In Botswana culture, emphasis is placed on the traditional wedding, although many couples do both traditional and civil weddings. Marriage in this culture is a process, attaining its full definition after going through several steps over the years. Below is a list of Botswana wedding traditions that lead up to marriage.
Botswana Wedding Traditions
- The Kgosi
.A wedding can only take place after the local chief (Kgosi) gives his approval. In some instances, the Kgosi performs the wedding ceremony if he has a license from the government. Also, anyone who has objections to a planned wedding can pass the information to the Kgosi.
- Bride Wealth – Bogadi
After lengthy negotiations between both families, the agreed bride price is paid. The standard ‘fee’ is eight head of cattle. If the couple has a child out of wedlock, the price goes up to nine cows. Sometimes the bride’s family asks for blankets, suits or money in place of cows. Full payment of the Bogadi takes several years, and may be completed years after the couple has had cohabited for long, had children, or even after the death of the wife.
- Wedding Notice
The couple must announce their wedding 21 days before the event. Both the bride’s parents and groom’s parents must, however, consent to the marriage otherwise it cannot take place. If the parents are not present, any other family can stand in their place. Note that the groom must build a house for the newlyweds before the wedding day.
Botswana wedding traditions require that Seswaa and Ginger Beer are served at every wedding celebration. Seswaa is a traditional meat dish unique to Botswana, made of beef or goat meat. Tough or left over cuts of meat such as the legs, neck, and back are used to prepare this tasty dish.
- Go Batla Mosadi
Go Batla Mosadi is the lengthy process of negotiation between the two families that leads to the wedding. A delegation is sent to the girl’s home to ask for her hand in marriage. The young man’s family does its best to gain favor with the girl’s family by buying them gifts and showing courtesy, humility, and patience during negotiations. After both sets of parents agree, discussions on the bride price begin.
Botswana Marriage Traditions
- Age Limits
According to Botswana marriage traditions, there is no age limitation for marriage. Once a boy or girl reaches the age of 18, each one can get married. After the wedding, the husband becomes the wife’s sole guardian.
- Who Performs the Wedding Ceremony?
In Botswana, only licensed marriage officers can conduct the wedding ceremony. If the local Kgosi is licensed, he can perform the ceremony.
- Traditional Preparations
Once boys and girls approached the age of marriage, they would be kept in separate quarters. The elders believed that this move prevented the boys and girls from falling into temptation. The boys would attend Bogwera, where they would learn about manly duties and the man’s responsibility in the family. The girls would attend Bojale, where they would be taught what marriage entailed for the woman, and how to be responsible wives.
- Arranged Marriages
Previously, once the young man reached the age of marriage, his uncles would look for a suitable wife for him. They would look for a beautiful girl from a good family, with or without the man’s consent. A beautiful girl was defined by the Tswana proverb – “Mosadi tshwene o jewa motsogo” – a woman must not be judged according to her outward looks, it is her prudence that counts. In addition, a good family was defined as one that had no witchcraft, drunkenness or irresponsibility. Presently, however, young people in Botswana are free to choose their spouses.
According to Botswana marriage traditions, single men and women of marriageable age are not treated with as much respect as their married counterparts. Single women are shunned, while bachelors are not allowed to attend events and meetings that are specifically for married men. For example, bachelors do not attend Patlo, an event where potential in-laws visit a girl’s home to ask for her hand in marriage.
- Go Laya
Go Laya is an important part of the marriage process. Elderly married women would teach the bride about what was expected of her as a wife and mother. Specifically, the bride was taught never to question the actions of the husband as head of the family.
Though some of the above Botswana wedding traditions are not practiced today, there are valuable lessons to learn from each one. Pick out the customs that you feel will make your wedding unique and memorable!