The TZ Wedding – The Ladies

crystal dingsI should clarify that I am not married.

And I should explain a little something about Tanzanian weddings. They’re not like the ones at home.

The typical +255 wedding comes in four parts. There are two ceremonies hosted by the bride’s family, and two ceremonies hosted by the groom’s family.

The first ceremony is the Kitchen Party, hosted by the bride and her people. It is an evening party, and is generally a strictly-girls affair, so in areas like Dar that are predominantly Muslim, the ladies have a chance to let down their hair … and other things.

The only male at this ceremony is the DJ and the cameraman. I can only imagine they enjoy the view, because even I was busy drooling at females whom I had only ever seen in amorphous black, and I’m a girl!

During the Kitchen Party, there is usually an MC-slash-shenga who teaches the bride [and her cohorts] how to take care of a man. The advise is sometimes quite benign, but more often, painfully raunchy.

The playlist consists largely of  taarab, and at several points, the ladies will get on the dance floor and perform renditions of mduara, usually with the help of pillars and chairs.

The trauma!

It can be enlightening though, to see mild-mannered madames in their fifties putting nubile ‘little girls’ to shame in the humble art of *cough*cough* pole-dancing.

There is good food, and at some point the gift-giving starts. The gifts are kitchen utensils and household items, and by the end of the ceremony, the bride has a fully furnished house. She gets everything from rice-makers to electric cookers and gas cylinders.

wedding cakeThe second ceremony is the send-off, also hosted by the bride’s family. It is a wedding-reception style shindig complete with a high table, full video, MC, microphones, embarrassing speeches, champagne and a wedding cake. It is, in principle, the bride’s family saying goodbye to her, and is quite elaborate.

It is held at night as well, on a separate date from the Kitchen Party, and usually at a separate venue. It has all the pomp and colour of a full wedding reception, and yes, again, you are expected to bring gifts.

The bride and her party require separate dresses and beauty treatments for each ceremony, and they cost [at my local salon] 250,000 a piece for the bride, negotiably less for the rest of the bridal party, since they generally do a budget version of what the bride gets.  Agony is getting your hair done at a salon while a bridal party is getting prettified.

Hell is three bridal parties at the same salon on your day off.

At the Send-off itself [and also at the groom-hosted reception] there is a pretty ceremony where the bride and groom come to the front of the crowd and dance a salsa while shaking champagne bottles. For some strange reason, said salsa is usually danced to the theme song of whatever latino soap is in vogue at the time.

The bride and groom each have a bottle, and it’s a light-hearted competition where the MC eggs on the couple to pop the cork, teasing whichever one fails to do the deed correctly. The champagne is usually alcohol-free, but many shy guests still refuse to partake.

Once the salsa and the popping is done, the bride and groom [and sometimes the bridal party] fill the glasses of those near the high table and everyone toasts the couple.

On one occasion, the bottle literally flew out of the groom’s hand. I can’t be sure where it landed, but I can bet the resultant innuendo will be a standing joke for years to come.

…to be continued…

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Crystal Ading' is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through