Ethiopian weddings are cheerful occasions that leave no one out and show respect between people. This culture values family connections, which we can see in the local wedding rituals that involve the eldest family members. Also, it’s impressive that the last day of the wedding celebration is dedicated to those relatives and friends who couldn’t attend the actual marriage ceremony, so they’re invited to have dinner with the newlyweds and bless the couple for happily ever after.
Arranged marriages are traditional for Ethiopia
In Ethiopia, it is very common to have a marriage arranged by your parents. It is still practiced by modern Ethiopians. The parents of young boys and girls search for a good spouse for their children. Most often, a groom’s father goes to a potential bride’s father and starts the matchmaking process and negotiations regarding the wedding. If the parents can’t reach an agreement, they might invite a mediator to help them arrange everything. And most brides and grooms are fine with all that, they trust their parents to find them the best possible match. But, of course, some couples meet and start dating without anyone’s help, though it doesn’t guarantee that their parent will give their permission for the wedding.
Bridal prep week
An Ethiopian bride typically spends a week of preparations for the wedding. It includes a variety of beauty procedures, like decorating her palms and feet with henna, spa treatments, skin prep, mani-pedi, and so on. Beauty specialists are invited to help the bride do all these procedures. She has to be perfect on her wedding day.
Telosh – time for wedding gifts
About 2 days before the wedding, a party called “telosh” is held. The groom and his family present the bride with wedding gifts – usually, the wedding dress or jewelry. The guests also give their wedding presents. And after that, everybody is invited to have a meal.
Groom begs to get his bride
On the day of the wedding, the groom comes to his bride’s house to pick her up and drive to the venue. But it’s not that easy. First, he has to negotiate with her relatives, who gather outside of her home and sing a traditional song saying that they won’t let anybody come in and take her. The groom has to beg to get to his bride. When he’s finally let in, he gives her flowers and she returns a kiss. Together, they get in their wedding car and drive away.
Kiss grandparents’ knees
In Ethiopia, people respect their elders very much. So, there is a unique wedding ritual – the couple kisses their grandparents’ knees before the wedding ceremony. Their grandfathers, grandmothers, and other elderly relatives sit at the wedding venue and wait for the couple to arrive. The bride and groom come to them, say their thanks, and kiss their knees as a gesture of respect. In return, the elders give their blessing to the couple.
Kesherah – wedding purity ceremony
This ritual is performed at the wedding ceremony. A kesherah is a specific accessory created from two cords – the white one symbolizes the groom’s purity and the red one – the bride’s virginity (which is valued highly in Ethiopian society). The wedding officiant takes this double cord, places it at the groom’s feet, and then, ties it around the groom’s forehead.
Meles – post-wedding celebration
It is held the next evening. The newlyweds, dressed in the traditional wedding attire called “kaba”, come to the venue to celebrate their wedding with wedding guests. It is all organized and financed by their parents. Everybody has a wedding dinner, and a few wedding activities are performed. For example, the bread-cutting ritual. The bride’s mother cuts the bread, and also, she gives her daughter a nickname that will remind the couple and their guests about this day.
Kelekel – relatives who couldn’t come to the wedding aren’t forgotten
On the 3rd day of the wedding celebration, the couple’s parents organize another party – for those relatives and friends who weren’t able to attend the wedding ceremony. They have a meal, congratulate the newlyweds, and wish them all good. This is the last day of the wedding celebration.