Sierra Leone wedding traditions differ according to their tribes. Even though they differ in their wedding traditions a wedding starts when a man is able to assemble enough bride price (often a mixture of money and other gifts) to give to the prospective bride and her family. Marriages are arranged between families, sometimes when the girl is still young. But, love marriages are also common, especially among those who have been to school.
Here are 7 of the most common Sierra Leone wedding traditions that couples can incorporate in their wedding occasion.
Mboya. A boy’s family can choose a future wife for him from childhood. However, if the girl does not agree to choice when she is of age, she has the opportunity to refuse marriage (to the young man that is… not necessarily to marriage altogether). If she goes through with the marriage without her consent however, the man’s family will be required to pay her parents a bride price known as Mboya. If the bride price is not paid, any children they have will be considered to be the “property” of the woman’s family. Part of the Mboya or bridal payment includes rice, salt, palm oil, and fabric for making clothes.
Tying the Knot. In some African wedding traditions, the bride and groom have their wrists tied together with cloth or braided grass to represent their marriage. Today’s modern couples may choose to have the officiant or a close friend tie their wrists together with a piece of kente cloth or a strand of cowrie shells during the ceremony while stating the wedding vow.
Jumping the Broom. This is a well-known tradition whose origin is up for debate. Today, this ritual’s significance is agreed upon to be a symbol for the start of the couple making a home together. The broom, often handmade and beautifully decorated, can be displayed in the couple’s home after the wedding.
Ijogolo. In addition to the rings, married women also wore a five-fingered apron (called an ijogolo) to mark the culmination of the marriage, which only takes place after the birth of the first child.
Kola Nut. The Kola nut is most often used for medicinal purposes in Africa. It is also essential in most African weddings. The Kola nut symbolizes the couple’s willingness to always help heal each other. The ceremony is not complete until a kola nut is shared between the couple and their parents. Many couples incorporate the sharing of a kola nut into their ceremonies, and then keep the nut in their home afterwards as a reminder to always work at healing any problems they encounter.
Amacubi. A married woman always wore some form of head covering as a sign of respect for her husband. These ranged from a simple beaded headband or a knitted cap to elaborate beaded headdresses or the amacubi. Long beaded strips signified that the woman’s son was undergoing the initiation ceremony and indicated that the woman had now attained a higher status in the society. It symbolized joy because her son had achieved manhood as well as the sorrow at losing him to the adult world.
Cowrie Shells. Cowrie shells, indigenous to West Africa represent fertility and prosperity. Cowrie shells are a significant favorite used in bridal attire. Use of the shell design in favors, food serving, cakes and decoration or table centerpieces express the tradition.