Updated: Aug 27
There is a lot of information out there about planning a multi-cultural wedding and weddings in general, but limited resources when it comes to advice on planning an inter-tribal wedding. To clarify, our definition of an inter-tribal relationship is when one partner is from one African ethnic group and the other from another African ethnic group.
Wedding customs and traditions vary from tribe to tribe and therefore, there can be a lot of confusion and tension when planning an inter-tribal wedding. This post will give you the tools you need to navigate your traditional wedding planning successfully and tips on how to incorporate both of your customs into your big day.
" An inter-tribal relationship is when one partner is from one African ethnic group and the other from another African ethnic group"
Understand the Customs
For a lot of us who have been born and bred outside of our country of heritage, our parents and older members of our families are a source of wealth when it comes to understanding our customs and traditions. It is important that both you and your partner take the time to discuss your own customs and traditions with members of your families first. Not knowing what to expect or what is expected of you can make the traditional wedding planning process 10 x more stressful than it needs to be – so make sure you gain the understanding before you begin the wedding planning process.
Discuss the Non-negotiables
Once you have gained a better understanding of your own cultural wedding process and what is required, ask yourself: are there any customs that must be fulfilled in order for you to be considered married in your culture or traditions that if omitted would cause great offence? These are what we would consider non-negotiable customs. Sit down with your partner to discuss the non-negotiable customs that you need to include from your culture. Once you have decided as a couple what you will definitely include as part of your wedding day customs, discuss this with your families to make sure you haven’t missed anything and that everyone is comfortable with your decision.
Compromise, Compromise, Compromise!
" Compromise is not about losing; it is about deciding that the other person has just as much right to be happy with the end result as you do " - Donna Martini
Fusing two (or more!) cultures together will undoubtedly involve compromise in some areas and that is not necessarily a bad thing! Be open-minded to different ideas during the wedding planning process as the end goal is to have a wedding day that is representative of both of you. To have a wedding day that represents the combining of cultures is a beautiful thing to witness and experience, and something your guests will learn a lot from too. Also, keep in mind that culture can be a sensitive topic to some family members, so your willingness to compromise will show your partner's family that you respect them and their culture.
The Inter-tribal Traditional Wedding
Okay, now a key thing to bear in mind is that the traditional wedding ceremony in most African cultures will typically follow that of the bride’s family. So, here are our top tips for four key areas of the big day where you can incorporate the husband’s culture, effortlessly.
On the day, the bride's cultural traditions take precedence, but as we discussed earlier, some of the non-negotiable customs from the husband’s tribe can be interweaved into the day. A suggestion could be to have the bride's traditional ceremony first, followed by the husband's or just certain aspects of it.
Tip: There may also be different views on who pays for the wedding from a cultural standpoint so make sure you discuss that with your families as well.
There are many ways to approach the traditional wear for the wedding day. Ultimately, it is up to you how you choose to do it, but here we have suggested two common approaches of incorporating both cultures in your outfits:
1. The husband wears his native traditional outfit and the bride also wears her own tribe's traditional outfit. Once all the marriage customs are complete, the bride changes into her husband’s tribe's native bridal outfit.
2. The bride and groom both wear the native traditional outfit of the bride’s tribe. Once the marriage customs are complete, they both change into the husband’s native traditional outfits.
We love these approaches because it is beautifully symbolic of the bride officially being married and accepted into her husband's family.
If you are not having a separate traditional wedding, another suggestion is for the couple to change into each other's native outfits during the reception at the white wedding.
Amala or Fufu? Nkowbi or Ntaba? Ghanaian or Nigerian Jollof?
Honestly, food doesn't have to be a cause for strife at your wedding! Why not have caterers provide food from both cultures? Offering dishes from both of your cultures will encourage your guests to try new things and it's a delicious way for everyone to experience each other's local foods and delicacies.
Make sure the DJ has a mixed set of music that includes music from both of your cultures so this ensures that both sides of the family will enjoy the day.
Having an MC that is familiar with both cultures (or hiring two MCs), will help all guests feel welcome and makes both of you feel like it really is your day and not just one sided.
You could also opt to have live bands, dancers or other live entertainment representative of your culture perform at your wedding.
At the end of the day, this is your wedding so it is entirely up to you as a couple how you choose to infuse both of your cultures together. Above all else, we encourage you to remember that this day is intended to be a fun day! When it comes to cultural weddings, although they have a deep meaning, they are fun and entertaining too, so remember to enjoy the process as this day only comes around once.
Do you have any other tips for planning an inter-tribal wedding? Did you marry someone from a different culture from you? We'd love to hear about your experience and your suggestions. Let us know below! Feel free to ask any questions also.