Lobola ins and outs

The tradition of paying lobola is a prevalent one around the world; except it may be done differently from culture to culture. In modern society, it brings the bride and groom’s families together, showing that the groom is capable of supporting his bride, and that the bride is valued by both families. As controversial as it is, those who follow the custom have the utmost respect for it. It is a way of unifying two families before the couple is officially married. 

With so much to consider today such as cultural differences, interracial relationships, our general economy and opposing views; I thought hearing the lobola-related stories of people of  entirely different backgrounds would be of great interest. 

My wife assisted in paying for the lobola 

“My wife and I had many conversations surrounding the idea of getting married. It was never said upfront, but through the conversations we were having, it was becoming quite clear that we were both ready to settle down and officially start our lives together. 

The only problem was that I could not yet afford to pay lobola for my wife; as well as all the other costs that would occur through umembeso, u-mbondo, umabo and our  white wedding. I was ready to be proactive and prove my commitment to her; however, my pocket wasn’t. 

I soon realised that I had to be upfront and honest with my now wife and tell her what I wanted for us and why it was taking me so long. To my surprise, she told me she had already been saving towards all our marital costs and was prepared to meet me halfway with her lobola. 

I must be honest; this was not an easy thing to accept from my wife, however the pressure to marry her had mounted from both our families too. I agreed, and it has been our little secret since then.” – Mzamo 

Cultural differences

“One of the significant challenges of being in an interracial relationship is the cultural differences. As an Indian man, I come from a family that carries many traditions when it comes to marriage. This made marrying a Zulu girl even more interesting. 

My family still follows the tradition of a bride paying dowry, which is very similar to the idea of a man paying lobola for his bride in the Zulu culture. Naturally, this cultural clash caused a bit of a stir between our families. 

Through a great deal of negotiating and reasoning, we managed to overcome that obstacle. Today, we have been married for 7-years and have two beautiful children. The commotion that accompanied the beginning of our marriage is now a great joke our families share!”- Joash 

I was asked not to pay lobola

“I am a Xhosa man married to a white woman whom I love very much. Our relationship encountered a lot of backlash and hostility; however, we managed to overcome it because we had a bond.

The negative energy that we received was from the general public, whereas our families were incredibly supportive of our relationship. After I proposed to my now wife, my father’s concern was how lobola negotiations would go. My wife’s family had no interest in this custom and had no desire at all to receive any form of ‘compensation’ from my family, whereas my family wanted to follow all the necessary steps as per our culture. 

We soon respected their decision not to accept lobola, but I still insisted on giving her immediate family gifts as gratitude for their amazing daughter. It was a win-win situation.” – Vuyisani and Ella 

In light of the diversity that our country aims to celebrate, it is great to see that people of all walks of life can come together to form a life-long union be open and be respectful to each other’s cultural ways of doing things.

Through the stories shared above, we see that with love and respect; people can indeed find mutual ground for the sake of celebrating a bigger, more rewarding picture.

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