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