Financial Mail


Covid-19 will force yet another layer of change to how weddings are celebrated, as we adapt to new ways of living

- @fredkhumal­o by Fred Khumalo

In the panic and confusion that characteri­se any talk about Covid19, I almost forgot to comment on a phenomenon I think will never be the same again after lockdown: weddings.

In a city where many of these ceremonies are conducted at venues which have proliferat­ed on the outskirts of town, I can only imagine how devastated that industry is: think of the owners and the people they employ.

Even after the lifting of lockdown I think many of these venues won’t recover soon, and some not at all.

Which is a great pity, because they offer an important service.

Before these venues became popular, getting married — especially in the black community — was a challengin­g undertakin­g. You had to have guts to do it the proper way.

We black South Africans straddle two worlds — one foot is in the Western tradition, the other in our rich African culture. I realise many FM readers are black people, but for the benefit of those who aren’t, indulge me while I summarise what happens before one of us gets married.

The young man sends a delegation to his would-be in-laws to explain his intentions. Negotiatio­ns could extend over several months. Finally, when both parties are happy, a day is set for the wedding ceremony. A beast (sometimes beasts) are slaughtere­d the day before at the future bride’s house.

On the day of the wedding, a church service is held in the morning. Unlike in the white community where only a small group of close relatives and some friends attend, in the township busloads of people descend on the church.

After church, the masses are bused back to the bride’s place. There, they wait while the groom, the bride and their coterie of best men and bridesmaid­s go through an elaborate photoshoot at a botanical garden (I curse the person who originated this idea). The photoshoot could take anything from one to three hours. By the time the newlyweds get home, the masses are restless. They can’t eat until the couple have eaten.

When I got married more than 20 years ago, I learnt to my dismay that when you marry a Xhosa woman, you don’t just step out of your limo and go directly to the marquee where lunch is served. No, the limo stops about 500m away from the bride’s house. The woman must do what they call ukunyathel­a inkundla — which loosely translates into walking the last mile of her home territory before she is sent off to the groom’s place forever.

To the sound of music, you step out of the limo. And you don’t merely walk down the road. Every step you take must be musical — in my case, in the scorching September sun.

Finally, you reach the bride’s house. Lunch is served. Speeches made. Then the following day, now dressed in traditiona­l regalia, it’s off to the groom’s place. There some rituals are performed and speeches given, there is more food, more dancing. In other words, the wedding ceremony takes the whole weekend. In my case it took three days (we got married on a long weekend).

Then came these fancy wedding venues. Because attendance at these venues is by invitation only, the crowds got smaller. The more traditiona­l members of the community were disappoint­ed by the “soullessne­ss” of the wedding venues.

My grandfathe­r was disappoint­ed to see his son, my father, getting married inside a Christian church more than half a century ago. My own father would have been disappoint­ed that I avoided some rituals associated with our culture.

I know post-covid wedding ceremonies will be way different from what we’re used to. I can imagine some old timers saying: “This is not how we used to do things!”

Of course not. We adapt or die.

My father would have been disappoint­ed that I avoided some rituals associated with our culture

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