Wedding ceremonies in Sudan last for days, with the bride and groom having specific roles to play.

Three important aspects of Sudanese weddings can be easily divided into the betrothal/engagement, the wedding preparation and the actual wedding/consumation.

Sudan is a predominantly Muslim country, with customs and cultures passed down for centuries and recent western influences as well.

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All these reflect in the way marriages are conducted in Sudan as many aspects of the Muslim faith form part of the marriage tradition.

The betrothal/engagement:

Arranged marriages are common in Sudan, especially as it is encouraged by the Muslim faith.

In any case, (whether the match is arranged or not), for the engagement to be formalized, a meeting between both families is important.

The suitor is required to make a good offer in exchange for the bride’s hand in marriage. The offer is traditionally a herd of cattle, but in recent times, it includes money too.

The first installment of cattle may be ‘paid’ to the bride’s family, sealing the engagement, while the balance will be delivered at the actual wedding.

The wedding preparations:

The preparation for the festivities takes about a month, and the bride’s home is completely taken over by the activities.

The focus of a Sudanese wedding is mostly on the bride. Surrounded by peers and female members of her family, the bride will go through beauty rituals to prepare her for her wedding day.

Her hair will be taken care of and she will be doused in perfumes and incense. A ‘henna party’ involving sweets and singing while the bride gets intricate henna tattoos on her hands and feet is crucial to the preparations because it is believed to ward off evil spirits.

The actual wedding/consummation:

When the groom arrives at the house of his bride-to-be, he is greeted by her mother. He is traditionally obliged to ask for her permission to enter the house.

After demonstrating her acceptance, he taken inside and led in to his waiting bride and guests.

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A religious sermon takes place, after which the couple kisses their parents’ knees and seeks their blessings. Traditional songs are sung to praise the couple and wish them well after all the wedding conditions are fulfilled.

The newlyweds then journey to the groom’s house, where a smaller celebration is held before the union is finally consummated.