Cover of Book

$25.00 Hardcover
197 pages
ISBN: 0-517-70501-X
© 1997 Crown Publishers, Inc.

(V. Synder)




Nubian Wedding Book  

The Introduction

Cover (Softback) A wise African once said there are as many wedding customs as there are families. Although these customs serve the same essential purpose throughout the world, attending a wedding gives a guest an inside look at how two families merge their most cherished traditions.

Like a rich gumbo, The Nubian Wedding Book offers tasty tidbits of information about what sisters and brothers are doing to blend their cultural legacy into a wedding to remember. It is a compendium of writings and rituals that will offer practical ideas and romantic touches to allow black couples to create a family wedding, as well as a source to inspire culturally significant wedding ceremonies.

Within these pages is a bounty of information gleaned from historical records, wedding consultants, engaged and married couples, pastors, spiritual leaders and other people involved in the culture of weddings. Each section explores a different component of love, mating and marriage. There are dozens of suggestions for blending your heritage into a celebration that enriches and illuminates the customs that we cherish, including anecdotes from several couples on their personalized weddings, historical details about traditions from Africa, the Caribbean and the United States, as well as expert opinions on incorporating family and friends into any ceremony.

The idea for The Nubian Wedding Book started about eight years ago when Edwin Lake and I got married. I went to several bookstores trying to find a book that would offer me ideas about celebrating my African-American heritage. No such book existed.

As a journalist, who has written many articles and essays about African American arts and culture, I realized that most of this information would not be easy to come by. Although there are far more books written by and for African Americans these days, as few as eight years ago, many of the stories that I wrote about African Americans required firsthand interviews for a significant portion of the research. I knew I'd have to do a little digging. But with the wedding plans, moving to a new apartment and taking a new job that required several hours of travel a day, I had no time to dig. Yet my interest set me on a long journey as I began to read, research and collect any item or idea I could find that sought reclaim our wedding customs. This book is the end result of that journey, a compendium of interviews, wedding tips, recipes, and extraordinary stories of love, betrothal, and marriage. There is still a wealth of information about mating and marriage rituals among people of African descent that has yet to be fully uncovered. This book is an effort to go back and reclaim our heritage. Contrary to popular opinion, our families do create and uphold traditions and cultural mores. But sometimes we neglect to protect and preserve those valuable commodities. There is a hunger for more details about our African, Caribbean and African American heritages. But instead of rejecting an American model for a more African model, many want to blend their cultural makeup to take from each aspect what they feel is most important to them.

I want to add The Nubian Wedding Book to their resources. It is designed to give couples and their families a fuller understanding of how this rite of passage has been celebrated through the ages. It also strives to be a historical record, a spiritual guide, and a family heirloom for those who want to maintain a link with their cultural heritage.

Herein you'll find details about wedding rituals in the motherland, where an elaborate courting ritual is a common thread among many African countries. When a young man finds the woman he wants to marry, it requires a series of negotiations, often over several weeks. Once settled, the bride recedes into seclusion, being pampered and protected until, upon the day of her wedding, she emerges to join her husband.

These ancient marriage ceremonies have managed to adapt and change as Africans modernize. For example, in some West African families elders no longer await the telltale signs of virginity with a rigorous examination of the bridal bed. Instead the ritual has become a more ceremonial undertaking as couples now use drops of animal blood to satisfy custom.

Included are details from slave narratives regarding weddings of couples who were not permitted to marry legally, but who pursued the quest for pageantry and ceremony by "jumping the broom" before they returned to their often separate dwellings. Some scholars feel this ritual has an African link and have discovered variations of the same in such places as Panama and Trinidad & Tobago.

Readers will find out about the wedding affair of couples like Delmar and Cheree Gillus, who created a ceremony and reception that blended aspects of their African and American heritage. She topped her white dress with an African crown and he topped his tuxedo with a kufi. They entered into bridal registries that specialized in afrocentric gifts and furnishings. During the wedding, they used the ancient ritual of libation to invoke the spirits of their ancestors. Like their slave ancestors, they leaped over the broom into the land of matrimony. The guests then dined on a menu of African fare.

You will meet South Africans Siphokazi Koyana and Zola Pinda, who married in a civil ceremony in 1993 in Philadelphia. They defied Xhosa tradition when they met, got engaged and married in a whirlwind courtship. But each time they return home they are compelled to carry out many of the traditions that their families have practiced for generations.

"We like to think we are westernized and far removed from it," says Sipho. "But each time we go back home we cannot be seen together without doing something to call on both families and until we have finished all the rituals."

There will be readings about love, including passionate love letters exchanged between nineteenth-century author and poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar and his wife, Alice. There is a section on creating words of good wishes for the couple. There are descriptions of libations, an ancient ceremonial rite that pays homage to ancestors, as well as toasts and other words of blessing to send a couple on their lifelong journey.

In the section on wedding vows and ceremonies are words adapted from actual ceremonies that brides and grooms can personalize and incorporate into their own affairs. Although the vows may be used verbatim, they serve mainly as a guide for couples to use to create their own special moments.

There is a ceremony in which the Nguzo Saba--seven important principles to live by--unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith--are incorporated into wedding vows.

There is a ceremony that makes use of Yoruba practices, such as the tasting of kola nuts, a source of strength; honey, to add sweetness; water, to freshen; or pepper, also to test a groom's strength. In addition, selections of prose and poems about love and marriage may be used to complement wedding vows, or on wedding programs, invitations, and thank-you notes. There is also vital information about finding a wedding planner and clergy who can help you create a ceremony with meaning and purpose.

For those interested in Caribbean traditions, included is a recipe handed down from mother to daughter for the Caribbean black cake that many brides find an essential part of their reception festivities. Suggestions for menus to use at wedding showers are also provided. And last, there are descriptions of pre-wedding rituals such as the queh-queh, a ceremony of dance, drums and songs that many brothers and sisters from Guyana revel in just before their wedding.

The book ends on a note of renewal as couples whose unions have longevity reveal the source of their marriages' strength and resilience. You can then turn to the Resource Guide for a listing of goods and services geared toward the wedding celebration.

Now in the spirit of Sankofa-go back and fetch it.

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