A Complete Guide to Ethiopia Wedding Custom

Ethiopian women wedding

What is a habesha Ethiopia wedding? Wedding in Ethiopia is the most anticipated part of life for the majority. When the man gets to the end of his twenties and the woman near the beginning of their twenties, they are expected to tie the knot. This Ethiopia wedding time consensuses is not mandatory but is not far from criticism. The need to escape traditionalism has pulled the youth to find a mate on their own, instead of arranged one, and decide on their own instead of finding permission. Not only that, the woman may choose to get married at the time she wants and when she thinks the man is the right one.

The Ethiopian wedding custom has its own colors and culture. This culture is also further different from region to region. In general, the urban areas seem to have similar wedding culture to the west, but with some addition. The wedding differs based on the couple’s budget more than anything. If you are able to pay more, you need to get married at more expensive places such as Sheraton Hotel. And you can also do it somewhere in city parks. This also put pressure on how many people are invited as the budget for cocktails should be thoroughly calculated.

In general, Ethiopia wedding culture is worth discussing, and its culture is worth sharing as well.

What Types of Marriage are There in Ethiopia?

Ethiopian women wedding
wedding in Ethiopia

The traditional Ethiopia wedding and marriage

Ethiopia’s wedding has its own character and differs from region to region and from religion to another. Christian marriages in the northern part especially in Amhara and Tigray can be arranged. The woman is selected based on character and the man based on his hard work. Is she a good wife is a question for the woman. can he support her is this the question for the man? The negotiation is usually done between the parents and the elders of the area. For this reason, the woman is demanded to stay a virgin.

staying virgin may not be hard for the women, as they are forced into marriage from a young age. Although child marriage is almost nill in these areas, the problem still persists. The woman marries at 18 and the man near 30.

Ethiopia wedding or marriage begins when the man points whom to marry or when the parents privately agree to marry their children without the children knowing. Once they decided on the topic, the man’s parents have to check if they are not related by blood. They also need to see if they want to relate with the family. The criteria usually are fortune, being religious, and clan as well. Then the Shemagles, elders are invited and sent to the women’s family to ask their daughter to their child.

When agreed, usually happens based on the convincing power of the elders ( the most known they are the easier the request will be allowed), the party starts. They come together for a family meeting. THey launch a Wedding party. The children probably may not have talked to each other before the marriage. If arranged, then the couple may be seeing each other for the first time at the wedding.

wedding in ethiopia
Modern wedding in Ethiopia- The bride

The man’s family gives dowry to the family in a form of cattle and money and clothes, at the bride’s family place. After dancing, promises, and rituals the married couple are left alone at this house. The honeymoon phase may last from 3 days to 3 months. The honeymoon limits the bride to stay at the house for the set time. The best men will also be present.

Although similar to the above scenario, the Muslim family marriage differs a bit. The man can marry up to four and is a sign of fortune and status. This is not the same for the city Muslims that marry only one.

The Oromo Ethiopia wedding marriage

Three types of Oromo Ethiopia wedding and marriage are in the culture. The traditional and known marriage is similar to the northern. It is usually arranged by the man’s family, and ask their daughter for marriage for their son. The criteria are a bit harsh as well, and they research to know if she has no ancestors who are related to lepers, craftsmen (tanners and potters) even back to few generations. Once satisfied the family will send elders as a mediator for the arranged Ethiopian wedding or marriage. With a few backs and forth they will finally agree on dowery and other important stuff for the culture. Then the wedding date will be set.

wedding in Ethiopia
Modern wedding in Ethiopia- The bride and best women

Not all marriages are arranged wor with dowery. Usually paying dowery is hard for the rural poor. Therefore, the girl and the boy will choose one another and will keep the relationship a secret. Later when they decided to get married, upon written consent that she is not forced or kidnapped, she will stay at his relative’s house until their parents put an Ethiopian wedding date. This is not the only case for such a marriage. If the children are already in love and if the parents don’t agree on the marriage, the children may decide to take the matter into their own hands.

