A common Cameroonian proverb states – ‘Beauty is an empty calabash.’ From this proverb, one can deduce that weddings are an important part of the Cameroonian culture. Below are a few Cameroon wedding traditions, some of which are no longer practiced today. Enjoy the read!
Cameroon Wedding Traditions
- Bride Price
Payment of bride price is standard practice in African countries. Bride price is usually paid as a sign of respect and good faith. In Cameroon, the bride price is paid after the official engagement has been announced and the families have agreed that the wedding can take place.
The items required for the bride price vary. Sometimes the groom may be asked to bring goats, fabric, palm oil (up to ten 250ml tins), money and farming tools. A barrel of goat meat, country plantains, a married woman’s outfit and as much firewood as the grooms’ friends can bring may also be included.
- Cola Nut
The Cola Nut is a must-have at every Cameroonian wedding. This bitter fruit is usually served with alcoholic drinks. The man’s family offers cola nuts and alcoholic drinks to the girl’s family as a sign of honor and friendship.
Salt is an important part of Cameroon weddings. The groom’s family brings salt to the bride’s family as a token of friendship and loyalty. Salt acts as a symbol of permanence and durability, as well as fecundity and abundance.
- Identifying the Bride
After the groom’s family state their intentions and present their gifts of cola nuts, all the young women of the girl’s household are asked to come out with veiled faces. There is a moment of brief tension as the groom takes time to identify his bride, but once he does so, there is great jubilation.
- Sharing a Drink with the Groom.
After the groom identifies his bride from the group of veiled girls, her father asks her to share a drink with her husband to be. In some cases, the bride is asked to go into a room full of men where she must locate the groom and give him his drink.
- Escort by Elders
The bride is not allowed to go to her new home without the blessing of the elders from both sides. Once the elders give their blessing, they (the elders from her side of the family) escort her to the groom’s home.
- Throwing Water
Throwing water is one of the more unusual Cameroon wedding traditions. When the bride gets to her new home in the company of her relatives, she and the groom stand at the doorway. At this point, the groom’s father throws water at the couple’s feet!
Cameroon Marriage Traditions
- Cleansing of the Bride
After the wedding ceremony, the bride returns to her parents’ house where she is cleansed and covered with camwood in preparation for the wedding night. She is then officially handed over to her husband.
- Age Limits
According to Cameroon marriage traditions, a girl was betrothed at birth, and then married off at the age of 15. She was, however, free to reject her parents’ choice of husband.
A boy was allowed to marry only after his circumcision ceremony, between the age of 14 and 18. Thankfully, this practice is not very common today.
- Exchange of Brides.
The exchange of brides was a common practice in the Banen tribe. Two families would exchange brides at a young age. The young girl would then go to live in the household of her future husband, where she would be raised and trained by the senior wife. After the girl’s puberty ceremony, the marriage would be consummated. Exchanging of brides is not practiced any more.
- Bride Capture
One of the more interesting Cameroon marriage traditions involved marriage by capture. This practice was prevalent among the members of the Bafia tribe. A girl would be captured for marriage by an interested party, especially if she was of age. If the girl was old enough to get married, her family would not make any effort to get her back. Her captor would, however, have to make himself known to her family, and offer payment for his new wife. Marriage by capture is a custom that has since become outdated.
Cameroon Wedding Dresses
The Atoghu, a fabric made by the Bamenda tribe, has become increasingly popular at Cameroon weddings. This fabric is used to decorate the wedding dress, as well as to make the wedding outfits.
Cameroon wedding traditions have cultural aspects that can be applied to modern weddings. When planning your wedding, see which of these traditional practices you can add to your ceremony, to make it unique and more enjoyable. All the best!