Ethiopian Treasures

Marriage

Christian marriages, mainly in Tigray and Amhara regions, are often arranged by the parents of the bride and groom with a great deal of negotiation. According to tradition and culture the bride must be virgin when the marriage takes place. Because the bride virginity is highly valued and pride in Christian marriage, with the whole family being shamed if the bride is not virgin at marriage. Rural women in particular tend to marry at a very young age than their husbands. In the past it used to be the custom for the bridegroom to be 30 years of age when getting married following the biblical example of Christ who waited until he was 30 years of age before beginning his public ministry.

Traditionally the groom's parents search for a bride for their son. Before they make any contact with the bride's parents they investigate to make sure that the famalies are not related by blood. In the past they researched back seven generations, but now five generations is acceptable. Once this has been done the boy's parents then make contact with the prespective bride's parents through a mediator. The mediator goes to the home of the potential bride and asks if their daughter will marry the son of the other parents. The bride's parents often impose conditions and the mediator will take the message to the groom's parents, then arrange a date for both parents to meet at a mutually convenient location.

When the parents have reached an agreement, the man and woman get engaged. The parents then set a wedding date and they meet all the wedding expenses. The bride and groom first see each other on their wedding day. Both parents prepare food and drink for the wedding and invite guests. The groom goes to the bride's house to take his future wife to be. The wedding ceremony starts with dances and music and the bride's parents give the groom a dowry, in most case money and cattle. At the end of the ceremony the groom takes his bride to his parents' house. The groom takes the bride's virginity during the first three days after the marriage. The honeymoon will last between one week to three months dependant on the groom's parents' economic circumstances. This takes place at the husband's parents' house and often the best man/men will also be present. After the honeymoon the couple return to the house of the bride's parents where they stay together for a set time, again with the best man/men present. During the honeymoon, the bride is not allowed to go out during the day; she is only allowed to go out after sunset.

In Muslim marriages, husbands may have up to four wives and having large numbers of children are traditionally considered to be a sign of status among Muslim communities. If the husband of a Muslim woman dies, it is the husband's brother responsibility to look after the wife and the children. The husband's brother may marry her.

Nowadays many men and women, often those, who live in urban areas as opposed to rural communities, do not follow this tradition and do not have arranged marriages but it is important to marry someone the family approves of.



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