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Comparison of Marriage Practices in Three Cultures

Updated on November 2, 2013

Marriage is a legal union of a man and a woman for life. The definitions range in all dimensions is defined as covenants, a total form of life change, commitment and even an intimate relationship between a man and a woman. Some regard it as a backbone of any society (Brian Craig). All these aim at clarifying the importance of marriage and its significance to any particular individual. Marriage is considered as a form of transition in a person’s life.

Marriage is divided in accordance to the various communities in different regions of the world. It is also divisible according to forms of marriage like the Jewish, the Muslim, the Indian, Chinese and even the Xhosa. All these groups have different customs and hold different sentiments with regard to this important practice. Some groups even have further divisions that specify their rights and cultures practiced in these ceremonies.

Some individuals regard marriage as practicable ranging from very tender ages to the mature.

Traditionally it is a rite of passage that individual pass across. It is regarded as a means of procreation traditionally which is the biggest essence of marriage and a form of prestige and wealth to have many children. There are many traditional practices which are carried out in various cultures in order to give this the weight and the value it holds in the two individuals who decide to enter into marriage. Marriage still holds its views and reactions across all aspects because it is very important both traditionally and modernly. This practice acts as an introduction into an agreement which changes the individual intellectually, socially and even economically as the decisions made affect other people in a person’s life. The responsibilities become more and choices made seem to matter a lot.


Marriage Rings

Zulu, Kikuyu, Luo Marriage

One of the books I came across in the library is a dissertation which focuses on the marriage and death among the Zulu. This dissertation looks at the Zulu people extensively, their myths and some of the terms they use which have significance in their community. The continuity of life is looked into as a religious belief in the community. The dissertation focuses on the importance of marriage and death and the practices among the Zulu people. It also focuses on the religious practices and the view of death as a form of life continuity religiously.

The other book I looked into is the one written by Yoko IIshi. This is an African Study Monogram which focuses on the Kikuyu community. The book focuses on the various aspects that affect marriage as a tradition in the Kikuyu community. Some aspects looked into is the child birth, the birth control among others which affect marriage and are important in the aspect of marriage. The book focuses the various aspects including the child bearing out of wedlock and their beliefs traditionally.

The other book was on the Zulu culture. This gives a summary of all the practices in the community. The issue looks at the community in terms of the social, economic and even the political organization. The Xhosa is a community in South Africa. The issue looks also into their cultural practices and their views towards these little rituals that identify the community. The book of David Graham cooper which is a research on the various practices in the different communities like the Hindu, Islam, Indian, Xhosa is also interesting as it summarizes the various aspects of these customs and the beliefs included in the marriage practice as a religious practice in terms of Christianity.

The marriage practices in the Zulu culturally include some issues as identified below. Here the bride becomes the daughter .of the bridegroom’s family and the bridegroom becomes the son of the Bride’s family. According to the Zulu, it is seen as a unifying factor between the families of the two people involved in marriage. The Zulu people have divided this act into some sections. The first section is the courtship whereby some of the important aspects like the social standing of the young man and the woman who is believed to be mature; regarded as a full grown girl’s acceptance which makes the relationship between the two closer. The other is the love-play which tests their level of self-control.

Among the Zulu marriage is seen as an agent of life continuity as there are many forms like the polygamous where it is believed to act as a form of assurance of continuity of inheritance and a good social standing even economically as it has some form of responsibilities and status that goes with it. Widow inheritance is also another practice as the wife is viewed as belonging to the clan and family therefore upon death of the husband; she is taken care of by the younger brother who will ensure continuity of his lineage.

There is surrogate marriage whereby a wife who cannot bear children is borne for by the sister. Some other acts that are important and the matters include homosexuality which is regarded as abnormality. The other important issue is sexuality which is a blessing and regarded as sacred in the community. Some taboos are having sexual intercourse during the menstruation time and the suckling time which can lead to death traditionally in their beliefs.

Virginity is highly valued among the Zulu as marriage is seen as a very important phase in the Zulu community. Dowry is also important in marriage as they show the value of a person in high regards particularly in marriage. There is a dance called the farewell dance which bids goodbye and wishes the best for the bride and to give her blessings before she starts her new life with the husband. The clan also has an anthem and all these show the significance and the weight that marriage carries among the Zulu.

Among the Kikuyu, marriage is also seen as a sacred act which involves important aspects like procreation for the community. Some of the acts during this period is the dowry negotiated upon by the clan heads of the two families. The woman is to leave her home during the day she gets married and this is pride to the parents as she has left their home respectfully. The woman is believed to have been taught well by the parents to have been able to reach the ripe age of marriage and has done it nobly.

Polygamy in these days is seen as a good thing and the woman even encourages the husband to marry another woman who is to reduce the burden of work as she will help in the house work and the various chores in the house. This however faced many drawbacks for the men as they view it as a stretch on their economic life as they will have to cater for more mouths. The other issue was that of conjugal relations in marriage whereby child bearing is believed to occur among the married couples only. A child who is born out of wedlock is viewed not as a new happening modernly but is greatly opposed by members of the community as a taboo.

The Kikuyu community also views marriage as an important transition as the woman believed to be grown up is given some teachings and words of advice by the elderly. the marriage ceremony practically takes place in two phases which are the traditional marriage where the dowry and important factors are looked into and the modern which takes place in a church whereby thereafter a honeymoon will follow suit modernly.

Among the Xhosa, the marriage takes place at a young age and there are various practices that take place in marriage. There are beliefs like the woman not seeing the wife the first four days after delivery. Inheritance in the Xhosa is done only by men as the women do not inherit upon death of the owner of the wealth like the father. the payment of the dowry can be done in installments as the groom can take the wife and pay the dowry slowly till it is done and that is fourteen cattle. The seeking of the wife or husband is done by the young man or the parents of the young girl seek for a husband for their child.

Marriage is seen as a blessing and an animal is always slaughtered in the ceremonies. The form of marriage taken is mostly arranged and during the ceremony, a lot of celebrations take place as it signifies transition for the individuals and the two couples involved. The ceremony can take place within the community or even outside that is only upon permission.

The thesis above gives a brief outline which gives a clue to the reader of what will be looked into extensively. Marriage among all the communities involves the important aspect of dowry and some form of celebration which differs depending on the patterns generally practiced by the various individuals. Marriage still holds unmeasured significance even in the modern society as it marks an important change in the people involved in the act and the families as a whole and strong bonds are existent from that moment onwards.


Budlender, D., Chobokoane, N., & Simelane, S. (2004). Marriage patterns in South Africa: methodological and substantive issues. Southern African Journal of Demography, 1-25.

Brian Craig, Chapter three, Marriage in Christian Tradition; Understanding Marriage: university of Pretoria.

Yoko ISHII: (1997): birth control and reproduction in the kikuyu society: the case from murang’a district in Kenya: African Study Monographs, Tokyo metropolitan university. Description of the Xhosa

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