organized. Actually, both the bride and the groom embellish their bodies with henna body art – unlike in most countries, where this ritual is reserved only for Her. But Sudanese grooms and his closest men don’t wear henna drawings – they wear some henna on their palms and feet. So, both newlyweds-to-be have a cheerful party with music, singing, dancing, food, etc.
The bridal dance
There is a certain dance that Sudanese brides perform. It is unique for this country and the moves are established. During this dance, which is performed a few days before the wedding, the bride is wearing nice clothing and makeup and is not fully covered as all women in Sudan are supposed to be. Of course, no men, except for the groom, are present, and even he doesn’t usually stay for the whole dance. But this is traditionally.
In modern days, such bridal dance rules are not as strict as they used to be. Men are sometimes allowed to witness it, but not always – some people still want everything to be according to the tradition.
Actually, this dance is not the only one that the bride performs. At some weddings, there are a number of different dances. And Sudanese women often take it very seriously. They even hire a dance teacher to prepare them for their performances.
At last, the preparations are over and the wedding day comes. The groom picks his bride up at her house and they meet with the wedding photographer to take a lot of pictures.
Then, they come to the wedding venue, where their guests are already waiting for them. Usually, the Sudanese weddings are large, a lot of guests are invited. They are relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and sometimes even strangers that were passing by. Everybody is being fed and participate in the celebration.
In Sudan, brides traditionally wear red wedding gowns (a thobe and a shawl). Sure, today, you will see brides in Western-style white dresses, but originally, they always were red with gold.
Men traditionally wear a white or light-colored jellabiya (loose robe) and a scarf or wrapping of some kind. He, too, will have something red on him, whether it is a pattern on his scarf or headdress or something else.
At the wedding reception, there is an interesting and a little weird tradition. The couple shares a glass of milk and each of them tries to be the first to spray the milk in the partner’s face. Yes, literally! It’s fun to watch this.
After the wedding
The next day after the ceremony, the bride’s family makes a fine breakfast and takes it to the groom’s house. They eat and talk and continue to celebrate. The groom’s mother, in return, gives pricey presents to the bride’s mother and other relatives.
After the wedding, the couple goes to their honeymoon. And the groom pays for it. Again, he has to earn enough to get married and provide for his wife.