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Site Last Update: 11 Dec, 2019
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Description of a Wedding in the U.S.A. Using Adinkra Symbols, African Proverbs and Traditional African Ceremonial Acts

Planning a wedding is no easy task especially when you are aiming to do something creative and out of the norm.  I wanted an Africentric celebration and for me this went beyond clothing.  It meant honoring a historical lineage that spanned time and space. I searched diligently on the World Wide Web and in the library for various ideas.  I decided to use Adinkra symbols, African proverbs, traditional African ceremonial acts (libation, "afoshe," and a reading in Swahili) and colors as well as elements from Kwanzaa. 

My wedding and reception decorations were based on Adinkra symbols.  Our cake was adorned with all of the symbols that we chose to use and instead of using the traditional wedding bells to decorate the church pews, we hung banners that had the Adinkra symbols on them.  Instead of costly flowers, we had beautiful ferns placed around the altar.  The "Aya" or fern was one of our symbols.  We included a picture of the symbol and its meaning in the wedding program. The two symbols that meant the most two us were incorporated into our wedding bands.

We chose colors based on their meaning in traditional African culture.  These too were listed in the program along with their meaning.  These colors were used to decorate the church, the reception hall, the cake and our clothing.  Purple and gold were the two colors whose meanings spoke the loudest to us so my dress and my husband's "agbada" had these colors in them. These symbols and colors were not chosen haphazardly or on the basis of superficial qualities like "it looks pretty."  We based our decision on the meaning associated with the symbol or color. The meanings reflected qualities that we wanted to emulate in our union. We titled that page of our program "Our Intentions."

My family celebrates Kwanzaa and so instead of the traditional candle lighting, we used the kinara and the seven candles associated with Kwanzaa.  The principles represented the promises that we were making to each other.  We had various family members from both sides light six of the candles to symbolically show that our promises were in essence a covenant between our families.  The principle that each candle stood for was listed in the program and we wrote a line expressing how we would live up to each of these principles in our marriage. This page was called "Our Promises." 

Finally we thought about what it was that we wanted to communicate to the community of family and friends that was witnessing the ceremony. We chose African proverbs that expressed what we wanted to say to them. These were used in the program and on the bookmarks that we gave as wedding favors to our guest.  We wanted our ceremony to be more about form (meaning) than about fashion. So drawing on our rich cultural heritage for the ceremony was really just a very natural way for us to start our lives together. We used the following African proverbs:

One person is thin porridge or gruel; two or three people are a lump (handful) of ugali (stiff cooked meal/flour from sorghum or millet). Kuria (Tanzania and Kenya), Ngoreme (Tanzania)

I am because we are.

A person is a person through other people. (Sotho, Lesotho)


Lisa Merriweather Hunn
Department of Adult Education
Unversity of Georgia
Athens, Georgia, USA

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