Umembeso also known as, izbizo is a Zulu tradition that celebrates the union of marriage between two individuals.
Many people combine the lobola and umembeso ceremonies, they are in fact separate ceremonies, even when they are performed on the same day.
While Lobola can most easily be the process of paying the bride price, umembeso, is the giving of gifts to the bride’s family, specifically the bride’s mother, as a way of thanking her for raising the groom’s soon-to-be wife.
Apart from the outstanding Zulu attire that people wear on such traditional occasions, the process is what captivates many in attendance.
This could be your chance to check out the latest Swati dresses that people will be wearing. The umembeso is one such event that is interesting to follow. The following is a breakdown of what happens.
Even as you plan for the umembeso dresses you will be wearing, you need to know about the umembeso. This is the next step towards a show of commitment to spend a lifetime together.
1. Letter of invitation
First, you need to have received the letter. This serves as the official letter of request for the marriage. Usually, an uncle of the groom delivers the request to the bride’s family. This letter is what serves as a formal request from the groom’s family to be given a date with the bride’s family. It is this umembeso invitation that kick starts lobola negotiations, which marks the recognition of a formal engagement. It is after this that your Xhosa traditional wedding may be viable.
Umembeso is the ceremony that is carried out at the brides family to welcome the groom and his family. Usually, people take up to 3 weeks to plan the ceremony at the groom’s family. The groom’s family come with gifts for the bride’s family that then serve as a token of appreciation for their new wife or bride known as makoti. It is up to the lady and her family to arrange things and find a time that is appropriate for everyone.
This may include marquees, chairs and tables, in addition to buying umembeso decor items and food. You also need to factor in the accessories that you will need as a bride.
3. The ceremony
A day to the D-day, you need to perform a traditional function of informing the ancestors that the day is in the next day. Most people will thank the ancestors for being with them. The venue is also not a problem since the bride’s mother hosts the celebration. The lobola process ends up with the two families becoming one.
The bride has to wait in a room until her in-laws arrive. Their arrival is signaled by traditional singing Zulu wedding songs from both sides of the families, as though in sort of competition. When the bride and her family get to the gate, the in-laws who are outside must provide some money, which they place on the ground as a sign that they really want to be with the bride that they came for.
4. Lunch is served
As it is the case with all African ceremonies, food in a major part of it all. After the celebrations, guests and family get down for lunch. You will get to enjoy fine Zulu traditional food and in the process learn a few thing about Zulu culture food being the main thing.
5. Transitioning from the Zulu girl
After lunch is done, the bride must go back into the house for a change from her Zulu traditional attire into a new dress, that is bought by the in-laws. This is symbolic of the bride being a part of their family. An aunt from the groom’s side will help get dressed as the rest of her in-laws get the gifts ready. Changing from the Zulu traditional clothing is significant.
The bride’s mom, sister, aunts, uncle and herself will receive gorgeous doeks, Ndebele blankets, throws, fabric, and pillows. The brides family will feel very respected and honoured by the ritual of the Zulu traditional wedding.