See Ethiopia wedding and marriage in other parts of the country.

Modern wedding and marriage

In the cities of Ethiopia, arranged marriage is not normal. In fact, the children have a full right to choose their future partner. Once met on social media, at the workplace or at school, or even on the streets, they will date for a while to know each other. If things work out, the man is expected to propose, at the end of the year of their first date or even after. This depends on the man’s readiness and financial capacity. If this goes well they will get married in a year’s time from the day of the proposal. Dating to the proposal on average takes 2 years.

Modern wedding in Ethiopia- The bride and bride groom
Modern wedding in Ethiopia- The bride and bride groom Photography

Ethiopia Wedding begins when the man’s family send elders to the woman’s family. The process is simpler than traditional mediation. They only need to say how good the man is and how financially stable he is. Once agreed, they move on to meet and talk about the wedding. They usually put money to support the children for the wedding. wedding cards distributed, places will be prepared, honeymoon places booked.

The eve is for getting together with the best men and women separately and spa and beauty day. The next day early morning is photography day at the hotel they stayed at. then they move to the wedding place in the afternoon. Some first do promise at the church or other religious places and move to the wedding ceremony where people gather and feast. At the end of the day, they move to their hotels and are left alone. The honeymoon is usually 2 weeks. The law allows time off from work for a honeymoon as well.

How Old do You Have to be to Get Married in Ethiopia?


This number is clearly stated in the Ethiopian constitution. However, child marriage is obvious in some places, especially in the northern part. Back in 2011, one in five children married before the age of 15.

Ethiopain church protestant wedding
modern weddings in Ethiopia at the church

How Long do Ethiopian Weddings Last?

Usually three days.

In the city, the first day is usually preparation, and spa day. The wedding happens in the second day, usually on Sunday. The third day, the family gather in her house to have a meal together.

How Much are Ethiopian Weddings?

In cities, usually the partners decide on how many people are invited and wher the venue will be A normal or a small wedding will have up to 200 guests or a bit more. The hotels or the wedding place calculare the cost based on the food served, and the hall rent cost. Genrally, you will have these basic costs for Ethiopia wedding.

1- Hall rent– depending on the place you will pay from 30k to 300k birr.

2-Reception per guest- from 200 birr to 1000.

Modern wedding in Ethiopia- dress
Modern wedding in Ethiopia- dress

3- The wedding dress– the bride and the groom will cover their cost. The wedding dress is usually rented for 15k birr. The man has to buy suits for up to 10k. The best men and women pay for their own.

4- Wedding car– up to 30k based on the cars you rent. Mercedes cars are rented up to 15k per day.

5- Music and musician– up to 50k or much more.

6- Place to stay the night of the wedding- up to 3000 per night

7- Photographer– up to 30k

8-Others hidden cost 20k

Therefore, average cost of Ethiopia wedding is up to 350k birr or 7k dollars for 200 guests.

Modern wedding in Ethiopia- The bride
Modern weddings in Ethiopia- The bride and bride groom

How Many Wives Can You Have in Ethiopia?


Polygamy has been abolished in Ethiopia in the family and criminal code of the country. However, the practice continued among some cultures, especially in the Islamic religion backgrounds. It is a sign of status for these areas. and they usually get married when the first wife likes the next. It is common in these areas and the Ethiopian wedding happens without further disagreement.

What do I Need to Get Married in Ethiopia?

For foreigners and even for locals, you need one of thee. Passport or a local ID, birth certificate, a sworn certificate from your embassy that states you are not married, and or a decree absolute if you have been married before. Three witnesses should be present to oversee the process and sign the wedding certificate.

Churches and mosques give the certificate as well. Even if it is not done by the local government, the agreement at the church is usually held as binding.

Ethiopia Wedding Dress

Ethiopia wedding dress is usually white and resembles the western tradition. Usually, most brides choose the dress based on their features, therefore, the thinner she is the minimal the design. There are those who prefer to get married in traditional clothing. A decorated black coat over a cultural cloth. This saves money and is also traditional. The latter is used when people get married in religious places.

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