Bemba Wedding Traditions – 9 Interesting Wedding Practices

For the Bemba people of Zambia, marriage is a very serious process with several stages that must be completed before the, each one with its own cultural significance.

Bana Chimbusa

Before the young woman gets married, she goes for lessons with a ‘Bana Chimbusa’, a teacher who instructs young women on all they need to know about marriage and running a home. The young woman is not supposed to reveal what she is taught in the lessons that last up to the wedding day.

Icilanga Mulilo

This ritual, translated as ‘show the fire’, symbolizes an open invitation to the groom to dine with the bride’s family on all future visits. Before this, the groom is not allowed to eat any food at the bride’s parents’ or guardian’s house.

The bride’s family prepares several dishes that they are renowned for making and takes them to where the groom’s family is waiting. The dishes consist of traditional foods that the groom should expect to be served in his matrimonial home. The groom is expected to taste and eat every food, even those he has not eaten before.

This occasion also symbolizes the fact that the groom is now responsible for the welfare of his bride. He is now expected to be responsible for the bride’s upkeep and financial needs.

Kitchen Party

The kitchen party, also known as the bridal shower, is another important part of Bemba wedding traditions. At this ceremony, the bride sits between two elders, keeps her head down and does not talk or smile as a sign of respect to all who are present. The guests then come up to her, give her advice, tell her what their gifts are for and how she must use them.

Uku Chesha

At this ceremony, the bride does a recap of what she has learnt in form of song and dance, or just dance. She does this till midnight in front of a group of married women.
Icisumina Nsalamu

This ceremony is also referred to as acceptance of the marriage proposal. The bride’s family prepares a meal consisting of one plate of Nshima (traditional thick porridge made from maize meal) and a plate of whole chicken. The groom does not need to give anything back in return.


Amatebeto is a thanks offering prepared by the bride’s family and delivered to the groom after the marriage has taken place. Through this gesture, the bride’s family acknowledges that the groom is capable of looking after his wife, appreciates the fact that the groom has kept the marriage trouble-free, and reaffirms their blessing of the marriage.

This ceremony can take place two or more years into the marriage.


This is one of the more interesting Bemba wedding traditions. The groom is invited to have a meal at his in-laws’ house, prepared by the bride’s parents. This meal symbolizes the authority given to the groom to make decisions concerning his wife’s side of the family and on behalf of the elders of the bride’s family. The groom is taken on a tour of the house that includes visiting his parents’ in law’s bedroom.

At the end of this ceremony, the bride’s family declare that they are ready to accept the groom’s decisions and consider them binding.


Lobola, or bride price, is an appreciation fee that the groom is required to pay to the bride’s family for raising her well. The lobola payment is usually done before the wedding and is usually in the form of money in urban areas, and as livestock in rural areas.

Ama Shikulo

Ama Shikulo comes at the tail end of the wedding ceremony. The two families merge officially, after which people go to the front to give congratulate the couple and give words of advice.

Most of these Bemba wedding traditions are still practiced today, as many couples see the relevance and fun in having them as part of the wedding ceremony!