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We will not lie - we don’t know everything and we are working on understanding the rich traditions represented in South Africa. We will add as we respectfully understand and appreciate the intricacies involved. Please feel free to share with us!

There are a few stages in a typical traditional wedding:

1)    Dowry payment, often termed Lobola.
2)    Gift sharing between the two families (this includes ceremonies such as Izibizo/Membeso, Umbondo) prior to the actual wedding.
3)    Finally, the official ceremony wedding where the bride is officially welcomed into her new family – ceremonies such as uMabo/ukuMbathisa are performed as part of the celebrations.


Lobola (loh-boh-lah) – this is the bride dowry/price in southern African culture. It is traditionally paid with cattle or equivalent monetary value. The average price can range from 11 cows up to 15, and more, for royal blood. It is considered a token of appreciation to the bride’s family for raising her and allowing her to help build the man’s home.

This tradition comes after “ukucela” - asking for her hand in marriage – the first introduction of the man to the woman’s family. This is where he announces his intentions and is advised on the requirements for the bride price.

Read further: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobolo

Following lobola and deemed reciprocation by the bride, Umbondo (oohm-bo-ndor) is when Koti gives the visiting party, tasked with asking for her hand, gifts in the form of a basket of goodies and groceries such as maize, rice, cooking oil, etc. or she takes them herself to her in-laws. She is accompanied by girls and one of them will stay behind as her maid. The maid’s role is to help Koti and run errands for her, because there are places that she cannot access in the homestead prior to official marriage. Umbondo can and is often combined with umabo instead of being a standalone event.

Ingqibamasondo is a part of umbondo. This is a ‘public announcement’ by the bride that she will be married soon, a "thank you" to the bridegroom’s family and so a transitionary custom. This can only happen when lobola is fully paid up. It involves Koti being taken to the kraal where a goat is slaughtered to symbolise and allow Koti to become a member of the house, having permission to act as a child of the house. Koti takes with her goodies such as a tray and tea set for the chief negotiator and his wife as well as a basket for her mother-in-law.

Umembeso (ooh-meh-mbheh-soh) involves the bridegroom gifting Koti’s family, specifically her mother, as a "thank you" for raising his fiancée well. He receives a list of gifts to buy a few family members, including the late, such as blankets, mats, pinafores, doeks, livestock etc. There is much celebration in the form of song and dance during this ceremony as two families become one. A goat and food are prepared by Koti’s family as a way of welcoming the groom’s family to their home and, in some instances, small gifts will also be given to the groom’s family.

Often known and recognised by customary law as the official traditional wedding ceremony, umabo (ooh-mah-boh) is the official welcoming of Koti into her bridegroom’s home. This often takes place after the white wedding but can be done as a standalone, post lobola and membeso.

In its simplest form, Koti is adorned in traditional gear and proceeds to give gifts to her new family, as per list received from the bridegroom - which usually includes blankets, pinafores, cookware, groceries, furniture etc. The recipients receive their blankets/gifts and celebrate the new bride with dancing and singing, all in the name of two families becoming one.


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