The tribes of Sierra Leone share many similarities and differences when it comes to wedding traditions. The Mende, the second largest tribe in the country, has its own set of unique traditions that have stood the test of time. Coming up is a list of the most well-known wedding traditions of the Mende.
1. Age and Eligibility for marriage
- Any man who has reached maturity and can comfortably provide bridewealth is eligible for marriage, as is any woman who is past adolescence.
- Though marriage can be contracted at an early age, consummation requires that the man is first initiated into the ‘poro’ society and the woman into the ‘sande’ society. Note, also, that celibacy is considered to be abnormal.
2. Arranged Marriage
- According to the wedding traditions of the Mende, the young man’s family can choose his future wife from childhood. When the girl comes of age, however, she is given the chance to refuse marriage to the young man.
- If the girl goes through the marriage without consenting to it, the man’s family must pay her parents bride price, also known as ‘mboya.’
3. Bride Price
- The practice of paying bride price among the Mende is as important to them as to other tribes in Sierra Leone. Once the payment of the bride price is complete, the marriage is considered legal.
- If the bride price is not paid, however, any children sired within the union will be the property of the woman’s family.
- Polygyny is a common feature within the wedding traditions of the Mende. A man who practices polygyny enjoys social prestige among in the society.
- His wives, led by the senior wife, carry out the different tasks allocated to the women in and around the house, e.g. rice farming, domestic chores, trading and running cottage industries.
- Divorce is not common among the Mende. In some instances, however, the husband is allowed to dissolve the marriage and get a refund of the bride wealth. Such instances include insulting the husband’s parents, desertion, practicing witchcraft, etc.
- If a woman is abused persistently by her husband, her relatives will demand that she be released to return to her family.
- After a divorce takes place, any child who is not breastfeeding remains with the father.
The wedding traditions of the Mende are simple and easy to follow! Please read through them before you plan your wedding, so that you will be well prepared. Good luck!